Today I am delighted to be featuring Gytha Lodge on my blog as part of the Morecambe & Vice blog tour, to celebrate the upcoming crime writing festival. Gytha has very kindly written a guest post about how she nearly didn’t get published at all.
Gytha Lodge is a multi-award-winning playwright, novelist and writer for video games and screen. She is also a single parent who blogs about the ridiculousness of bringing up a mega-nerd small boy.
She has a profound addiction to tea, crosswords and awful puns. When not writing, she heads up a copywriting team at a global translation firm, where she generally tries to keep all the video-game writing to herself.
She studied English at Cambridge, where she became known quite quickly for her brand of twisty, dark yet entertaining drama. She later took the Creative Writing MA at UEA.
She has signed with Penguin Random House worldwide for the first three books in her crime series featuring DCI Jonah Sheens. She Lies in Wait will was published in January 2019 and Watching From The Dark will be out in March 2020.
How I Almost Didn’t Get Published At All
There are very few writers who are willing to talk publicly about their failures, largely thanks to the “overnight success story” being so appealing. I am so very, very grateful to those few. The few who made my pre-contract self feel like I might survive. Because it was honestly touch-and-go.
The first novel I wrote, at age 14, was a truly, truly terrible book that was essentially a mash-up of about 3 Dorothy Sayers mysteries. Being a clueless teenager, I sent it off to a then senior editor at Transworld, a wonderful man called Tim Manderson. He took the time to call me up and talk through why I was not ready to be published, but right then and there gave me hope that, in a few years, I might get there. Tim remains one of my all-time idols.
At eighteen, having written another book, I tried again, but with agents this time. And I got nowhere. Six letters, six rejections. This became a pattern, as I did my degree and began writing for theatre. It turned out that writing plays was fantastic, with epic quantities of feedback at every stage. I loved it and immersed myself in it, touring and enjoying it.
But part of me still wanted to be a novel writer. I knew I needed to focus on writing rather than directing or touring, so I applied for the UEA MA in Creative Writing. Alongside fantastic tuition in script and prose, one of the tutors also taught me how to write a synopsis that made sense. How to pitch my idea.
Between my first and second years on the course, I felt ready to look for an agent again, and I was over the moon when, after so many rejections, six agents wanted to work with me. I had to actually choose. Though in some ways no choice was needed. I’d long wanted to work with Viv Shuster and Felicity Blunt of Curtis Brown, and meeting them properly only cemented that. We’d signed a contract within a week, though I still worry that I annoyed several of the other fab agents I met up with.
So. I’d done it. I’d landed my dream agents. It was job done, right?
Wrong. That first book didn’t sell to any publishers, and I was devastated. Really, truly flattened. And this is where having the right agent means so much, because Felicity was wonderful. She told me that this happened, and to get on and write another book, because we were going to be in each other’s lives for a good long while.
And after a little moping, that’s what I did. In 2018, at the age of 34, I achieved a book contract for the first three books in the Jonah Sheens series. One year later, She Lies in Wait has already been a no. 15 bestselling hardback, a Sunday Times and New York Times mystery pick for 2019, and has sold into 11 other languages. I can’t wait for the paperback launch in December, nor for the second book to come out in March.
So if there’s one thing all this teaches you, it’s that you should never, ever stop writing.
For more information and how to get tickets for the Morecambe & Vice Crime Writing Festival go to: https://www.morecambecrimefest.co.uk/