I write books and apparently they aren’t awful.

27 June 2011


The fact that I write books (hey, I’m a Proper Writer now as the Romantic Novelists Association have let me join as a full member and everything! Anyone else going to their Regency Heyer and Austen day in October?) seems to have caused some ripples of surprise lately so I thought it was time for an update about the whole writing process, such as it is right now. The thing is that I am hideously shy and have a terrifyingly low opinion of myself and my abilities so the whole ‘BUY MY BOOK, IT’S JOLLY GOOD’ thing doesn’t exactly come easily to me. I find myself cringing away half admiring, half mortified (okay, that’s not true – it’s more like 10% admiring and 90% mortified) from the efforts of other self published authors to get people to read their books, but I’m sure that’s just me being a gawky idiot as usual.

I haven’t done much to promote my first book, The Secret Diary of a Princess but have been amazed by how well it is selling. The subject matter helps of course – Marie Antoinette can shift pretty much anything, I find. The weird thing is that I didn’t set out to be a Marie Antoinette writer (I love the period, obviously but I prefer Marie Antoinette to stay in the background of my novels) and didn’t look at the book again once it was finished and edited. I re-read it last week though while we were moving and actually really loved it – is it awful to say that about one’s own book? I’d completely forgotten about writing any of it and had to keep stopping to ask myself: ‘Did I really write this?’

Reviewers on Amazon US and Amazon UK have been very lovely about it too so here’s a pick of a few of the reviews it has had so far:

What does it feel like to grow up in a royal palace, to be forever aware that so much is expected of you, to be married at 14 years old to a boy prince, potential King of France, whom you’ve never even met? Melanie Cleggs book answers these questions and so many more by creating in her Marie Antionette a solid, engaging and entirely believeble character. The book takes the form of a diary written by Marie Antionette herself and is a skillful blend of historical fact, warm and lively characterisation and vividly sensual descriptions of the colours, tastes and fashions of the Hapsburg court. Having finished the book, I miss her like an absent friend!

The characters of the various groups of people are very strongly displayed; the matriarchy of the Empress and her son the Emperor in Vienna, the slimy rudeness mixed with obsequiousness of the French courtiers, and the closeness yet rivalry of the Austrian sisters are all compellingly portrayed and I was left really feeling that I knew these people.’

If you love history, particularly the lavish 18th century, then this book is a must. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, even though I knew very little of the Austrian Archduchess who was to become Marie Antoinette. The well written detail and diary form style is very absorbing and I found myself getting lost in Marie’s world, so much so, that I didn’t want it to end.’

‘An avid reader, I am always a little bit wary of Kindle books that are greatly reduced in price because they often end up being poorly written. This book was a complete steal for the price and it’s now one of my favorite all time books. I loved every minute of it. I couldn’t put it down but didn’t want it to end either.’

‘This book is amazingly well written, I felt like I was being talked to by an old friend by the time I was done. The author really draws you into the story and makes you feel like you are actually there. Even though I was familiar with Marie Antoinette’s story I found myself holding my breath and waiting to see what happened next. I felt her pain, and embarrassment, the whole thing is so vividly detailed! Once I started this book I could NOT stop reading it! (I even read while cooking :P)’

Thanks so much to everyone who has read the book and extra thanks to those who left a review! I’ve had a lot of requests for a sequel and although it wasn’t my intention to take the diary any further, I am now thinking about writing a special something for Maria Antonia’s fan club. It might not be a full book just yet but wait and see…

My second book, Blood Sisters is due out later this year and apparently the edits are coming back to me next month, which is a bit exciting! We’ll get to see the cover soon too hopefully – which of course I will be posting here as soon as I have it in my inbox! I had to write a little description of the sort of thing the cover should maybe have, which was fun although I wonder what they made of my ramblings about white dresses, red ribbons around the neck, pensive looking redheads and guillotines.

I’m thinking about doing some sort of blog tour type thing for the release of Blood Sisters so if you’re a history/book/historical fiction/whatever blogger or tweeter and fancy getting involved let me know! Blood Sisters is an epic set during the French Revolution and has lots of shimmying around Versailles, dank prisons, executions and lurid She Saw Something Dreadful In The Gazebo moments.

My third book, Before The Storm, which is another Edith Wharton inspired epic set during the French Revolution is almost finished but I’ve been dragging my heels a bit as I’m not entirely sure what to do with it once it is done. I’ve had interest from agents, but am too terrified to actually let any of them see it thanks to an unfortunate incident a couple of years ago when an agent said something so breathtakingly rude to me that I’ve been timorously avoiding them all like the plague ever since.

Also, I’m really rather keen on the thrill and control of self publishing. Yes, people may well knock it from here to kingdom come but I think it’s brilliant, I really do – especially now that writers who could very well write for more traditional publishing houses are getting on board and releasing their books themselves. I’m not sure what to do really – I have people who actively WANT to read my books now and I want that to happen as speedily and smoothly as possible so I guess doing it myself is the way forward then!

Of course there is a high probability that even if I DID let the agents see it, they wouldn’t want to take it on (I think it’s the best thing that I have written to date but people may well disagree and probably will) and then I would be defaulting to self publishing rather than wilfully and boldly making the decision for myself, which would rub the shine off the whole process just a little, don’t you think?

Which leads me on to book four, Minette which has so far involved a LOT of reading about the courts of Louis XIV and Charles II. I’m really excited about departing Revolutionary Paris and heading off to the seventeenth century city as well as the embryonic Versailles, but I’m a bit scared too. To add to the terror, I’m considering starting English Civil War re-enactment again to give me a feel for the period, which I seem to have lost in the years since I left the Sealed Knot. It also means that I can start acquiring flouncy seventeenth century dresses from Merchant’s Row again, which is always a bit of an incentive!