Nancy Peach’s novel, Love Life, was published by One More Chapter on 9 December 2021.
Nancy kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Love Life.
Love Life is a modern-day Pride and Prejudice themed rom-com set in a hospice. It features Tess, a junior doctor with a patchy track record in relationships, and Edward, the son of one of Tess’s patients. The book also features Tess’s two internal narrators; the angel on her shoulder is none other than Jane Austen, while the scathing critic is a daytime television host who loves to highlight Tess’s inadequacies. Love Life is marketed as a romantic comedy and sits somewhere between commercial women’s fiction, book club fiction, up-lit and romance.
2. What inspired the book?
During my career working as an NHS doctor and for a cancer charity I have spent a lot of time with terminally ill…
It’s a little pompous to compile a list of top tips when I’ve only been published two weeks, but I’ve been called far worse than pompous, so sod it; here’s my take on the weirdness and wonder of the publishing industry from the perspective of a complete novice.
Firstly – Manuscripts do get picked from the slush-pile – Reading the statistics it can feel as though there is no route into getting your book published, no entry through the hallowed gates for mere mortals who haven’t been on Love Island or EastEnders, just a series of dead ends and generic rejection emails. But fear not! The slush pile may be vast and ever increasing (currently with additional strata of pandemic-induced manuscripts) but these literary agents, god love ’em, they plough through that slush with the enthusiasm of ice-road truckers. Agents really do read manuscripts from the unsolicited submissions pile, and every so often they take on a new client based on those first three slushy, mushy chapters. I know because it happened to me.
It doesn’t always take a village – Flick through any acknowledgements page from a debut novelist and you’d be forgiven for assuming that every author who makes it to publication has an elaborate and extensive support network encompassing countless friends and relatives who have selflessly dedicated their lives to ensuring that this book reaches the shelves. This network of villagers seem able to drop everything at a minute’s notice in order to variously provide; wrap-around childcare, hospitality and catering services, regular detailed manuscript assessment, shoulders to cry on, counselling around crises of confidence, and occasional use of their villa in Tuscany for writing retreats. Now, whilst I think it entirely appropriate that authors thank those individuals who have enabled their writing, I would hate for languishing debuts to believe that this level of personal support and tailored attention is an essential pre-requisite for publication. If you have a village then great, excellent news, and please do sing your villagers praises to the rooftops as is quite right and proper. But if you don’t have this vast infrastructure in place, do not despair – sometimes all you need is a laptop and a bit of good luck.
You don’t need to do a course – Creative writing courses can be interesting, fun, informative, and a good place to network or meet likeminded individuals, but, just like the theoretical village, they are not essential. Writing is a bit like running – you can spend vast quantities of cash on the best quality footwear, high-performance sweat-wicking lycra, a personal trainer, a sports physio, and tailored running apps for your state-of-the-art tech – or, you can just pull on a pair of old sneakers and go for a quick jog around the park. Do whatever works for you and your budget. And don’t use the word ‘sneakers’ unless you are American. I don’t know what I was thinking.
The most important thing to do is read – This is one bit of traditional writing advice I wholeheartedly agree with, although it’s probably a little redundant – most writers read avidly and love nothing more than being immersed in a story, that’s why they want to write them. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that you will learn more about the technique of writing from reading the work of others than you will from any number of courses.
You won’t be able to give up the day-job – In fact you might need to take on an additional day-job just to fund the Creative Writing MA you feel obliged to consider (see above). Having your book published is not a get-rich-quick scheme, or indeed a get-rich-ever scheme. The big money in publishing goes into the pockets of a tiny proportion of industry professionals and an even tinier proportion of authors. To illustrate this point I’ll let you know what kind of profit margin I’m anticipating now that my book has hit the shelves – buckle-up because these are eye-watering sums. I was told early on that readers will not pay more than a pound for a debut rom-com in ebook, and although at the time I thought someone was having a joke at my expense (or on my expenses) this does appear to be one of those sad but true facts of life. As a result my book has an initial RRP of 99p (digital – the paperback is normal book price). Once the various cuts have been taken by publisher, agent and HMRC, I will be looking at the princely sum of around nine pence per ebook sold. This means that if I sell a thousand ebooks I’ll make less than £90 profit. I’m not complaining. I just think it’s important people know the facts. Including my accountant – sorry John.
The writing world is a lovely (if not lucrative) place to be – Both online and in person, people involved in writing and publishing are, in general; cheerful, kind, polite, happy in their work, and endlessly supportive. Yes there’s the occasional Twitter spat or pile-on but in the main you’re dealing with Good Eggs. Really. I promise.
There’s always more room at the table – Just because one person in your writing group has got a publishing deal does not mean that your own chances of being published are reduced. If anything, it’s the exact opposite. If publishing is thriving, and debuts are being taken on by agents and commissioning editors, this only means good things for your book. The industry keeps on growing, as does access to books in differing formats. The business of telling stories does not appear to be going out of fashion any time soon. Populations increase, and although this isn’t great news for the planet, more people need more books to read whilst they are polluting the rivers and pumping out carbon – Yay!
Book-bloggers are superstars – These legends seem to prop up the entire publishing industry with very little reward, other than knowing they’re supporting something they love. An organised blog tour around the time of your publication date is well worth the money. I went through Anne Cater https://twitter.com/RandomTTours and felt very well looked after.
Be careful whose feedback you choose to listen too – I’m not going to say too much about this here (see my next post entitled ‘Why looking on ARC-review sites is an act of deliberate self-harm for a debut author’) but I think it important to stress that you do have a choice. Nobody is forcing you to read shitty stuff that’s been said about your book – you usually have to go looking for it. If you’re an insufferably nosy old parker like me then the temptation is overwhelming, but if you have more self control, I’d suggest you use it. Imagine my voice booming out of your screen as your thumb hovers over the Netgalley search function. NO GOOD CAN COME OF THIS!!! (Actually, my voice isn’t very intimidating – just ask my dog. You might want to imagine instead the patrician headmaster of an old and established public school yelling those words at you – whatever floats your boat.)
Just because your foot is in the door doesn’t mean the hard work is over – Even if you have a superstar agent, you’ve won prizes and your debut has been a commercial success, there is absolutely no golden ticket to the next level. There are many authors out there with a substantial pedigree who can’t get a new book deal at the moment. So, to use my analogy from earlier; there is plenty of room at the table but you may be waiting a long time for your main course to arrive and you might never get as far as pudding. My advice is to be extremely thankful for your starter and savour every mouthful. (You’ll be pleased to know I’m going to drop this extended metaphor now that I’ve flogged it to death.)
Being famous definitely helps get you a publishing deal – but it doesn’t make you a good writer (and readers will usually realise this at some point). Rather than wail and gnash your teeth about the injustice of public opinion deeming an appearance on Loose Women to be a mark of literary merit, simply be grateful that the presence of celebrity authors probably increases the appetite for reading overall. And don’t pretend that when Harry Styles releases his debut vampire erotica novel you won’t be handing over fistfuls of hard-earned cash in order to purchase it.
So that’s it. Those are my pearls of wisdom for the day. Get back to me when I unleash the ubiquitous ‘tricky second novel’ post. If that ever happens.
Given that this year’s Comedy Women in Print shortlist was announced last night, it seems like an opportune moment to post this on my blog – mainly to remind those longlisted authors who didn’t make the cut that their foot is already in the door. This post was originally written for the CWIP website and went live a few months back. If you’ve already read it on their blog (which is well worth a visit) then maybe don’t bother reading it again as I haven’t added anything – it’s literally the same post – you have been warned.
Women’s Writing in Waiting
2020 Unpublished Novel longlistee Nancy Peach wrote this wonderful guest post for us this week:
I entered the CWIP competition last year with a combination of trepidation and excitement. CWIP was only in its second year, the brief – to promote and discover emerging writers of funny female fiction – very much appealed to me, and it was spearheaded by the comic legend Helen Lederer. In addition, judges included Marian Keyes, photos from the previous Winners’ Event made it look like an absolute blast, and it was free to enter so there was nothing to lose other than the effort invested in pressing send on the computer.
I am a big fan of writing competitions – they make you focus, they give you a deadline and a definitive answer on a specific date (something sadly lacking in much of publishing), and if you’re lucky, as I was, they introduce you to a whole world of jolly clever and hilarious ladies who are keen to big you up wherever possible. Being part of the CWIP family is a little like being at Mallory Towers, but with added books, booze, swearing and innuendo. I have entered other competitions before and been shortlisted for some, but never have I experienced the level of enthusiasm and camaraderie that I have with CWIP. Once you’re in the fold you are in for life (if you want to be, it’s not like a cult or the Hotel California).
I duly submitted my opening chapters of Sandwich, a comic tale of a woman struggling to cope with the combined demands of her three children and her mother who has dementia. The story is not a million miles away from my own life and loosely based on my blog Mum has dementia. A few months later I had an extraordinarily exciting email arrive telling me I’d been longlisted. My name was in the Evening Standard and The Bookseller FFS! It was astonishing. I still have a tweet from The Bookseller pinned to the top of my Twitter-feed, such was the enormous joy.
Long story short; Sandwich didn’t make the cut. Did I mind? A teeny amount. Did I feel left out, discarded, rejected? No. Not one bit of it. I’d made it onto the tour bus even if I wasn’t in the starting line-up. The blow was also softened by the fact that by then I had an agent and exciting things were happening with other books I’d written, but the main reason for not sinking into the doldrums was the very real and tangible feeling of inclusion and involvement that persisted despite not making it through to the next round. Getting longlisted but not shortlisted for CWIP is like being on Strictly Come Dancing and getting as far as the Blackpool Ballroom. Who in their right mind is going to complain about that? I was Russell Grant! I was Michelle Visage!
All longlistees were invited to the Winners’ event to be held at The Groucho Club, but, you know, COVID. Still, I watched it on Zoom and probably enjoyed the spectacle a lot more knowing that I was no longer actively competing. A bit like when your team go out of the football in the knock-out stages and you can just appreciate watching the final without feeling you’re about to have an aneurysm from the stress of it all. Since then I have kept in touch with many of the CWIP family, published authors, unpublished authors, judges and admin. All are equally friendly and supportive, and SO willing to share in any publishing success. And happily, there is a little bit of that on the horizon. My first novel Love Life is coming out later this year with One More Chapter and it’s a Rom-Com set in a hospice. Not a conventional setting for hilarity and LOLs you might think?
And to be fair, perhaps you’d be right. It’s not a bed-wettingly hilarious, rolling in the aisles laughing type of book. But it’s not a mawkish dirge either. I like to describe it as ‘wryly amusing with a dash of dark humour,’ which admittedly makes it sound like a cocktail – no matter.
Love Life features a hospice doctor, Tess who encounters Edward, a man who is in denial about his mother’s terminal illness. Unsurprisingly Tess and Edward dislike each other in the beginning but as Edward’s mother becomes more unwell, they begin to discover common ground. The story also features compulsive over-eating, a daytime television host battling it out with a Jane Austen character as dual narrators, a blind date with an estate agent, a veterinary emergency, a brush with the General Medical Council and quite a lot of shagging. So basically, it’s right up CWIP’s street. Can you laugh (and fall in love) in the face of death? You betcha.
Nancy Peach writes commercial women’s fiction. She’s also a mother of three school-age children and a practicing GP working for both the NHS and a national cancer charity. Nancy blogs at Mum has dementia and Nancy Peach. Longlisted for the CWIP Prize and shortlisted for a Harper Collins/Gransnet competition, she is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and represented by Tanera Simons at Darley Anderson Literary Agency. Her debut novel Love Life is published by One More Chapter, a Harper Collins imprint.
Watch this space for more news as we get it on Nancy’s debut novel Love Life and a huge THANK YOU to her for writing this wonderful guest post for us. You’re a peach, Nancy!
I was drawn to this book by the bright and animated cover. I have never read anything by this author but the cover immediately reminded me of something by Sophie Ranald and Kristen Bailey, who are two authors in this genre which I really enjoy reading. The cover evokes a positive vibe and raises themes of love, identity, exploration and mystery. I couldn’t wait to get started!
Palliative care doctor, Tess Carter, is no starry-eyed heroine. After all, if your dad left without a backward glance and you found your last boyfriend in bed with another guy, you wouldn’t believe in romance either. And the voices in Tess’s head – you know, the ones that tell you you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not clever enough – well, these voices are very loud. Very loud indeed. Especially when the disagreeable son of one of her patients starts challenging…
Today is publication day for Love Life, the debut novel by Nancy Peach. Happy publication day, Nancy. I have been lucky enough to have received an advanced copy of the book for the purposes of review, and am delighted to share that review with you today. Huge thanks to the author and her publisher for providing me with a digital copy of her book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
Palliative care doctor, Tess Carter, is no starry-eyed heroine. After all, if your dad left without a backward glance and you found your last boyfriend in bed with another guy, you wouldn’t believe in romance either. And the voices in Tess’s head – you know, the ones that tell you you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not clever enough – well, these voices are very loud. Very loud indeed. Especially when the disagreeable son of one of her…
It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Love Life by Nancy Peach.
About the Author
Nancy Peach is a writer of commercial women’s fiction, a mother of three, and an owner of various ridiculous-looking pets including a dog who unexpectedly grew to be the size of a small horse. She is a practicing doctor working for both the NHS and a national cancer charity, and has been writing (in a terribly British, embarrassed, secretive sort of way) for as long as she can remember.
Nancy has been longlisted for the Comedy Women in Print Prize 2020 and shortlisted for the Harper Collins / Gransnet competition 2019. Her debut Love Life is published by One More Chapter at HarperCollins. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and is represented by Tanera Simons at Darley-Anderson’ You can find her on Twitter at @Mumhasdementia on Instagram @nancy.peach and Facebook
Today’s guest on Romancing The Romance Authors is a debut author whose publication journey I have been following closely so I’m very interested to see her take on writing romance. Pleased to welcome to my blog for the first (but surely not the last) time… Nancy Peach.
Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.
I’m just beginning my publishing journey so haven’t really fixed on a type yet, but my debut Love Life is published with One More Chapter and probably sits in the rom-com category. Love Life has a Pride and Prejudice style plot, but it’s also set in a hospice, which I think gives it a different perspective. I suppose that if I have a style of writing it is to tackle hard topics with a light touch. I am a big fan of finding humour…
With Love Life due to launch next week I thought now might be a good time to share my thoughts as regards my choice of setting. Please note – this article was first featured on the fabulous Women Writers website http://booksbywomen.org/ in August 2021.
When I started writing Love Life as a romantic comedy, I knew immediately that I wanted to set it in a hospice – a cathedral of powerful human emotions and the perfect place to observe a whole range of relationships. We are used to seeing romance and humour at the other end of life’s spectrum. So many television dramas, family sagas and epic tales of passion involve an unexpected pregnancy or a trip to the maternity unit, multiple stories focussing on the start of life. The new beginning heralded by a baby’s arrival into the world is a catalyst for an explosion of feeling, tears, joy, laughter and ultimately, love. And yet we rarely see the end of life portrayed in such terms. It strikes me that this is an enormous oversight.
Reaching the end of a person’s life should be a celebration, a chance to reflect on all that has gone before, to acknowledge that although our time on this planet is fleeting, we will have inevitably touched the lives of others in ways we cannot fathom. And it is obviously something that will happen to every single one of us. Yet, dying is so often hidden away and referred to in hushed tones. We rarely use the worth death, having created a wealth of euphemisms that we are more comfortable with. We remove the dying from their homes and tidy them away in a hospital where their decline is managed in a manner acceptable to us as a society. We no longer bear witness to dying because we simply assume that we can’t bear it.
I’m not sure how we have reached this position in such a short space of time, only two or three generations ago it was expected that you would die at home with your family around you. Young children grew up knowing and understanding about death and dying. But with medical advances there is now a sense that dying is somehow a failure, a fault in our modern technology. We’ve forgotten that this process is normal, and that death is part of life. Part of this collective forgetting relates to the fact that ordinary dying has fallen off the radar of popular culture.
There are many beautifully written non-fiction books and memoirs on the subject of palliative care and similarly, attempts have been made by fiction writers to address the end of life. Many a tragic, compelling tale has been composed to pull on the heart-strings and leave the reader feeling wrung out with grief. However, it’s fair to say that there aren’t many romantic comedies that feature death and dying as a central component of the story.
It may appear to be an odd choice for a debut author to choose a hospice as a setting for a Rom-Com but I’ve been a doctor for many years now and a particular interest of mine has always been the care of the terminally ill. I have worked closely with hospices and palliative care teams and have always felt it an enormous privilege to be with patients and their families when they are considering their options and deciding what is important to them. But so often people die without having even mentioned their wishes to loved ones, they are reluctant, embarrassed, and ashamed to speak of their fears, and as a result these terribly important discussions never take place.
If we are to open up the conversation about dying, we need to bring it out into the public domain, drag it into popular culture and make it a feature of our films, television, radio and books. My way of addressing the elephant in the room was simply to write a story about that elephant, a story that wasn’t sad. A story where people make fun of each other and fall in love and swear a lot and get drunk and have sex and get on with living in the midst of death.
Love Life features a heroine, Tess, who is a hospice doctor with a history of poor choices in men, and a hero, Edward, who is in denial about his mother’s terminal illness. Predictably they dislike each other in the beginning. Predictably they grow to understand each other during the course of the novel (it’s a Rom-Com – you know what you’re getting). Less predictably the story also features a daytime television host, a Jane Austen narrator, a gay ex-boyfriend, a problem with binge-eating, a blind date with an estate agent, a veterinary emergency, and quite a lot of inappropriate shagging. And this really is my point. Death shouldn’t be a taboo. It should be regarded as much a part of our modern cultural fodder as Love Island or I’m a Celebrity or Bake-Off. We need to view dying as part of the normal messy funny old business of being alive. That way we can stop being fearful of it.