Sealed with a Kiss by Rachael Lucas is free today (18th June 2013)
Have you ever dreamt of writing a novel that experiences success beyond your wildest dreams and then being head hunted by a number of prestigious literary agents in London? That’s exactly what happened to Scottish author Rachael Lucas earlier this year.
I saw her self published kindle book on Facebook and I decided to download it as a show of support. Sealed with a Kiss exceeded my expectations and I recommended it to family and friends. It seems that everyone else was doing the same, to date it has been downloaded over 80,000 times. It has over 300 reviews averaging four and a half stars.
As a Scottish author I was keen to feature Rachael Lucas here so that she can share some insight into her extraordinary success.
1. How did the idea for Sealed with a Kiss come about?
About two years before I started writing, I woke up one morning and scribbled the words “girl moves to island to escape crap life in city” in a notebook – I’d had a dream about it. Very mystical! Initially, though, she was divorced and escaping her horrible ex and she had a couple of children. When I came back to the idea, I’d signed up to do NaNoWriMo and was determined to complete it, and I realised straight away in the pre-planning weeks that I didn’t want to be caught up with children and I wanted my heroine to be younger, so Kate was born.
2. Why did you choose Scotland as the location for your story?
I chose Scotland because it’s where I come from, and because it was easy for me to draw the characters – they jumped right into my head. They weren’t based on people I’d met (although there are bits of quite a few in there, and I always wonder if they recognise themselves) but I find Scottish people have such big personalities and such a sense of humour that they fit really well into books.
3. Did you have to do much research into Scottish Islands to create the right feel for your book?
Yes and no – I suppose you could call it living research! My family come from the Orkney islands, so I’m an islander by blood, and I lived on the Island of Bute when I was married to my ex, and I’d always planned to write about island life, so it was very much in my head. I did go back to the island in October last year (you can see the photos here) when I was working on final edits of the book, just so that I could remind myself how it felt to catch that ferry and take myself away from the mainland. I had a proper island adventure when I was there – a piece of the car fell off and a very kind man from the garage in Rothesay repaired it for free, and the people were just as lovely as I remembered.
4. Will your future books be set in Scotland?
I’m going to write a sequel to Sealed with a Kiss, so yes, and I suspect there may be more stories to come from the island. There’s so much to write about island life – it’s really true that it’s so small that everyone knows everything, and yet the places are full of secrets. I imagine there’ll be some books in the future set up in the Highlands, which is home to me.
5. Where’s your own favourite place to visit in Scotland?
Oh, I have a few! Edinburgh, because as a teenager and after university I walked every inch of the place and I know it inside out. My best friend still lives there, and although I don’t get back often, whenever I do I know exactly where I have to go: Henderson’s on Hanover Street for a huge vegetarian salad and their gorgeous gingered fruit and sour cream pudding, then a wander down to Stockbridge to look through the shops and have a coffee down by the water. And of course Inverness is home, and being back there fills my heart up. All the streets are full of memories of childhood and people I love. Just writing that makes me want to get straight on a plane and go home!
6. Tell us about the crazy success of your book?
I actually finished the first draft of Sealed with a Kiss in 2011, and sent it to a few agents. I had polite ‘lovely, funny, but not quite my thing’ replies from them, which I was told at the time was actually a really good sign – usually writers get a standard rejection letter. I also had some interest from a small independent publisher, but then put it to one side to deal with life, divorce and moving myself and my children to the seaside, all of which took priority! I decided, though, that 2013 was the year I turned 40 and it was time to get on with things. So I paid to have the book professionally edited, hired a cover designer, and released it in February. I hoped for 100 sales, and dreamt secretly of hitting 1000. I reached that within weeks, and then when I used the Amazon KDP Select promotion to offer the book for free download, I hit 25,000 downloads over the course of five days! It hit no.1 in the Amazon Kindle Free chart. That pushed the book into the Amazon top 100 and I reached no.7 in the Amazon chart. Sealed with a Kiss has been in the Amazon Top 100 ever since and is continuing to sell really well.
I was contacted by several agents after the book had been on the Amazon chart for a while, and eventually signed with Amanda Preston from Luigi Bonomi Associates. We’re working now on plans for books 2 and 3, as well as translations of Sealed with a Kiss for foreign markets. It’s all very exciting!
7. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, always. As a child I read voraciously, and wrote constantly. I used to spend every summer holiday filling old school jotters with pony stories and at university I dreamt of becoming the next Jilly Cooper. (I still do – the day Sealed with a Kiss received a review from a Costa Book Awards judge pronouncing it ‘reminded her a bit of Jilly’ I would have jumped for joy, had my broken ankle not stopped me!)
8. Did you ever believe that you’d achieve your ambition of being a writer?
For a long time I didn’t have the self confidence or self belief to pursue my dream. I thought that becoming a writer was something that happened to other people – then, when I started blogging about training to run the London Marathon (despite being a rather podgy chocolate loving couch potato), I realised I was capable of writing things which moved people to laugh or to cry. That gave me the push I needed.
9. If you could give other aspiring writers just three pieces of advice what would they be.
1 – Write. Start a blog, if you don’t have one already. The discipline of writing regularly will help you get in the habit – and the old cliche about writing a novel being “99% perspiration and 1% inspiration” really is true. I’m working on my second book at the moment and there are days when every word takes about ten minutes to get out. It’s torture.
2 – Listen. People ask me all the time (which feels a bit of a fraud, because I’m only working on book two, so I’m not a proper writer) where I get ideas from. I have *heaps* of ideas, because I sit around listening to conversations in coffee shops and at the hairdresser, and I think “ooh, what would happen if…” and there you are – another idea! And then write them down.
3 – Read. If you’re planning to write chick lit, read the competition. Read it with a notebook in hand. I spent ages dissecting some of my favourites, working out the plot, the character development, what happened to each character, and then I took it over to my book and dissected my story in the same way before rewriting.
10. Finally, what’s next for best selling author Rachel Lucas!
I’m working on a few things: hopefully there’ll be some exciting news soon about the next two books. I’m in the process of a big blog redesign so my author site rachaellucas.com and my blog talesfromthevillage.com will come under the same roof. Lots of writing – and of course lots of lurking in coffee shops listening in on conversations!