It’s such a pleasure to welcome fellow crime writer and Psychological Suspense Authors’ Association member Rachel Sargeant here today. Whether you’re an established writer or an aspiring author with a manuscript in your bottom drawer, I’m sure you’ll find Rachel’s writing journey both fascinating and inspiring.
Thank you, Alice, for inviting me onto your blog. Here’s a few words on how I got published.
Luck, perseverance and Writing Magazine – I’d say they are three ingredients that helped me.
Throughout primary school, ‘composition’ was my favourite lesson of the week. I even won a prize – three packets of crisps from the headmaster’s tuck shop – for writing about our Year 6 trip to Dovedale.
Through the years of secondary school, university and work, I forgot all about writing for pleasure. That changed in summer 1999 when a palm reader at a party told me I should become a writer. I laughed it off at the time, but it set me thinking and when I saw that there was a crime fiction writing workshop taking place nearby, I went along.
The tutor set a five-minute exercise and when I read my effort out, the other students and the tutor were very complimentary. On the way home, I called into a newsagent’s to grab a drink and spotted Writing Magazine. Still on a high from the workshop, I bought a copy. It contained an advert for the magazine’s annual Crime Fiction Short Story Competition. In a fit of enthusiasm I extended my 100-word workshop scribble into a 1600-word story.
Talk about beginner’s luck. It won the competition. I spent the prize money on the train and overnight accommodation to attend the award ceremony in Harrogate. But better than cash, the win gave me the confidence to sit down and expand the short story to an eighty-thousand-word crime novel.
With more good luck I found a publisher. This took me to 2010 which turned out to be a good year for my writing. As well as having a novel published, I was shortlisted in the Bristol Short Story Prize and I had a story published in My Weekly.
But after that… nothing. I got no more work published. Sadly, my writing reached a never-ending and barren plateau. Eventually I took the expensive decision to do a Master’s in Creative Writing via a part-time, distance-learning course over two years. It’s the best money I’ve ever spent. I came out of the course with: a far greater understanding of the writing craft; a syndicate of other students with whom to share feedback and encouragement – a game-changer for my writing as I still exchange work with three of them some six years later; and a portfolio of the first thirty-thousand words of a psychological thriller.
After the course I completed the thriller and saw an article in Writing Magazine about a literary agency that was interested in my genre. Within two days of sending the synopsis and three chapters to one of their agents, she asked for the full manuscript and took me on soon after that.
None of the mainstream publishers, to whom she pitched my book, wanted to publish, but one editor kindly sent her three pages of suggestions for how the story could be improved. After another six months rewriting, I spotted an advert for an open submission window with HarperCollins Killer Reads in … you guessed it … Writing Magazine (I swear I don’t have shares.) I sent off my submission, outlining the changes I’d made since my agent had pitched it.
Nine months later, the Killer Reads editor got in touch and offered to publish. It became The Perfect Neighbours, a Top Ten Kindle bestseller. My agent also sold it in translation to publishers in Europe.
In the meantime, I got the rights back for the novel that had been published in 2010. Killer Reads took that one too and, armed with the skills I learned on the MA course, I rewrote it. Retitled The Good Teacher, it still contains the micro scene I wrote in that first crime writing workshop.
I’ve since had another psychological thriller, The Roommates, published, this time on the main HarperCollins crime list. This one features sinister goings-on at a university during freshers’ week. When a student vanishes, her new flatmates have to work together to find out what’s happened, little realising the danger they are in.
I’ve now gone back to university myself, this time for a full-time course. Like the MA, my new study involves creating a portfolio. I’m currently researching for a literary thriller.
Rachel Sargeant grew up in Lincolnshire. She is the author of The Perfect Neighbours, a psychological thriller set in Germany. Her second novel with HarperCollins, The Good Teacher, is a detective mystery, featuring DC Pippa “Agatha” Adams. Her latest psychological thriller, The Roommates, takes place during a university freshers’ week.
Rachel has a degree in German from Aberystwyth University and a Creative Writing MA from Lancaster University. She spent several years living in Germany where she taught English. She now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and children and studies at the University of Birmingham.
Find out more about her writing and reading on her website: https://www.rachelsargeant.co.uk/
or follow her on Twitter: @RachelSargeant3
or BookBub: http://bit.ly/RachelSargeantBookBubfollow
or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rachelsargeantauthor/
University is supposed to be the best time of your life. But Imo’s first week is quickly going from bad to worse.
A stalker is watching her flat, following her every move, and Imo suspects that her new roommates are hiding dark secrets…
When one of them disappears, the trauma of Imo’s recent past comes hurtling back to haunt her. And she begins to realise just how little she knows about the people she lives with…
Four Students. Four Secrets. One Devastating Lie.
The Good Teacher
Nicknamed ‘Agatha’ by her new colleagues for her Marple-like approach to a crime scene, novice detective Pippa Adams could not be having a worse start to her career at Penbury CID. Then a beloved teacher is murdered and left in a ditch beside a country lane. As Pippa scratches the surface of the school community, she meets families who’ve learned a shattering lesson. And finally she uncovers the good teacher’s darkest secrets.
The Perfect Neighbours
When Helen moves to Germany with her husband Gary, she can’t wait to meet her fellow ex-pat teachers from the local international school. But her new start is about to become her worst nightmare.
She begins to suspect that all is not as it seems. Then Gary starts to behave strangely and a child goes missing.
When violence and tragedy strike, cracks appear in the community, and Helen realises her perfect neighbours are capable of almost anything.
Behind the shutters lies a shocking secret.
Thanks so much for popping by, Rachel, I loved hearing your story. Must dash now – I’m off to buy a lifetime’s subscription to Writing Magazine 🙂