Tuesday 10 May 2011

The Big Break with Annabel Pitcher

On the blog today, I would like to welcome Annabel Pitcher, the amazing debut author who had me in tears with her book 'My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece'.

Thank you for joining me today on my blog

Thank you! It is lovely to be here.

How long had you been dreaming of being published before you got that life changing phone call?

The idea to be an author first popped into my head at about age ten. However, I can’t say I took it too seriously, given that I also considered careers in international espionage, the police and acting! The difference with writing was that I grew out of all my other childhood ambitions, but the desire to be an author stayed with me. It was when I was about twenty one or two that I seriously thought I would like to do it. I can picture that moment so clearly – in a tiny bookshop in Ambleside, browsing (as always) the YA section and suddenly realising that there were people who made a living as a writer, and there was no reason at all why I couldn’t be one of them. From that day onwards, my ambition to be a published author was very strong and five years later I got a phone call from my agent.

How long did it take you to write the book?

As I wrote the novel travelling round the world in little notepads, it is difficult to say how long it took me as I was just doing bits here and there. Writing sporadically, I think it took about a year to get a first draft together, though obviously I did a lot or work after that, editing and suchlike.

What was your first reaction when you found out that your debut novel ‘My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece’ was to be published?

I can’t write what I actually said as that would be offensive! There was a lot of swearing, cheering, giddy phone calls to family members and a few glasses of champagne!

What were you doing when you found out?

It was strange for me because there was an auction for the rights, so lots of publishers were bidding. As the auction was going on, my agent was updating me about the bids via email because I was in the classroom, trying to teach thirty twelve year olds. I kept surreptitiously glancing at my computer to see which companies were interested whenever there was a pause in the lesson.

Who did you tell first?

My husband. I remember him saying there were about thirty missed calls on his phone before he finally answered! He was teaching so couldn’t take the call, even though he knew about the auction and was desperate to find out what was going on!

How long did it take for your book to reach publication after the initial agreement?

It took about twelve months.

What was happening to your manuscript during this time?

Like most novels, the manuscript went through an editorial process. Thankfully, my editor loved the first draft so there was just a little tweaking here and there to get it fit for publication. After the final draft was complete, there was the fun business of changing what were effectively A4 pages into a finished book, so the manuscript went through a design process. I got to help choose the front cover and write the blurb, as well as dream up all those lovely things like the dedication and acknowledgements. It was so much fun to see the book come together over the twelve months.

How did you keep yourself occupied as you waited for publication day?

To be honest, I was busy with other things so the time went quite quickly. Writing my second novel, completing the USA edit of Mantelpiece, putting together a writer’s website (www.annabelpitcher.com) as well as all the promotional events kept me occupied, just about!

What are your thoughts on the book cover created for you?

I love it! It took quite a long time to get right, but I am so glad Orion went for an image that ties in with the promotional trailer. The boy on the front is really arresting, and looks directly at you from the shelf in the shops. Hopefully it will do the job.

Where did you see your book on sale first and How did it feel to see your name on the finished book? 

I was sent a few finished proofs of the novel before publication day, and it was just brilliant to see my story as a shiny hardback, complete with its own front cover and blurb! I held it for about an hour and showed it to everyone that I know. In terms of actually seeing it in a shop, I was in London with my husband and we saw
it in a Waterstones in Covent Garden. It was very surreal – I kept expecting other customers to know that I was the author of the novel!

Your book was released in March. How did you celebrate publication day?

As I was busy in London doing promotional events, I had lots of interviews and book signings. However, my agent, editor, publicist and marketing lady took me out for a bottle of champagne and dinner in the evening, which was lovely – a real moment of satisfaction for everyone that had worked hard on the book for a year!

How does it feel to have people recognise you now as an author? 

To be honest, my life’s no different at all, apart from people in my local area asking me about the book, which is always lovely. It is fabulous to have the book out there and of course I am extremely proud, but achieving a dream has made me realise that it’s really not what you do in your life that matters, it’s who you have beside you. Happiness comes from within and it is dangerous to pin your contentment on achieving goals, thinking that until that moment comes, you can never truly be satisfied. I think the secret to a happy life is finding the balance between having goals while enjoying the here and now. The ‘x-factor notion’ that pursuing fame and fortune or recognition is the only way to happiness is risky – hence the reason Jas turns her back on the talent show in my novel.

How would you spend a typical writing day?

I write best in the mornings, so I try to get up early. Believe it or not, I am usually at my desk at 6.30 am! Six hours later, I am still there, typing away, aiming to get to my target before lunch (usually 2000 words or thereabouts). In the afternoon, I usually go out walking or to the gym, then it’s back to the computer to answer emails, or else do a bit more on my book.

What advice would you give to aspiring and unpublished authors?

Enjoy writing, first and foremost. I know it’s difficult, but try to write without worrying about being published. It is meant to be a fun, creative process and I don’t think you can write well if you’re constantly second guessing yourself, wondering what an anonymous agent or publisher might think of your work!

Be disciplined, making sure you put your work first and get it done, with no excuses. If you want to be a writer, you have to write, everyday if at all possible.

Read as much as you can in an active rather than a passive way, considering what makes a novel effective; if you can identify the novel’s success criteria, hopefully you can use this knowledge to inform your own work.

When you’ve perfected your manuscript, spend almost as long working on your proposal to an agent. Write a letter that’s engaging without being too arrogant or silly (no novelty gifts!) and work hard to get your synopsis right.

Keep your fingers crossed and pray to the writing God that this year’s your lucky one!

What a lovely interview, thank you Annabel for taking the time to answer the questions. I won't be able to get the vision of you working in international espionage out of my head!

You can follow Annabel on her website - http://www.annabelpitcher.com/


  1. Terrific interview and definitely a book that I want to read at some point!

  2. Thank you for yet another interesting interview :) International espionage must be a fun career ;)

    I agree with Emma, this is a wonderful feature, Vivienne!

  3. Great interview - I loved reading that! Thank you.

  4. I really enjoyed that interview, I will need to add the book to my wishlist.

  5. Another great interview, thanks to both you and Annabel.

  6. I agree with all of the above comments!

    Vvienne,thank you for sharing Annabel Pitcher's "Big Break" with us. Her words are inspirational.

  7. A really inspiring interview. I've been slacking in my own writing recently and now feel like I've got a good slap on the wrist!

    *Pulls socks up*

  8. Nice interview!
    'realising that there were people who made a living as a writer, and there was no reason at all why I couldn’t be one of them.'<-good for her!

  9. Great interview - I love finding out how authors got there big break :D


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