I’m so excited and nervous that my second book baby, Strictly on Ice, is about to be published. As publication day, March 9th, draws closer, I’d love to share with you about why I write and my path to publication so far.
It wasn’t that long ago that I started writing novels. In 2018 I was in a bad place emotionally. My husband and I were struggling with the cruel realities of infertility, and I wasn’t coping well. In fact, I was downright miserable, so sad about our inability to conceive that I would walk to work every morning with tears tracking down my face.
As we braced ourselves for the upcoming trial of fertility treatment, I knew I had to find a more positive mental attitude to get through it. I began writing a book – a long-held ambition of mine but one I had never indulged, only quietly dreamed. It was just a story in my head, but putting it down on paper became more than an early-morning hobby. It became a joy and a passion. The words flowed, my spirits lifted. A combination of counselling and writing changed everything. I had bad days, days when pregnancy announcements would trigger a wave of grief and envy, and I took those emotions and channelled them into my work. I lost myself in writing rather than my depression.
Do you remember that fiery heatwave in the UK in 2018? The grass was like straw, the earth baked hard under flawless blue skies. England were progressing in the World Cup and the country basked in the sun and bright optimism. On the day England played Sweden, and won, my husband and I had our embryo transfer. It was the 7th of July, 7/7, and we were hoping for a double portion of luck to lead us to victory in more ways than one.
Two dreams were fulfilled that summer. My novel was complete, and I was pregnant with our first baby! (Sadly, England didn’t win the World Cup, but you can’t have it all).
Star in the Shadows was published in October 2019, when my son Donovan was six months old, but my writing journey didn’t stop there. I was afraid that I only had one book in me, but I was wrong. While I was pregnant with Donovan, I wrote a second novel – Strictly on Ice.
While I went through IVF again, in early 2020, I approached agents and publishers with Strictly on Ice. I received a few polite responses, a few impersonal rejections, and from most, deafening silence. Still, I kept trying and kept hoping.
Our second round of IVF was successful and I was pregnant again! It felt like winning the lottery a second time. Just as my husband and I were celebrating our good news and relishing the prospect of another child, COVID slammed into the world and the UK lockdown began in March 2020. Once again, writing became a vital emotional crutch. It got me through the long days of lockdown with a toddler, ill and aching from IVF medication and first-trimester discomforts, and desperately missing my family and friends. I completed a third and a fourth novel, and sent out one last query in early summer, to ChocLit, this time with a series of three books to offer.
On my 35th birthday I received an email from ChocLit asking me to Zoom meet with them. It was the best birthday present ever! A few weeks before I had my second son, I signed a three-book contract with them, and submitted my three manuscripts, plus a fourth towards the end of 2020.
That brings me to 2021. I now find myself in lockdown again, this time with two children under two. I’m missing family and friends and yearning for normality once again. My time to write is more curtailed, but I still find time when I can because, whether it’s in the living room surrounded by scattered plastic toys and puzzle pieces, or under the duvet at night so as not to wake the baby, writing makes me happy, keeps me sane, and gives me something that’s just for me.
I’m now half-way through the first draft of another novel, and the word count is slowly but surely rising. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to complete this one, but I am determined to carry on, even if I have only had three hours sleep. There’s always coffee, right?
If you decide to read Strictly on Ice, I do hope you enjoy it. Find out more about Strictly on Ice.
I’d love to hear from you, whether you’re a reader who has enjoyed my work, or a writer who needs encouragement or advice. Feel free to get in touch through my website, or find me on Facebook – Helen Buckley author, Instagram – Helencatherinebuckley, or Twitter – HelenCBuckley.