I am an accidental blogger who never dreamed I would become synonymous with books and handbags. My creative journey has gathered pace and led me to mysterious destinations. However, I always Knew writing a novel would be a chapter in my life. When I reached my forties, my life long dream to write a novel re-emerged. Characters hassled me for years and it was time to set them free in my novel, You Can’t Go It Alone. I tapped away on my laptop keyboard for six months; it was fun to finally meet the characters. At times, I was a little shocked at their behaviour. Manuscript written, I sought the advice of a professional editor and engaged in cutting, more cutting and shaping. Novel completed, I closed my laptop, ticked off one point on my bucket list, and hopped back onto my life. I mused that I would re-read my words again one day.
Unbeknown to me, my husband read the manuscript of You Can’t Go It Alone. He self-published the novel, without my knowledge, as he knew I would dilly-dally. It shocked me but I decided to grab the opportunity and make connections withe the reading and writing community via a blog and social media. Initially, the aim of my blog was to share book reviews of all the books that had resonated with me over the years. I named the blog Books in My Handbag as all my books are on the Kindle, in my handbag. Playing on the theme of handbags, I tweeted photos of my novel in my handbag.
Overwhelmed by the positive comments about the photo, I realised it would be fun to ask authors to send their photos. I developed the Handbag Gallery to showcase the authors’ books and provide a unique boost to the marketing of hundreds of authors. I now have almost fourteen thousand followers on Twitter, and the photos of books in handbags are always a hit.
The Handbag Gallery connected me to lots of authors and they have supported me with the writing process and promotion. I developed my virtual Chat Room then invited authors to share their writing experiences. Authors are incredibly generous with their pearls of wisdom, but there was a consensus that marketing is a challenge for indie and traditionally published authors alike. I’ve discovered that readers don’t listen if you keep on promoting your own book so we must help each other. There is room for everyone out there; the key is to get your voice heard and we can’t go it alone. I have created opportunities to support authors in my virtual blogging rooms and feel happy when they also meet other virtual friends on my blog.
This year, I moved beyond virtual connections with authors and reached out to the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Having attended the RNA Afternoon Tea event, Lynda Stacey convinced me of the merits of the New Writers’ Scheme and the benefits of connecting with the local Chapter. My second novel, Loving You, (working title), is a prequel to the first book but it has a central romance theme and is set in the seventies. This time, I will have the support of an experienced writer from the RNA and I feel secure in this knowledge.
I don’t know what the future holds for my second novel but I will investigate the benefits of both the traditional and indie routes. I can predict I will continue to write and have started my third novel; Books in My Handbag is also here to stay because it brings me so much joy. I am already booked into the RNA Conference in July and can’t wait to meet more authors face to face.
Books are my bag, and they have connected me with authors, readers and dedicated book bloggers across the world. I am celebrating two years of my blog and am living the dream in writerly heaven. Grab your favourite bag and visit Books in My Handbag Blog to discover more about my creative journey.
Thank you, Jessie. That’s such an interesting post and I wish you loads of luck with your second novel.
Here is a summary of Jessie’s biography:
Jessie is a Yorkshire author living in Cardiff. Wales and words have a special place in her heart. She loves to entertain and challenge readers with her contemporary fiction and wants everyone to meet the characters who’ve been hassling her for years. Set in Wales, You Can’t Go It Alone is a ‘novel with a warm heart’ and is the first book in a family saga.
Besides writing and her popular blog, Jessie adores walking, talking, cooking and procrastinating. Walking helps her to sort out tangles in her narratives or articles. She searches for happy endings, where possible, and needs great coffee, food and music to give her inspiration. Jessie enjoys connecting with her readers and would be delighted to hear from you. Indeed, the readers requested the prequel to You Can’t Do It Alone.