It took years to get The Lodger published. I chose the traditional route and it was a long, bumpy journey, strewn with rejection letters from agents and publishers. Tears were shed and manuscripts ripped up. Publication was an unattainable goal, a holy grail, an end in itself. Several times, I was on the point of giving up, but there was always one more idea to try, one more story.
In the end, I kept going because I had to, because writing is part of who I am, necessary as breathing. Without it, I am not well or whole. And actually, I believe you are a writer if you feel like this about writing, regardless of being published or not.
When I eventually received an offer from St Martin’s Press, it was one of the most thrilling moments of my life. Holding my book in my hands for the first time, seeing what was once simply a dream turned an actual tangible object was indescribable. The sensation has been compared to holding your new-born baby, and this is certainly the best analogy I can come up with.
Before I was published, only those closest to me knew I was writing. I had a superstitious feeling it wouldn’t happen if I talked about it and so I held my silence. When the contract was signed, it was a relief to speak openly about it at last. And to be able to say to people, “No, I can’t meet you,” or “I can’t do such and such – because I am working.” Getting paid to write was transformative, turning it in my mind from a solitary indulgent pleasure into a valid pursuit.
Having said this, my family wouldn’t survive on what I earn, and so my husband’s work comes first. I am the one who holds everything together on the home front. I don’t always have as much time as I’d like for writing, and there is a certain amount of fitting my work in around the family’s schedule.
The months after publication have been an enormous learning curve, both positive and negative. Foremost was the discovery that far from being an end in itself, getting published is simply the start of a whole other journey. Being published does not guarantee that your book will succeed; the book won’t shoot into the stratosphere of bestsellers of its own accord.
A huge amount of work and promotion is required to gain sales that are merely respectable, let alone impressive. Also, there is not much money in publishing and it’s far more of a do-it-yourself industry than I expected. The onus is on the author to promote him/herself.
Writing is an intensely private and personal act. It was strange, to say the least, when my book and I were suddenly out in the world. I have always been a private person, so promoting The Lodger was accompanied by feelings of self-consciousness and even mortification, interspersed with moments of euphoria and gratitude when my book was well received.
I felt incredibly exposed, as though I’d taken my clothes off in front of the world. It is perhaps the central paradox of being an author that you must have a thin skin in order to write well, yet the hide of a rhinoceros to put yourself out there. I am still working on the rhinoceros part!
With exposure came reviews: both good and bad. I will never forget reading my first one star review (and yes, I still remember it word for word!) The reviewer said that if she’d known how appalled she was going to be by my book, she never would have started it. I was devastated.
Thankfully, I have had more favourable reviews than poor ones. But I am the sort of person who can get ten good reviews and one critical one, and I’ll believe the critical one. I reached out to two of my writer friends for advice on how to deal with this and they both said, “Don’t read your reviews. Ever.” I wish I had known this from the beginning.
I have discovered social media, which has been a mixture of good, bad and frankly odd. The best part was meeting a wonderfully supportive community online. I have been lucky enough to encounter individuals who are passionate about reading and writing. I have also found wonderful writing collectives, like Womens Writers, Womens Books and the Prime Writers. Through these groups, I have forged real warm connections, gained and hopefully given advice and support, been able to pool experience and share the highs and lows. Writing used to be a lonely, isolating experience, but not any longer.
I have learned a great deal in the months since getting published. It has been a rollercoaster ride of peaks and troughs, laughter and tears. But I am grateful for every moment and it has taught me so much about myself. Isn’t this what life is all about, anyhow?
Born in London, Louisa Treger began her career as a classical violinist. She studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music, and worked as a freelance orchestral player and teacher.
Louisa subsequently turned to literature, gaining a First Class degree and a PhD in English at University College London, where she focused on early twentieth century women’s writing.
Married with three children, she lives in London.
Find out more about Louisa on her website: http://louisatreger.com/
Follow her on twitter: @louisatreger
Buy The Lodger HERE