So how did the craziest period of my professional life begin?
It was Spring 2015 and I'd been happily writing romantic comedy novels for more than a decade, managing to pay my mortgage and feed my kids from the proceeds. I was very lucky. I didn't know anyone else who loved their job as much as I did. Nothing about this scenario would make any sane person want to rock the boat. I was, as the Instagram posts say, #blessed.
Then I had this idea for my tenth book. Trouble was, it was clearly NOT the kind of novel for which I was known. The kind of novel I'd spent ten years actively trying to become widely recognised for and which publishers and readers paid me to write. This idea would be way too difficult. Too emotionally-charged. It would need more research than I'd ever tackled before - because I knew if I were to get any element of this subject matter wrong, there would be hell to pay.
So I put the idea to one side and tried to come up with another romantic comedy concept. But for the first time ever, it just wasn't happening, because the Too Difficult Idea had by now swamped my head. I couldn't shake it; it was like an ear worm of a song that stayed with me even at 3 o'clock in the morning. I realised that, one way or another, I HAD to write this book. So I spent a year supposedly writing another romantic comedy for Simon and Schuster UK - my loyal and trusted publishers, who've been with me from the very start.
The writing of this book was every bit as challenging as I'd imagined. I had moments of horrendous self-doubt; of convincing myself I wasn't up to the job; I couldn't do justice to the devastating condition that forms part of its story. I was deeply concerned about how it would be received and even more concerned that I was risking everything that I'd achieved writing as Jane Costello.
I did however have my agents, Sheila Crowley and Becky Ritchie at Curtis Brown. I knew the day I met them how awesome they were; a dynamic duo that'd beat Batman and Robin any day. They were cheer-leading from the sidelines as I wrote, reassuring me, firing me up. Then I finished and submitted it to them with my breath held. I did not sleep well that night. I tossed and turned wondering whether they'd thought I'd pulled it off; whether they'd even LIKE it.
In short, I had absolutely no idea what was coming next.