Today is the day I formally get to call myself an 'Author of a Trilogy'.
I have been called many things in my time (therein lies another blog post, clearly), but I think this might be my favourite.
Author of a Trilogy.
Because the word, 'Trilogy' has a grand feel about it, don't you think? 'Trilogy' lets you know that I am in this for the long haul. 'Trilogy' shows you that gesticulating at a screen, scoffing an obscene amount of custard creams and sitting on my arse for hours - no, years, actually - at a time is not something I'm only willing to do just once. Oh no, faithful friends, I have done this THREE times.
And, as we all know . . . three is a magic number.
I always knew the 'Life Is Yours' story would be in three parts. It just felt right. As many of you know, the trilogy is loosely based on a year of my own life (in 2006) where heartbreak and self-discovery took starring roles and screamed at me so loudly, it would have been rude not to write about it.
That writing took questionable form. As you'll find out in the final book that is released today, 'Everything Is Yours', my main character, Jess, cleans a space in her spare room, builds a desk, strings fairy lights, sticks up all the motivational quotes she can find and sits down with the expectation that the words will flow out of her easily. She's earned it, right? By this point she's had her heart smashed to pieces, she has rebuilt it piece by painful piece, she's had her life turned upside down by an impromptu fortune-telling moment AND she's had an actual epiphany on an actual mountainside in Turkey, of all places. It's not like she hasn't got the material.
But, like Jess, I have learned over the years that writing rarely takes on that sweeping, all-encompassing nature that the movies would have you believe.
You have to be open to ideas at stupid o'clock in the morning and either get your arse out of bed to write them down or forever risk your genius idea evaporating into the folds of your questionably fuzzy duvet.
You have to be get up close and personal with the bored-to-tears expressions on the faces of any and all loved ones as you lament, yet again, that the perfect ending to your book is a complex beast you have not yet figured out.
You have to insist, time upon time to your family, that you need SILENCE and PEACE and TOTAL STILLNESS in order to write anything, yet contradict yourself repeatedly by writing that shit down in the middle of anything from a sibling skirmish to a global pandemic.
You have to dive in and out of your writing with the tenacity of a Hob Nob being dunked into a decent brew because, well, life insists on carrying on around you.
Pregnancy, childbirth, moving house - no, actually - moving countries, navigating a cross-cultural relationship, coping with the complexities of visas, post-natal depression, dealing with death and, therefore, grief, financial hardship, job-hunting, miscarriage, more miscarriage, more moving countries, illness, parenting - Ugh, this list is not fun, so let's stop. But you get my general meaning I think.
Writing does not have the power to put stuff on hold, no matter who you are or how many trilogies you think you might have up your sleeve.
I'm a great believer though, that creativity will win the day. If you've got a creative strand in your body (and by the way, we ALL do), then that strand will keep pulling until you damn well take notice. My creative strand just knew that Life Is Yours would be told in three parts. I didn't know if those parts would be in the same book or three separate ones, but the three stages of the story stood glistening and twinkling in my mind in such a way that nothing else could outshine them.
If you've been following my blogs or my social media for a while, then you'll know that two years ago I published 'Life Is Yours' with a traditional publisher. It was that publisher, god bless him, who told me the three-part extravaganza needed to be three separate books. "Each part of the story deserves its own book." He said. "You'll gain more readers that way and the story has room to breathe in between each release."
Wise words, don't you think? I just needed somebody to bloody well tell me that, as I'd got so lost in the custard cream crumb / sparkle fest that was my trilogy, I couldn't see straight.
So, we went ahead and published the first book (Life Is Yours), and then the second (Destiny Is Yours), before I did a Classic Abi and realised something was amiss. It wasn't anything anyone had done wrong. Rather, I'd had my eyes opened to the realities of being traditionally published and that awesome twinkling my books used to have? I felt it was fading.
If there's anything that the pandemic did for me, it was give me time to realise I could do this on my own. I could scoop up my three magical books and I could put them out into the world myself. I could make them bigger, better, bolder and even more sparkling. I was forty three, for god's sake and there was no time to waste hanging around for publishers to fit me into their schedule. My protagonist, Jess, is twenty-eight and the age gap between us was rapidly widening. I had to self-publish now, or I'd be old enough to be her granny by the time the trilogy was complete.
In short, I can tell you that during this year, 2021, I have probably worked the hardest I have ever worked on anything.
I'd thought, at the beginning of this year, that my three books were ready just to reclaim as mine and republish. However, something strange happened as soon as those rights fell back into my waiting arms . . . I re-read the books.
Never, ever re-read the books.
Because what happens? I'll tell you what happens . . . not only do you find grammar and spelling errors that were lurking deeper than Gollum in Middle Earth's stinkiest swamp, but you also realise you have to Change Things in the Story.
Damn all the millions of books I'd read since mine were released. Damn knowing in my heart that my story could be even better. And damn that beautiful, well-meaning fellow author who befriended me after reading Life Is Yours and gave me an editing pep talk that spoke to my SOUL (Evie Alexander, I hope you're proud of yourself).
Now, 'Changing Things in the Story' might sound pretty simple but I can promise you that it is anything but. If I decide in chapter three that the protagonist is now annoyed by a pet-name her fiancé calls her, then that shit has to be spun out across the ENTIRE BOOK. If I suddenly make the sun shine on a key scene, then guess what? That demure streak of sunshine suddenly changes what is worn, said, suggested, created, remembered AND its actual meaning for the reader.
At least, I thought, as I emerged from the smoking ruins of the re-writes of Life Is Yours and Destiny Is Yours around the middle of the year, I know the third book is already written. Just a quick edit and then it'll be good to go.
Famous. Last. Words.
It was not good to go. It was not anywhere near good to go. It was, indeed, not going anywhere until I had ripped it wide open, added tens of thousands of words and stitched it back together with my own blood, sweat and tears. I mean, come on . . . it was the final book in the trilogy. It had to kick the ass of the other two books, no matter how much I already loved them. If a reader is kind enough to stick with the story so far, then I have to ensure the gift of the third and final book is nothing short of perfect.
So yes, I took myself back to good old 2006. I really tried to remember what it was like to be in the final death throes of heartbreak as well as the initial wonder of new love. What was it like to have your entire belief system spontaneously transformed by sunrises with a soulmate, the bitter truth spoken by the twinkle of stars and your identity challenged by a simple coin tossed into an ancient underground reservoir? When the rest of the UK was thriving once more on putting the thought of COVID aside at least long enough to enjoy a pint in their local, or hugging a friend over a latté, or I was reliving Jess's story. Which was mine too.
I dived right in and whilst my kids ate fish fingers for dinner for the billionth time, I found a way to cultivate a bit more adventure, a bit more learning and a bit more depth to the story that had previously just been a skeleton. This final book, I realised, was SO important. When else do we ever get to hear what happens after our heroine jets into the sunset with her new love? What happens to her friendships? Her values? Her life?
What happens after the happily ever after?
It felt like I'd written the other two books, really, just so that I could arrive here.
The third book.
So, in short, I've decided not to bore you with the amount of hours I've worked, the technical gremlins I've conquered, the social outings I've turned down, the brain cells I've had to dust off or the money I've spent (good lord, the money!) - but I will share my joy with you.
My joy multiplied by threeeeeeeeee!
Here it is . . . the Life Is Yours Trilogy . . . the story of how one woman unwittingly turns the grief and torment of heartbreak into the most magical year of her life.
Aren't they beautiful? Respect to my cover designer, Bailey McGinn - she understood the books from the off.
If you haven't read them, I would urge that you do. Of course I would. I wrote them. So don't just take my word for it . . . here are some lovely things that have been said about the book that completes the trilogy, 'Everything Is Yours'.
'Everything Is Yours is brave, funny, emotional and inspiring, offering a perfect blend of grit, hope and romance for the modern, mindful soul.'
'This is an extraordinary love story, beautifully told, with a turn of phrase that makes my heart sing.'
'I couldn't wait to read this final book in the Life Is Yours Trilogy. It didn't disappoint! Jess's story is a must-read. The best book series I've read in years!'
'Everything Is Yours is thought-provoking, evocative and the imagery is stunning.'
'Everything Is Yours has a unique style with deep and soulful content.'
And I want you to know that Everything Is Yours, at time of writing, is just 99p for the Ebook. I'll be increasing the price in a matter of days, so download your version now if you want the bargain.
As for paperback copies, they're all available on Amazon too, OR you can head over to my shop and bag yourself signed copies unique to you. I've also started doing Bookish Boxes, which contain a signed book of your choice plus a hamper of beautiful, self-care items hand-picked by me.
Ok, I'm off to receive publication day flowers from my publisher (me), attend a meeting with my social media manager (also me) and then perhaps do a working, celebration lunch with my agent (ok, so that's the husband).
Thank you SO much to all of you for your continued support. If there's one thing I absolutely cannot do for myself, no matter how good I get at this self-publishing lark, it is READING. And well, if you've done that for me three times over by now, then it is you, my dear reader, who is magic.
P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post then make sure you sign up to get ALL Abigail's bookish news as and when it happens. You'll also bag yourself a FREE book of poems called 'What About Now?' - 16 poems rooted in mindfulness and fired by love. Sign up here
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