Twenty novels and still going – Erica James

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By Erica James

Song of the Skylark is my twentieth novel and when I look back to January 1996 when my first book was published it feels a lifetime ago, yet equally it feels as though it were yesterday. I can still vividly recall the moment when my agent telephoned to give me the good news that an editor at Orion had not only read the manuscript for A Breath of Fresh Air and loved it, but wanted to publish it. ♥

A two-book contract followed and I was completely over the moon at this stroke of good luck, coming as it did it at a difficult time in my life, when I was desperately in need of a means to support myself, as well as my two young sons. It felt like a gift from heaven, and still does to this day.

A common assumption made by those who don’t write is that the process must become easier with each book that’s written, but it’s never been that way for me, if anything it gets harder – I liken it to climbing a mountain which, with every new book, becomes steeper and higher. The challenge is to come up with something new each time, something that stimulates me creatively and, hopefully, something that will interest the reader.

While I don’t consider my novels to be issue-driven, over the years I have covered a broad range of subjects including dyslexia, MS, deafness, anorexia, the Boxing Day tsunami, the death of a child, and divorce. On the face of it this might make my books sound a little serious and downbeat, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I like to think that the stories I tell reflect ordinary people who, by virtue of coping with the myriad ups and downs of life, live extraordinary lives.

More recently I’ve found myself drawn to writing stories partially set in the past. Summer at the Lake, The Dandelion Years and now Song of the Skylark combine a contemporary storyline with that of one in the 1940s and 1950s. When my agent read the manuscript for Song of the Skylark he made the observation that I couldn’t have written a book of that depth when I first started out as a writer, that I wouldn’t have had the skill or vision. He didn’t mean this in a negative way, but as positive affirmation that I’ve grown as an author. Let’s hope there’s still plenty of growth left in me for the next twenty books!

The author of many bestselling novels, including Gardens of Delight, which won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award, and her recent Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, Summer at the Lake and The Dandelion Years, Erica James now divides her time between Suffolk and Lake Como in Italy. Her twentieth novel, Song of the Skylark, is released today.

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