Confessions of a First Time Novelist by Nicola Slade author of Scuba Dancing.

Everyone asks: 'Is it worth it? Is it how you imagined it would be?' To which the answers have to be Yes and No.

Of course it's worth it, how could it not be? It's what I always wanted. You know when they ask what you want to do when you leave school? I used to fudge the answer because, while I knew exactly what I wanted to do, I also knew that it wasn't what they wanted to hear from a clever girl at a grammar school.

What I wanted, more than anything, was a lovely husband, a nice house, cats and dogs, and lots of lovely children - and to write books. I've been incredibly lucky in that all my dreams have come true. The lovely husband is still around after thirty-seven years, the house is a nice one and we've had the pets. The lots of lovely children stopped at three when I decided that although babies are indeed lovely, being sick for nine months isn't. With hindsight I should have added - and to get the books published.

Is it how I imagined it would be? No it isn't, partly because I didn't know what to expect. Oh, I had the fantasies, we all do - Parkinson, Richard & Judy, best-seller lists, selling the film rights (Colin Firth, please, as my hero, if anyone has any influence). But while I expected criticism I wasn't prepared for the sheer nastiness of some of the media onslaught on the Transita concept - a concept, by the way, which has been positively welcomed by the groups who've asked me to talk to them. It hasn't been a personal attack but I think we all feel protective of the Transita ideal so it came as a shock.

I haven't met much direct criticism apart from one or two people who told me they 'quite' liked the book, or it was 'all right'. (All right? Quite liked it? Whaddya mean - quite?) Then there are the people who ask how much I had to pay to get the book published, or introduce me to their friend who writes books - invariably these are vanity published. Plus the perennials who tell me they have a great idea for a bestseller and will write it when they have time...

The other thing I didn't expect - and this sounds really stupid - is that people would enjoy the book! Or that they would tell me so! I've had some lovely emails and met a lady the other day who told me she was reading the last two chapters of Scuba Dancing very slowly as she couldn't bear to let the characters go. And as for the people who tell me they cried,
that's such a huge compliment I'm invariably on the brink myself. I've also discovered the delights of cyber-living and have had a lot of fun posting on different sites and making some good virtual friends.

I've had some fabulous firsts: Nikki's phone message to say Scuba would be one of the launch titles. The first time I had to say I couldn't do something because I had a meeting with my publisher. (Yes, I know that's pretty shallow, but it felt good!) The first time I held the book in my hot little hands. The first time I saw the book on the shelves in Waterstones. The first time I spotted it in my local library. The first time I saw a complete stranger reading Scuba Dancing....

I've been a writer nearly all my life but now, thanks to Transita, I'm what I always wanted to be - a novelist.


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