I first attended the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in 2009. I took part in Creative Thursday, but chickened out of the Dragon’s Pen. Listening to the people who got picked to do it was great, but I wasn’t brave enough, and when I think about the book I was about to pitch, it’s a good job I didn’t. I did talk to one of the agents on the panel though… and of course the festival being what it is; I bumped into him later on at the bar. He asked me to send him something when I was ready.
I attended the festival again in 2012, where I got to know several bloggers and authors – I was braver than I was the first time round, but I still hadn’t finished writing anything more than short stories.
Turns out it would take me several false starts with about five different novels before I finally settled on the one I wanted to write – and in June 2013, the agent approached me after my prologue was awarded a runner-up place in a crime writing competition. I sent him 10,000 words, and he offered me representation the very next day. A dream come true? Yes – but I hadn’t finished the book yet!
At the 2013 festival, everyone seemed to know that I’d been signed up by my agent… this was the first time I realised that networking is a powerful thing. It was an exciting feeling, having people asking me about the book and the publishing plans – having an agent felt like the first rung on the ladder… but, I still hadn’t finished the book. I sent it to my agent 10 days after that.
Fast forward to the 2014 festival – and I had a book deal! Black and White Publishing bought my debut psychological thriller ‘Black Wood’ – and so the real work began…
My book was published in March 2015… so at this year’s festival, I’ll be attending as a published author. I’m not participating in the events – I’ll be there first and foremost as a fan of crime writing – and I can’t wait to find out how it will feel when a reader asks ‘So are you a reader or an author?’ and I can say, ‘I’m an author. My book is available now…’
By SJI Holliday
Susi (‘SJI’) Holliday grew up in Haddington, East Lothian. She works as a Pharmaceutical Statistician, and as a life-long bookworm has always dreamt of becoming a novelist. She has several crime and horror short stories published in anthologies and was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham Prize. After travelling the world, she has now settled in London with her husband. Her debut novel, Black Wood, was inspired by a disturbing incident from her childhood. You can find out more at www.sjiholliday.com.