Now, please don't get the impression that I'm not used to getting fan mail, it arrives every so often and I'm always glad to receive it. But this was somebody telling me that they'd just read The Sins Of Rachel Ellis and had really enjoyed it.
Rachel Ellis was my first ever novel. It was published way back in in 1976 and was the first book deal I ever made, a very exciting happening in the life of a young author. I was living in a shared house in London with a bunch of other wild young things and this was my third serious attempt at a novel. I'd somehow managed to procure an agent, a lovely lady called Janet Freer, who took me on and showed my stuff to anybody who'd read it. Somebody at St Martin's Press, an American publisher, read it and liked it enough to offer a deal.
You'd have thought, wouldn't you, that having scored with one occult story, I'd have then produced another? But no, I was young enough (and arrogant enough) to believe that I could conquer just about any genre , so rather than concentrating on the bird in hand, I went chasing headlong after several imaginary birds in the bush. Result: I didn't publish a second book for a very long time.
After several years of fruitless bird-chasing, I was finally humbled enough to pitch a projected Rachel Ellis sequel to St Martin's press, but by then it was far too late. The ship had left the dock, so to speak.
So I moved on to other things - I eventually managed to publish my second novel, Tiger,Tiger in the 1980's but it wasn't until the 90's that a series of thrillers for Headline finally had me keeping my ideas to (more or less) one genre. And now, a full 30 years later, here I am a children's author. Sebastian Darke, begun as no more than a means of keeping my young daughter occupied for one rainy day, has become far and away the most successful book I've ever been involved with. And soon a new series, Alec Devlin, will be unleashed upon the unsuspecting world.
Rachel Ellis seems to be from another life entirely - so to hear it mentioned in such a way was a real blast from the past. Yes, I had recently discovered that secondhand copies of the book are all over the internet like a rash; and I had even seen reader's comments on Amazon, stating that this was 'their book' when they were teenagers. One guy described it as a 'guilty pleasure.' (I think every author secretly longs to be thought of as that!)
So thanks, Michelle, for taking the trouble to let me know that you enjoyed my debut, even if you did discover it 30 years after the event.
Reader's feedback is always appreciated but yours really did feel like something special.