I had never dreamed of writing a novel. I work in publishing, and studied literature before that, so I’ve always had a healthy respect for people who could write. Awe, even. The idea that someone could sit down for hours on end and string words into elegant sentences felt like something akin to witchcraft. So when Hana Osman, an editor at Penguin, first approached me about the possibility of turning my blog – in which I followed a different dating guide every month and charted the results, like a low-rent Margaret Meade, and which I’d had to abandon due to the pesky fact that I’d fallen in love with one of my test subjects – into a novel, my initial reaction was something along the lines of “Dear God, no.” Writing a blog is one thing, writing an actual novel – with characters and chapters and made up bits and everything – was quite another. There was no way I could do it.
But the more I thought about it, the more I thought I should give it a shot, even if the prospect was mortifying and terrifying in equal measures. So I started chipping away at it with 500 words here and 1,000 words there, and many false starts and scrapped pages and stiff drinks later, I’d somehow written half of a book (or at least something that vaguely resembled a book). I closed my eyes, pressed send on the email to Hana, and waited.
I spent the next few days fighting the urge to call up the editor and beg her to delete the email. “Just kidding!” I would say. “Let’s forget the whole thing!” Thankfully I’d drafted in Felicity Blunt, my friend and colleague at Curtis Brown, as my agent; she kept coming into my office and murmuring calming words as if I was a startled racehorse. Then suddenly, on a perfectly normal workday morning, an email popped into my inbox from Felicity: the editor loves the book and Penguin want to make an offer. It was a completely surreal moment, made even more surreal by the fact that the email had been sent by someone two offices down from me.