Tracy Rees Discusses Life After Winning Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller 2014 Transcript
I’m Tracy Rees, I won the inaugural Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition in 2014. My book Amy Snow won the competition, and my second book Florence Grace is due to be published in June this year.
I heard about the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition because my mum spotted a leaflet for it in WHSmith and my parents came to visit me and brought me a leaflet. That was the year that I’d decided to really get behind my writing and made some quite radical life changes to focus on my writing. So they brought me the leaflet knowing that I was just basically trying to get my work out everywhere. I never thought for a minute that I would get anywhere with it because obviously Richard and Judy are such big names in the industry and so influential. So I knew that loads and loads of people would be entering. But I gave it a go, in the spirit of what I was doing at the time, and this is the result so thank goodness for that!
My first book, the book that won the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition is Amy Snow. Amy Snow the book is set in Victorian England, early Victorian times, and it’s the story of a young girl – Amy. It’s a coming of age story, it’s a quest, it’s a bit of romance, it’s a mystery. It’s the story of Amy who basically only has one friend in the world, and when she’s seventeen her friend dies, so she’s all alone and she doesn’t know how she’s going to find her way. But it turns out that the friend Aurelia has left her a secret legacy. Part of which is a bundle of letters, one leading to the next. So Amy has to follow the trail to find out Aurelia’s last secret.
The day I found out that I’d won the competition was incredible. I had a phone call from Quercus – the publishers – and Stephanie and Catherine both rang me up and told me the incredible news that I’d won. And I honestly don’t know which was more astonishing. I think, in a way, making the shortlist was especially shocking because obviously from that point onwards I knew I had a one in seven chance. But even so, to know that I’d actually won was just phenomenal.
Once I’d won, life became a bit of a whirlwind for a while, for the rest of that day certainly I had a flurry of phonecalls from the agent, the publicist and so on. And then I was having lots of trips up to London to meet everybody, to meet Richard and Judy to record a podcast for the Book Club. There was a lot of editing to do, a lot of back and forth with the publishers over the jacket design and so on. So it was just a really fascinating and interesting time. Then the book was published the following April and I don’t think life has really slowed down since.
Winning the Richard and Judy competition has definitely changed my life. Before that happened, I was sort of on a see-saw between working full time in a proper job, supporting myself and doing all the sensible things, but being really pretty unhappy because I knew what I wanted to do was write, or taking time out to write and having a wonderful time but then running out of money. So then I’d go back to work and the cycle would begin again. Winning the competition has meant that I’m now a full time writer. Thankfully Amy Snow has done really really well and Quercus – the publishers – have offered me a further two book contract which I’m halfway through at the moment. So I’m a full time writer. And it’s a really incredible feeling to be in alignment with what I’ve always known I wanted to do.
My second book – Florence Grace – will be published this June, so I’m really looking forward to that coming out. Quercus have done another beautiful cover. They’ve done a really really lovely job on that. So it’ll be wonderful to have Florence out there as well as Amy.
My tips for this year’s applicants would be definitely enter it if you’re at all interested in becoming a writer. Definitely enter it. Always write from the heart, because I think in writing as in life if you’re doing something because you think it’s going to impress somebody else it’s pretty empty really. And then if you do succeed you end up being stuck doing something you don’t really believe in. So write what you love, whether it’s crime, mystery, romance, write what you love. And also bear in mind that if and when it does get published there will be revisions and edits and if you don’t love it that’s really boring, and if you do love it then it’s great. Also I would say just never give up. Obviously only one person can win the competition but there are so many opportunities out there and I think even just the fact of entering such a big, important competition as this shows a real leap of faith in yourself and your career, and I think that’s really important.
If you’d like to hear more from me and how the books are progressing, you can follow my Twitter account which is @authortracyrees. And lastly I just want to say a very very big good luck to everybody who is entering. I’m so excited that they’re doing another Search for a Bestseller competition, so good luck!