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The Call That Changed Everything: My Journey from Writer to Published Author (and what I've Learned Along the Way)

It was a dark and stormy night….


It wasn’t, actually. I can’t remember what kind of night it was, other than I was bone numbingly exhausted and desperately craving sleep. Before I did that, though, I checked on my emails. And there sat one from a Harlequin editor. Asking whether she could give me a ring the next evening.


Woman in a pink tank top holding an Apple mobile phone with the words When the Publisher Calls

Tiredness evaporated.


I think the only words which came out of my mouth were, ohmyGodohmyGodohmyGod on fast repeat. My husband asked what was wrong and I kind of got out in the breathless way of the hyperventilating, ‘I think an editor wants to arrange THE CALL.


Then I got out of bed, made a cup of tea and grabbed a biscuit, trying to quell the heart palpitations that seemed to have taken over.


In many ways, my journey from writer to published author didn’t feel like it had been hard enough. I’d been writing for around eight years, with a focus on category romance, particularly writing for Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern. They’re my catnip, and from a publishing perspective, it’s where I wanted to be. I’d only every submitted two stories. The first, I received a polite rejection with the comments, ‘Warm believable characters, strong emotional conflict, not quite the hooks we want,’ so I knew I was at least pointing in the right direction. With my second story, I could only hope. I loved it, my beta readers loved it (in the end, but that's for another day...) The story finalled in the Valerie Parv award (vale Valerie, a wonderful, generous author to newbies). It was a manuscript I had laboured over. So I submitted it, and hoped.


Two months later I received an email. I thought it was a polite rejection, because the response had come through so fast. Nope. It wasn’t a rejection but a revise and resubmit request.


I might have gone SQUEEEEEEEEEE!


You know it, that’s exactly what I did. Loudly.

Woman with an orange and white checked shirt and red fingernails, typing on a laptop which is sitting on her lap

Then I took a deep breath and got down to work. Did the revisions, returned the MS with a silent prayer, and waited.


And waited.


And waited.


FOR A YEAR.


I didn’t waste that time. During those months I kept on writing. Finished a couple of stories, edited a few too, had ideas for others. I also tried to be patient but, in the end, I followed up.

To discover the editor hadn’t received my revised manuscript. Something had gone wrong; it was lost in the ether. So, I sent it again. Another eight weeks went by, then the email came through asking to chat.


And yes, that chat was THE CALL.

Tweet by Victoria Britain (Editor) which says: I am so happy and beyond thrilled to welcome new author @KaliAnthony to the Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern series! A very big welcome the @HarlequinBooks@MillsandBoon family! x 4 October 2019to

I can’t really remember what was said other than they were offering a two-book deal. The editor had lovely things to say about my story, but I can’t remember what any of them were even though I did have a pen and paper handy to write stuff down. But truthfully, I was in shock. I asked when I could publicly spill the beans. I was told when an email was put out on social media. Half an hour later, I saw my twitter getting active. The tweet had gone out. I was officially a Harlequin Presents author.


Things went a smidge crazy. In a joyous, hysterical kind of way with much celebration.

Not even a request for some more revisions, could burst my bubble.


I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. I was going to be published and joining a line with authors I love and still kind of fangirl over (sad but true). It’s fantastic and unbelievable. It hardly feels real. I don’t know if it will ever sink in when I publish stories alongside Harlequin Presents authors like Maisey Yates, Dani Collins, Annie West, Jackie Ashenden, and Clare Connelly, just to name a few. Now there’s little ole me thrown into this stellar mix. And with all this still came the moments when I thought, ‘What the heck have I done?


But a funny thing happened in the middle of this party. After drinking all of the champagne and celebrating madly I woke up on the second day of it all feeling eerily calm. Got out of bed and said, ‘Right, down to business. I’ve got a job to do.’ Because this wasn’t a hobby or a dream anymore, this was frighteningly real, and I had to perform. I had commitments and a deadline on top of my day job. Decisions to make about time frames for a second story.

Blodn woman in a white t-shirpt holding an open book with multi-coloured confetti flying from the open book

And don’t think for a second that with all his happiness the anxiety didn’t creep in and that I didn’t sit there for a while and wonder how the heck I was going to achieve any of it. It still happens. I might have written eight books but some days I still think, 'I can’t do this.'


Luckily, I have friends who’ve done it before, and they tell me I can do it too. Then I sit down, and get writing. Because I’d written a good book once, I needed to keep trying to do it again and again. Some days it feels a bit scary because creativity is a fragile, beautiful thing. But I figure being scared is all part of the business of writing.


You might ask in this process, what I’ve learned. I have views, and they’re my own but they may help aspiring authors so here they are. Take them or leave them, as you will.


Take your time

A wise friend (author, Ally Blake) gave me some sage advice at the beginning of my writing journey, 'You'll never have as much time as you do now.'


My first book took about eighteen months to write. I don’t regret a moment spent because I used that story to learn. I cut out 25,000 words, all darlings which I killed with impunity. I figured out what worked and what didn’t. There comes a point when you must let it go, but the time I spent taught me more than rushing though the story would ever have.


Hourglass sitting on a newspaper with red sand falling

Remember, when you sign a with a publisher you have obligations. Your time has run out and the work begins. Likewise, if you're self published, you want to release books regularly to keep you readers engaged, so they don't forget you in a crowded book market. Get your learning in early and you’ll be better placed when the time comes.


Writing’s a business

Sure, it’s a creative endeavour and a calling but unless you have a patron like the Medici family, it’s a business first and foremost. You’re creating a product you’re contractually (if trad published) bound to deliver. If self published, there will likely be promises you've made to your readers about your publishing schedule. Never forget that. Never forget too, that you’re establishing a business relationship so start as you mean to finish, delivering the best story you can, on time. And with this in mind…


Be realistic about time-frames

It’s easy to get swept away in the excitement but really, really think about what you can deliver. Sure, we’re told to get out all of the books quickly but it’s no good destroying yourself in the process. Sure, I get that you might feel guilty not being able to turn the total hot mess of a story into something that at least looks like a novel, but trying to achieve the unachievable isn’t going to help. This is the hard conversation I had with myself, when I was asked how long I needed to write the second story. For those traditionally published, I reckon a publisher would far prefer to hear what’s realistic, than push you into something that’s unachievable where you need to ask for an extension of a deadline. They have timelines they need to meet, so want to know you can meet them too. No-one will thank you for having a breakdown because you haven’t been honest with yourself, or them.


You’re not alone

Speak to your writer friends. Your author friends. Honestly, they’re there to talk you down, to help when you're stuck . People have done it before you. Ask for help if you don’t know what you’re doing, because this publishing caper is confusing and new. It’s an uncomfortable sensation not knowing what you don’t know. Ask for assistance, don’t guess.

Group of women standing and laughing

Finish the book

One thing I promised myself, was that I would finish the books I started. I made this decision because if I ever submitted a partial, I at least knew there was a whole book behind it, if I was ever asked for the full MS. It also taught me how to write the middle of a story, which for me, is the hardest part. Beginnings and endings are the fun bit, the middle is where the hard slog and generalised torture starts for me. The bonus to finishing the book, is that I had completed stories, ready to go. I can understand why you might not want to keep writing something that might never be accepted, but in my opinion, writing the whole story is what learning’s all about.


Keep writing

Writing is a solitary endeavour and can often be a lonely one, if you’re not getting any reward. There were days I seriously contemplated giving it up, but the characters’ voices in my head wouldn’t be quiet so I kept going. And here I am, with eight books published. My first writing dream realised.


I hope my story about the call has given some inspiration to keep going, if you’re thinking of packing it in, or some hope if you’re wanting to get published or have books on submission. I loved hearing people’s call stories, and one day hoped that person would be me. Now it is. That call is thrilling and terrifying and unbelievable, all rolled into one. It hardly feels real, but then I hold one of my own books in my hands and realise that I am living the dream.


What about you? Have you received the call or are you still waiting? Do you want to be traditionally or indie published? Let me know here or on social media. I’d love to hear from you . And if you've enjoyed my blog, you can always subscribe on my website!


So, until next time, stay safe and sparkle. Love, Kali.


(If you want to keep up with my writing, books or life generally, you can also check out my Newsletter, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram)

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