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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

‘I owed it to myself and my book to keep on going.’ Psychological thriller writer Wendy

Wendy Clarke started her career writing short fiction and serials for national women’s magazines. With over three hundred stories published, she’s often asked to judge short story competitions. She is better known, though, for having her four incredibly popular psychological thrillers, published by Bookouture – What She Saw, which won the Flash500 Novel Competition, We Were Sisters, The Bride and His Hidden Wife. Wendy lives with her husband and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!

Wendy, over to you!

In all good fairy tales, the number three features a lot… think three wishes, three little pigs, three good fairies. With this in mind, I’d like to start this post by telling you three things of my own:

  1. In February, my fourth psychological thriller will be published.

  2. I’ve been an Amazon bestseller in several countries.

  3. I had over a hundred thousand sales of my books in the first year of being published.

I don’t say this to boast or massage my ego…far from it. I’m telling you because my writing journey has been a bit of a fairy tale. At times I’ve felt as though I’ve been looking down from a high tower on other people’s success, have chosen the wrong writing path in the wood and have had to push through thorny brambles to reach my goal. We all know that fairy tales can be dark so if you’re reading this and are stuck in your own Grimms’ fairy tale, it’s important you know that my story also includes a fairy godmother. It also had a happy ending.

For the prince/princess/child/pauper/aspiring author (insert your own name here) to reach their goal, it’s often necessary to endure mental, physical or emotional hardship. The path to the happy ending isn’t always a smooth one. It certainly wasn’t for me, and the three things I mentioned above didn’t come easily. Why? Because of something bad that happened. Something that could have made me give up writing completely.

So where does my story start? Was it the day when, after several months of depressing rejections, I received that email from an agent saying they’d like to talk to me about the novel I’d submitted? Was it the day I was told I’d been one of the few authors picked out of the slush pile of 10,000? Was it the day I sat in their office and listened to the wonderful things they could do for me if I signed with them? Or maybe it was the day they asked if I’d change genre and write a psychological thriller instead?

No, it’s none of these. My story properly starts the day I submitted that psychological thriller to the agent and waited with bated breath for their reply. Eventually it came with a request to phone them. I could hardly contain my excitement. I loved the novel I’d written. I felt in my bones that it was good. I couldn’t wait to find out if they loved it too and was hoping the phone call was to tell me they’d send it out to publishers. One step closer to fulfilling my dream of becoming a published novelist.

I had that phone call, but this wasn’t to be my happy ending – far from it. For instead of sprinkling fairy dust, my agent told me things were changing at the agency. They didn’t have time to work with me on my novel and maybe I’d like to find a new agent.

My world, and my dream, came crashing down. Everything I’d been promised had been taken away from me. The disappointment was acute. At this point I could have given up, nearly did, but something stopped me. What was it? It was my belief in my novel. I was excited by it. I knew it was good. I just needed someone to see it too.

I was back at square one, my trust in tatters. I wrote new covering letters and sent the novel out but after the first couple of rejections, I remembered how soul destroying the process was. Having been successful the first time, the rejection was so much harder to accept. I’d also lost faith in the process after what had happened, so I stopped submitting. Considered giving up again. 

Had Wendy chosen the wrong writing path through the woods? Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

But then my fairy godmother appeared from nowhere and sprinkled fairy dust over me. Flash500 had just opened for submissions to their novel competition and I decided to enter. When my psychological thriller won, it gave me hope again. I owed it to myself and my book to keep on going. For many months, a writer friend had been pressing me to submit my novel to her publisher, Bookouture. She loved working with them and thought what I’d written might be just what they were looking for. The reason I hadn’t submitted before was because somewhere along my writing journey I’d got it into my head that the only route to being published was the agent route. I knew better this time. I’d had an agent… and look where that had got me.

When I submitted my novel to Bookouture, I knew competition was high so I didn’t allow myself to hope. I’d done that before and couldn’t bear the thought of that hope being dashed again. Instead, I busied myself with other things as I knew it could be weeks before I heard anything back. How wrong I was, for the very next day, I received an email from editor Jennifer Hunt. She’d started reading my book and wanted to let me know she loved it already. Four days later, I was offered a two-book contract and the following year my debut What She Saw was published.

On the day of my agent’s phone call, the day my world came crashing down, I’d thought it was the end of the fairy tale, but it wasn’t… it was just the beginning. I recently signed my third contract with Bookouture and am busy writing thriller number five.

The moral of this story is however bad things seem, there is often a silver lining. Fight your way through those brambles, find your way out of the wood, look down from your tower and find the goal you’re going to achieve.

Most importantly, please don’t give up hope. I didn’t and I couldn’t be happier.

THANKS WENDY, FOR SHARING YOUR SETBACK AND AMAZING COMEBACK – IT’S SO INSPIRING THE WAY YOU CAME THROUGH. THANK GOODNESS FOR YOUR LITERARY FAIRY GODMOTHER!

  1. WENDY’S LATEST BOOK, HIS HIDDEN WIFE, IS OUT ON FEBRUARY 4, BUT CAN BE PRE-ORDERED NOW! CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.

  2. Find out more about Wendy on: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Website

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