Francesca, the protagonist in my first book, Me and Miss M, believed and spoke often of ‘destiny days.’ She said, and I quote…
‘In life there are a handful of days when we experience key moments that either determine or fulfil our destiny, depending on what you believe in. These days have two things in common. One is that at the time they seem utterly ordinary and it’s only ever with the luxury of hindsight that you realise you’ve had one. The other is that you never, ever forget them.’
Looking back at 2013 I realise Francesca may have been onto something, for I believe I had two destiny days last year and I certainly won’t ever forget either of them.
The first took place on a colder than it should have been, slightly drab, English Summer’s Friday. My boyfriend and I both had a day off. Actually stop. That is a bare faced LIE. He had a day off. I was out of work. Every day was a day off. Prior to this period of nothingness I had been working at a shopping channel selling items ranging from window vacs to blenders. Not exactly the dream for someone who had many moons ago presented on proper telly, but it had been a job nonetheless and one that had become all the more precious when I’d split up with my husband and become to all intents and purposes a single mum.
Sadly for everyone who worked there, the channel had gone down the spout a couple of months before and to make matters worse/ more stressful, to date I had received nothing but rejections for my latest novel, which I strongly believed to be my best yet. Not that my opinion would equate to anything financially unless someone in publishing agreed.
Basically things weren’t looking all that fantastic (huuuuuuge understatement, things were SHIT) but I was determined to remain positive in a Butlin’s redcoat kind of way. The other option was giving into the terror which was creeping up on me which in turn might lead to me doing something drastic I’d regret forever, such as marching into various publishing houses and refusing to let go of editor’s ankles until they gave me a deal.
So for now I was being fake cheery and had decreed to my boyfriend that we should go swimming. To the public baths. It would be cheap, fun, healthy and according to the forecast hot, so we could chill out in the sun. If we shut our eyes we might even feel like we were on holiday. I met him at the station. He didn’t look convinced. Probably because it was actually raining.
‘It’s nothing,’ I said manically. ‘It’s going to clear up any second.’
He sighed and by way of reply gazed up at the ominous, thick blanket of grey cloud cover.
I was having none of it though. ‘Come on,’ I said ‘Only I just need to pop in here first to get some suntan lotion.’
‘Why? Can you get burnt by rain?’
I ignored him. Things had been so rubbish lately. I had been so worried about everything that frankly I was at a stage where I thought that if I just willed it to, the sun would come out, bathing everything in its optimistic light and warming my tense bones with its rays which in turn would put everything in perspective.
With hindsight there’s a definite possibility I’d gone a bit mad.
One hour later and my boyfriend and I were sat sheltered under a tree with our jackets on over our swimming costumes. We were the only two human beings at the vast outdoor pool apart from one lifeguard who was wearing a coat. He was sat glowering at us from the other side of the pool probably because we were the only two things standing between him and a hot shower and a nice cup of tea.
‘This is shit isn’t it?’ I finally admitted.
‘Yes,’ said my boyfriend ‘can we go to the pub please?’
‘Yes,’ I shivered, getting up to wring out my towel. For a fleeting moment I thought I might cry and then my phone rang.
It was my book agent. Ringing to tell me that Mira books at Harlequin wanted to offer me a two book deal.
There might as well have been fireworks. As I said goodbye to my agent, having thanked her a million times, I realised my heart was pounding and that my whole body was shaking with adrenaline, with relief and with happiness.
That phone call changed everything.
Suddenly the rain was romantic. Suddenly, my boyfriend who had managed to glean what was happening, picked me up and swung me about, feeling far far less inclined to kill me.
‘Pub?’ I squealed.
‘Yeah, let’s get out of here now,’ he agreed, giving the life guard an apologetic thumbs up, and off we went, only not to drown our sorrows but to celebrate.
And that was my first destiny day of 2013. The second was to arrive just before Christmas.
By now, my agent had been to the Frankfurt Book Fair with my book, If You’re Not the One, and there was a bit of interest from various film scouts. Previous experience told me that in reality, although this was encouraging, it didn’t really mean much, as getting past the ‘ooh there’s a good idea in here’ stage is nigh on impossible unless you’re a huge name writer.
However, a while later I found myself visiting the offices of Working Title Films for a meeting with a development producer who I hit it off with instantly. She was dynamic, bright, nice, and best of all loved my book. Hooray. This was all lovely and flattering but I knew there were many more hurdles to get over before anything would actually happen. And so the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months and all the while we were getting closer.
I started to feel a bit mad again because I could feel the hint of a possibility turning into genuine interest. Then interest was coupled with some action at which point I began to realise it could actually happen and how absolutely brilliant that would be. And yet nothing could be said or celebrated until that offer came in in writing.
And then, one day (December 12th at 19.37, ha, told you you never forget) it did.
It was finally real and I am so happy and proud and excited that Working Title Films have liked my book enough to option the film rights. That in itself feels like a huge accomplishment especially given that I am such a massive fan of so many of the downright brilliant films they’ve made. Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones and Elizabeth are all firm favourites and that’s just the tip of their production iceberg.
And now I wait. But in a happy, non- tense way, content to let things take their natural course. I know only too well that these things can take years and the most important/ exciting thing now will be to see what people make of the book come 7th February, when it’s out.
But whatever happens, what 2013 taught me is that if you stick at things long enough, keep the faith and don’t give up, things can change in a heartbeat and so undoubtedly there will be a few more destiny days in store. For us all.
Oh…. it taught me something else as well. Don’t go swimming in the rain in England. Because it’s cold and shit and your boyfriend (and the lifeguards) won’t thank you for it.