As I’ve said before, I wrote The List That Changed My Life in a heartbeat. It was the culmination of every idea I’d had over the past four years I’d spent writing. Every skit or joke I’d thought of, every scenario, every character trait. All of those ideas were skimmed through a mental sieve and funnelled into my book. I even said to my mum, right before I sent it off to Sarah in hope of representation; ‘if I don’t get signed for this book, I don’t know what else I can do. This is all I’ve got.’ In short, The List That Changed My Life was the product of everything I knew about writing. Literally everything I could think of. So when I was asked about an idea for book two, I nearly fell off my seat. What? You want another idea? I’m expected to do this again? But, I’m not even sure how I did it in the first place? Why didn’t I write down step by step instructions on how I did it the first time?!
Luckily, this time I had Sarah behind me, my wonderful Agent. And it’s a lie to say that I didn’t have any ideas, I always do, but sometimes my brain likes to hide them and pretend that they’re locked away in that rickety old filing cabinet that we just can’t find the key for. But do I learn my lesson and keep a trusty notebook to write my ideas down in? No, it’s much more fun to tinker with my anxiety like an out of tune piano and freak myself out by thinking that I have zero ideas, I’m a big fraud and my god why did I tell everyone I was an author anyway when I was so clearly lying.
The idea for my second book (The Accidental Love Letter, just shoehorning it in nice and early. You’re welcome), actually came years before the idea for my debut. It was my third year of university and I was living in a house share with four friends. Our house was gorgeous, it was a real home we were very spoilt living there. It had carpet and everything. One day, we received a letter addressed to someone called Graham. I know what you’re thinking, and? That’s the idea behind your second book, Christ set that metaphorical filing cabinet on fire. But, but! Dear reader, there’s more. This letter had, proudly stamped on the front, a Playboy Bunny. Needless to say, we were transfixed. It was a strange time for us (we were all locked indoors trying/failing to write our dissertations), and we left the letter on the side waiting for Graham to appear and ask for his letter. I don’t know what I was expecting, that Graham might rock up in a corset and suspenders, but it was by far the most interesting thing to happen to us (me) in the recent months. Sadly, as time went on we started to realise that perhaps Graham didn’t give a toss about his letter. Perhaps he didn’t even know or care of its existence and perhaps the letter wasn’t from Hugh Hefner demanding Graham fly to the mansion to save the bunnies (is that the weirdest sentence I’ve written?) So, we opened it. And it was nothing. I can’t even remember what it was, but we threw it away. How disappointing.
But the idea did stay with me. I started thinking about letters, and how easy it is to receive someone’s post incorrectly. Most people send it on, but what about those who don’t? What about people, like us, who hoard it in hope? What about the people who open it? What about those who write back?
Without quite knowing it, Nathan was starting to form in my mind, and he sat patiently in the filing cabinet and I pretty much forgot about him. But as I started to ask these questions, I also felt the arrival of Bea. I knew I wanted to write something about mental health. More and more people are talking about it, and finding help, love and understanding amongst the people you wouldn’t always expect. I wanted to write about this, I wanted to be part of the conversation. This brilliant, open conversation.
So, it was official. Nathan was going to write a love letter, and it was going to land into the hands of Bea. She never thought the letter was for her, not really, but she opens it anyway. Worse still, she writes back. With the help of my wonderful Agent and Editor, Sarah and Jess, we started to build this group of characters. Although Bea didn’t guide me through in the same way that Georgia did, we found her story together.
The Accidental Love Letter is a novel about hope, community and love. The characters are flawed, they’re tired from hiding behind masks, but they’re pretty real. Throughout Bea’s journey, she manages to feel less alone, and if the characters in the book offer the same to a reader, then I have achieved what I set out to do. And if you laugh at the beaver jokes along the way (there are a lot, sorry Dad), then that’s a bonus.
If you were in Bea’s shoes, would you have written back?
The Accidental Love Letter is out now in e-book and audio, and out in paperback on 16th April.