Friday, 11 February 2011

Shortlisted! And Why It Matters to Me.

Yippedy doo dah! I've been shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year 2011. Or rather, Kissing Mr Wrong has, but as it's a novel I get to scoot up to London and drink champagne on its behalf.

It was a difficult book to write in many ways. My deadline was end of June, and by Christmas I'd struggled to get 20,000 words written down. Then there was Christmas and New Year and, well, not much got written. I picked it up again in mid-January and then I had a phone call. My father had gone to see his GP, rather against his will but my mother insisted, the GP thought it would be a good idea to run some tests, and the quickest way of getting them done was to admit him to hospital straight away. My father didn't want to go - after all, he felt fine - but he could see the logic so off he went to hospital.

The tests didn't go the right way. He stayed in hospital. As he was virtually blind, he needed someone to help him so my mother stayed to support him, and I stayed to support her. Three days later we were told he had terminal cancer. He went back home a few days later. My mother, my sister and myself operated an informal shift system so one of us was with him all the time. I had the day shift. He was slipping in and out of consciousness at this time, so I tried to get some work done when I could, but every moment he was awake was precious. (If you were on the Bristol Diploma a couple of years ago, sorry for the terrible handwriting on your assessments.)

He died on Valentine's Day 2009. It had taken 16 days from that visit to the GP. We were all in shock - he hadn't been ill, he hadn't shown any signs. And I stopped writing. I couldn't. I nothing to give.

I warned my editor who was sympathetic. February went by, then March and April. In May I realised I was running out of time. I picked up the 20,000 words and thought - what rubbish. Then I thought about the contract I'd signed. My dad was always a man of his word. So I wrote Kissing Mr Wrong in two months, delivering the manuscript at 11.58pm on the last day of June.
My lovely editor at Headline gave me a couple of months to do the re-write, and Kissing Mr Wrong came out just a couple of weeks behind schedule.

And here it is, shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year. It makes me cry because, you know, he would have been so proud.


24 comments:

Sarah Hilary said...

Congratulations on the shortlisting, Sarah. I'm so sorry you went through such an abrupt and brutal experience with your father's diagnosis and loss.

Rebecca Bradley said...

That's amazing new Sarah on the shortlisting. I will put Kissing Mr Wrong on my Goodreads "To read" list"

It must be a bitter sweet moment for you I'm sure. I'm sorry for your loss but so pleased for you that you wrote this.

Congratulations.

Ann Patey said...

Well done Sarah. Hope you win! Ann Patey

Nicolette said...

Congrats on the shortlisting and I'm so sorry to hear what happened to your father. Such a poignant story, behind a story!
Best of luck. xx

wannabe a writer said...

Hi Sarah

No wonder you are so proud that Kissing Mr Wrong has been shortlisted. I'm sure your dad would be so proud of you. What a very touching story. I've now got my fingers crossed for you to win and your book at the top of my next book to buy list.

Linda

liz fenwick said...

Gone all weepy...

Congrats.
lx

Sean Z P Harris said...

Indeed! Such a fantastic achievement under such harrowing circumstances, my dear.

I truly hope you win.

Debs Carr said...

Congratulations for being shortlisted. I have Kissing Mr Wrong on my tbr pile and I'm looking forward to reading it.

What a traumatic time you went through with your poor father.

Sarah Duncan said...

Thanks so much everyone, it's much appreciated. It wasn't the blog post I'd intended to write, just the one that came out. Writing sometimes works that way.

Sally Zigmond said...

What an inspiring account, Sarah. Having just lost my own father and also struggling to write anything, I now believe there may well be light at the end of my own personal tunnel.
Very many congratulations. Well-deserved.

Kate Kyle (scribocin) said...

I'm sorry about yout loss and how abruptly it happened.

congratualtions on being shortlisted and finges crossed Kissing Mr Worng wins :)

badas2010 said...

Many congrats on the shortlisting.
I went to my GP last week and I'm being seen urgently by the specialist on Tuesday.

Gail Crane said...

Well done, Sarah. What an achievement. I lost my son in a road accident when he was twenty-one and it was a couple of years before I could write again so I know what you must have gone through.
I wish you the very best of luck and really hope you win.

LV said...

Congratulations. I hope you're on the way to finding some peace over your father, too.

womagwriter said...

Clapping and cheering for you here. So sorry about your dad - mine went in a rather similar way back in 2004. Well done for meeting the deadline - a fitting tribute to your father.

Lorna F said...

This is such a moving post. Your father would be so proud. Congratulations not only on being shortlisted but on finding the strength and resilience to write to a deadline after such trauma. Five years ago my mother-in-law was living with us and had terminal cancer - I was teaching novel writing at the time and found it hard to hold my act together. When she died I felt drained and couldn't work at all on the book I'd been writing before her illness - I then wrote a story for my children and it was a joyous thing to do, re-engaging me with life. I do hope you go on to win.

Olivia Ryan said...

Congratulations, Sarah - and what a tremendous feat that was, writing the book so quickly and after such a terrible personal loss. I really feel for you, in what you went through. and admire you for honouring your contract.
Good luck with the awards.

Jo said...

Congratulations, Sarah. These traumatic experiences make us stronger. Your father would have been incredibly proud of you. Not only a great writer, but an inspiring teacher, too.

Sarah Duncan said...

I feel really humbled by hearing your stories, especially Gail - I can't imagine how one finds to courage to carry on after an experience like that.

Badas - hope the news is good.

Be kind to yourselves...

Helen said...

Congratulations!
I had a similar experience when writing A Hollow Crown (Forever Queen US title) my best friend died suddenlty (never woke up one morning) just as I was about to start writing it. Took me months to get going.
Hard to think up words when you are in shock.
Fingers crossed for the award!

Pauline Barclay said...

Congratulations! I am sure your dad would be very proud of you. I have everything crossed! x

Sarah Duncan said...

Thank you, thank you. It's been really inspiring for all these stories to have been shared. A great comfort.

Lucie said...

Such a sad story, I really feel for you and your family; the pain you must've gone through. And to still pretty much hit that deadline, amazing! I haven't read Kissing Mr Wrong, but it is firmly on my TBR pile. Congratulations on the shortlisting.
What a remarkable story of courage and love. x

Sarah Duncan said...

Thanks Lucie.