I’m delighted to have a guest post from fellow Legend Press author, Ruth Dugdall, on the blog today. Ruth shares with us her publishing journey and exciting news about her highly successful debut novel, The Woman Before Me, which I read and thoroughly enjoyed earlier this year. You can read my full review here. Over to you, Ruth.
I’ve always believed that good things come to those who wait, and the re-publication of my second novel The Woman Before Me next month is no exception. To promote it I’ll be doing various things, including a book reading in a cow shed in the middle of rural Suffolk and visiting book groups around the country. But if someone had told me I’d be doing this ten years ago I’d never have believed them.
After all, I was happy working as a probation officer in Bury St Edmunds. As a hobby I was working on a novel called The James Version, a historical fiction based on the actual murder of Maria Marten at the Red Barn in Polstead, and I’d spent four years researching and writing it. When I went on maternity leave in 2002, I filled the time between feeding and nappy changes by finishing of the novel. My husband was very supportive – he was happy with beans on toast so long as I finished it. That same year The James Version won a First Place at Winchester Writer’s Conference. The prize was 60 printed copies, which sold very quickly, so I did a proper print run and next thing I was a self-published author. It went on to win the David St John Thomas Self-Publishing Marketing Award in 2006.
I was pleased with how well The James Version had done, but writing was still just a hobby.
As a probation officer I have worked with stalkers, and it’s one of those crimes that is very creepy and frightening. It’s also often linked to obsessions and jealousies, as the stalker will fixate on the victim.
The idea of using the stalker theme came to me one snowy night in 2005 as I lay in hospital having just given birth to my son. I remembered that my mother had been in hospital at the same time as her ex-boyfriend’s new wife. After birth, women are often exhausted and emotional, and it occurred to me that seeing your partner’s ex at such a time could trigger all sorts of feelings. Especially if you suspected your partner of still loving her… The idea took hold, and the novel was born.
The Woman Before Me is set in Suffolk, moving from Lowestoft to Felixstowe, and the feel of the area is important to me. It is the story of Rose Wilks, whose life is shattered when her newborn baby Joel is admitted to intensive care. Alongside her in hospital is Emma, who has just given birth to Luke and the two women become friends. Joel dies and Luke is thriving – then tragedy strikes again and Rose is the only suspect.
The novel starts with Rose having spent nearly five years behind bars and just weeks away from freedom, if she can convince probation officer Cate Austin to recommend parole. As Cate is drawn into Rose’s story, she begins to question everything she thought she knew about justice. Can it be served, if so… by what means? And where is the line between love and obsession?
Towards the end of my maternity leave I entered The Woman Before Me for the Debut Dagger and it won, which changed everything. I had agents contact me (one at eight am, telling me how she just had to represent me) and major publishers begging to see the fill manuscript. I handed in my notice and haven’t looked back….
In 2009 The Woman Before Me won the Luke Bitmead Novel Bursary. This was set up by Legend Press in memory of Luke Bitmead, a talented writer who sadly killed himself. The aim of the bursary is to publish a new writer each year. In August 2010 , five years (nearly) after winning the Debut Dagger, The Woman Before Me was published by Legend Press. They have now decided to re-publish it in October 2013 and the new edition includes an author interview and a further chapter. It also has a lovely new cover, which I’m especially pleased with.
So, after waiting to be published for many years, it’s now happening twice for the same book which is both ironic and thrilling.
Ruth’s published novels are: The Woman Before Me, The James Version and The Sacrificial Man. They are published by Legend Press and available on Amazon or in all good bookshops.
You can reach Ruth on Twitter: @RuthDugdall, and Facebook: Ruth Dugdall Author, or visit her website at www.ruthdugdall.com .