My Path to Publication – Alex Hyland

Crime thriller author and television writer Alex Hyland is my guest this week. Welcome, Alex,  I know that your Michael Violet thriller series is currently published by Accent Press, can you share your writing journey with us? What made you want to become an author and how did you achieve that?


Alex Hyland Pic (1)


When I decided to write my first novel, I did it with a view to self-publication – I had no interest in pursuing a traditional publishing deal at all. I’d been a television writer for a number of years, and was tired of having to juggle notes from producers, editors and executives; having to work in references to Rihanna, because ‘she’s so hot with our target demographic at the moment.’  Admittedly, writing is a business and you need to know your audience, but I was in the mood to throw that all to the wind and just write something for me.

On and off, it took me two years to complete the novel, Black Violet – a thriller about a pickpocket. I gave it to my agent for his opinion with the request that it shouldn’t be sent to anyone. He understood my feelings about self-publishing and the freedom it offered, however, he thought we should send it out anyway just to see what the industry has to say – I could always self-publish. I reluctantly agreed, but gave him a three month deadline. I didn’t want to have to wait around a year just to get a bunch of responses that read, ‘It’s good, but it needs more references to Justin Bieber.’

A couple of months later I was Photoshopping cover artwork ready for my launch into self-publication when my agent called to say we’d had an offer – a series deal. It’s strange. No matter how confident I am in my writing, if someone likes it, it always takes me by surprise me. And they didn’t want just one book, they wanted a number. I was still hesitant about working with editors, but I took one look at my lifeless Facebook page and the useless cover artwork I’d put together, and realized there might be more to self-publishing than perhaps I was ready for. I signed the deal.

It wasn’t long before long the notes from my new editor arrived. I remember the moment quite clearly – an attachment to an email that had me sweating like I was waiting for blood test results. I opened it up and started reading; pages and pages of comments and observations. However, these notes turned out to be one of the more pleasant surprises along my journey. Not only were they clear and insightful, but they were completely in line with my vision for the books. I could work wholeheartedly with them.

Not that it was a completely stress-free process from then on. I found the proofing stages surprisingly nerve-wracking. With it being my first novel, I wanted it to be absolutely perfect of course, but there’s only so many times you can read a sentence before you find yourself staring blankly at the words like they’re alien symbols, ‘That’s really how you spell make? Make? Really? OK.’

It wasn’t until the first copies of the book arrived on my doorstep, with their beautiful cover art and carefully laid out pages, that I realized how many people were now involved with this. Black Violet was now our book. And so much the better for it.

That’s quite a publication story, Alex! Congratulations on your contract for a series with Accent Press. 

About Alex

Born in London, Alex pursued a writing career that took him to Los Angeles where he created shows for Disney, Universal and NBC. After five years in LA, and the constant request for him to come up with a vampire show that was ‘kind of like The Office’, Alex decided to write something purely for his own pleasure. The result is the Michael Violet series published by Accent Press. He is currently writing the third novel in the series.

You can contact Alex here.




Here is the first book in the Black Violet series

Black Violet

You can download it here:


Check in next week to read Colete McCormick’s writing journey.

And if you want to read about my writing journey, I’m talking about it over on Tom William’s blog here.


My Path to Publication – Kerry Watts

It’s time for another fascinating ‘path to publication’ story. This week Kerry Watts, the author of the popular Heartlands series published by Bookouture tells us about her writing journey. Have you always wanted to be a writer, Kerry?


kerry pic


It hit me when I read Isla Dewar’s book Giving up on Ordinary that writing was something I would love to do. I couldn’t explain why. It was just a feeling. Perhaps it was the way that book hooked me and pulled me away from the stress of becoming a single parent. I have since told Isla Dewar on Twitter the effect her book had. The year was 1998 and my daughter was just a toddler the time so whenever she was asleep or later at nursery I would scribble a few words and hoped that they were interesting and entertaining. In the beginning they were neither. The feeling became a passion and I wrote daily. I submitted so many short stories to a leading fiction magazine that they must have been sick of hearing from me by the time I stopped. Those were the days of sending hard copies with a stamped address envelope. My decision to give up came alongside the sudden death of my mum in 2004 and my hopes of becoming published took a nosedive along with my confidence. It turned out to be postponed rather than giving up. Over the following years I dabbled a bit in novel writing, short stories and I even had a go at a couple of scripts but rejection became a daily routine. But something inside me couldn’t shake the writing buzz.

Fast forward to 2015 and I happened upon a post on Facebook from a crime fiction author called Louise Mullins and I plucked up the courage to send her a message with lots of questions about becoming published. I was in the middle of yet another attempt at a novel as well as a short kids book about a rescue dog nobody wanted. Without her I would not be sitting here today writing this piece for this blog. It was the advice she gave me that lifted my confidence to the point I had a go at self publishing which I will admit I made lots of mistakes in. One of which was editing. Or the lack of proper editing. I learned several lessons along the way and was lucky enough to be taken on by a couple of indie publishers as a result. Sales over the past few years have not been huge but those who have read my books seem to like them and help promote me to others on social media.

It was through this reader support I had the confidence to keep going and be more ambitious with my choice of publishers. I knew I wanted increased success and knew that only a bigger, more influential company could help me reach my ultimate goal of becoming a bestselling author. So I submitted a crime fiction thriller I was very excited about to Bookouture. Sadly they rejected that one but it did find a home and The Reckoning is very popular with readers who have reviewed it. I didn’t let that stop me. I went for it again with another book. Rejection wasn’t going to stop me. This time I received an email asking for more time to read the manuscript. I said yes of course! After several emails and a phone call later I signed a contract to write three Scottish crime books for Bookouture. I still pinch myself just to make sure I’m not dreaming. Heartlands became a bestseller within days of release and I cried with happiness. My advice to new authors? Don’t give up.

What an amazing story, Kerry.  You showed such determination and resilience to keep on writing. I’ve seen how popular the Heartlands series is. Congratulations.

About Kerry

Kerry Watts lives with her husband and son as well as a hamster called Buttercup and house rabbit named Domino. As well as writing, her other great passion is horse-racing. Watching a racehorse at full stretch thundering down the track at forty miles an hour has been known to move her to tears and for that she is unashamed. One day she hopes to own a grade 1 winning sprint filly.

She is also a self confessed tea addict. All of her books come to you courtesy of Tetley tea bags.

Instagram – kerrywatts_


Here are some of Kerry’s books.

Heartlands-Kindle                under dark skies cover

You can purchase them here:



Remember to check in next week to read another ‘Path to Publication’ story.




My Path to Publication – Gilli Allan

I’m talking to author and illustrator Gilli Allan about her publication journey this week. Gilli writes honestly about modern relationships and is published by Accent Press. Morning, Gilli, can you tell us how you became a published author?

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The idea that I could write the story I wanted to read came to me indirectly, via my fifteen-year-old sister.  She managed to finish her Regency Romance, but didn’t attempt novel writing again until after she retired.  My imagination and energy completely failed after only three or four illustrated pages of my own ‘book’ – I was only ten after all – but the writing seed had been planted.

It remained dormant for a couple more years, but pushed its shoots up into the light when I was a young teenager. Even at the time I considered my hobby more a form of sublimation than the expression of ambition. In my real life, love and romance was a very distant, even unachievable, prospect. So, my burgeoning emotions were poured into my many unfinished novels.

But my own fascination was with a darker, more contemporary world than that depicted by Georgette Heyer.  It was a world I had no experience of, and my characters never progressed beyond kissing and cuddling. I never took seriously the idea of writing as a profession. Writers were clever, educated people.  I was neither.  I left school at 16 with just enough exam passes to get me into art-college.

In my early adult life, I stopped writing.  My career was in advertising where I worked as an illustrator.  It was only when I stopped work to look after my son, and wanted to find something I could do at home to earn money, that I experienced the light-bulb moment.

“I know! I’ll write a Mills & Boon romance!”  At the time I had no idea how many people have had the same thought and how difficult an ambition it is to achieve.

‘Just Before Dawn’ didn’t so much fall off the Mills & Boon rails – rather its wheels never touched them in the first place. The book opened with a single girl miscarrying her unplanned pregnancy! But I became so entranced by the process that I didn’t care.  Once I’d opened the door to my imagination, I had to write the story that was begging to be written.  It was the first novel I ever finished, and it was accepted by a publisher (unsurprisingly it wasn’t Mills & Boon) within 4 months of completion. They also published my second novel, ‘Desires & Dreams’, only a year later.   But, but, but…  this isn’t the end of the story.

How often have you heard the homily – ‘if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is’?  This was in the pre-digital age; the publishing company was a new venture and it was very small. It couldn’t fight its corner in an increasingly aggressive publishing world where small publishers were being gobbled up and ‘big’ was the watchword. My books failed to get into high street stores and, unsurprisingly, did not sell well. Eventually the publisher folded.

Then began my many years in the wilderness. I continued to write, but could get no further. I was banging my head against brick walls that only seemed to grow higher, harder and thicker. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association but despite their wonderful support, I still could not interest agents or publishers.

With the advent of digital publishing, and the Kindle became affordable and, more importantly, it became easy and free to self-publish, I decided to grasp the opportunity.  Despite being very ‘untechie’ I began to format my books and to design the covers.  I managed to upload the first, TORN, without problem in 2011.  LIFE CLASS and FLY OR FALL followed.

It might be relatively easy to self-publish these days, but it is not easy to raise the profile of your own book above the myriad of others and convince the buying public to select it. Although my reviews have been wonderful, and all three won Chill with a book Awards, the numbers sold were disappointing.

I was very happy when Accent Press took me on and re-published my three books in 2014 and 2015.

I have a new book, waiting in the wings which I hope will be published soon.

A wonderful story, Gilli, congratulations on your three ‘Chill with a Book’ Awards, and your contract with Accent Press. Can you tell us a bit about your new book?


Is not always what it seems

 Educating Rita meets Time Team, when the conference planner meets the university lecturer. Their backgrounds could hardly be further apart, their expectations in life more different, and, more importantly there is no wish or reason on either side that they should ever connect again. But they have more in common than they could ever have imagined.  Each has an archaeological puzzle they want to solve. Their stories intertwine and they discover together that treasure isn’t always what it seems.

I include an image I have come up with which MAY be the cover of the book, but watch this space. I could change my mind.



It looks intriguing, Gilli!

About Gilli

Gilli Allan began to write in childhood – a hobby pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home, and real life supplanted the fiction.

After a few false starts she worked longest and most happily as a commercial artist, and only began writing again when she became a mother.

Living in Gloucestershire with her husband Geoff, Gilli is still a keen artist. She draws and paints and has now moved into book illustration as well as writing real-life based romance novels

Following in the family tradition, her son, historian Thomas Williams, is also a writer. His most recent work, published by William Collins, is ‘Viking Britain’.

Contact Links   (@gilliallan)

Here are some of Gilli’s books

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You can purchase her books here:



TORN:   Trailer:

Remember to drop in next week to see how Kerry Watts became a published author.











My Path to Publication – Jake Cross

Psychological thriller author Jake Cross is my guest this week. Welcome, Jake, I know that – like me – you’re currently published by Bookouture. Can you share your ‘publication journey’ with us?



Of all the embarrassing claims I ever made, one rules: “I bet you I’m writing a book with Stephen King by the time I’m 16.”

A silly 13 year-old said that, way back in 1986, and it shows two things. One: the love of storytelling has been with me for decades. Two: I had no idea how hard getting a book contract could be.

This post is more like a “Long Road to Publication”. I wrote all manner of dross in those early days. First film scripts, then fantasy gamebooks, and finally novels. I loved horror and my first story was inspired by someone showing me how the rearranged letters in Santa Claus made Satan Claus. Bang, I had my title – Satan Claws (copyright 1986). Obviously, I mean obviously it had to be about a two-legged werewolf serial killer dressed as Santa on a Christmas Eve rampage.

Laughing? 13 years old, remember.

No way was Stephen King was going duet with an unpublished author, so I set out on that long road by hitting the agents and publishers. Adios pocket money. For years. 16 came and went, no Steve King in sight, but wages soon replaced pocket money and I could afford more stamps and photocopies. Bear with me, Steve. The rise of the Internet upper the submission tempo again, but still the road wound on over the horizon. Email did mean fewer legit rejections, though: with no paper manuscript to return, agents could relay their decisions using stony silence. A little unfair, because hope dug in its fingernails even as months cruised by. But ultimately this tactic works: I don’t expect Penguin Books to suddenly ask for the complete MS of my fantasy gamebook, The Golden Owl (copyright 1987.)

Rambling story short, I continued to work/live/submit/ over the years. A long road indeed. If you were an agent accepting thrillers by email between 2011 and 2017, you said no. Or said nothing. I started to believe that only celebrities or the massively lucky got book contracts. However, for every lucky writer getting a deal, there’s someone out there becoming a crime statistic, so I wasn’t sour about my place in the inert middle.

But all roads go somewhere. Out of nowhere, an assistant agent I’d impressed two years before contacted me. Since then, Natalie had left that agency to become a commissioning editor at a digital publisher called Bookouture, who were making big waves in the e-book world. She said she’d like another look at my book, I said hell yes. That book went nowhere, but she was willing to work with me on another novel. Eight months later I had a three-book contract.

Natalie: Thank you.

Penguin Books: I apologise, but The Golden Owl is no longer a book I wish to pursue. However, I have this idea about a serial killer in a red suit…

Stephen King: Ready when you are.

What a fascinating story, Jake, and it made me smile. There’s nothing like being an ambitious teenager! Congratulations on your three book contract with Bookouture and look forward to reading about the serial killer in a red suit. 🙂

About Jake

Jake has been making stuff up from a real early age, always with a dream of publication. It took a long time, a lot of rejection, and a bunch of dead end jobs. He has three children of his own. So far none of them has shown the writing bug, but he thinks that’s because they have dreams of careers that aid those in need. Or maybe it’s just Netflix and Angry Birds.

Twitter: @JakeCrossAuthor

Here are the covers of two of Jake’s books

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You can purchase them here:



Remember to check in next week to see how Gilli Allan became a published author.