Kate Gray’s Success StoryJul 20, 2023
Nothing gives us greater pleasure at The Novelry than helping writers achieve their dreams of writing, completing and publishing a novel. It’s even sweeter when the book is published to rave reviews from readers, press critics and writers alike – which is what our graduate Kate Gray is currently experiencing.
Kate’s new novel has been described by bestselling author of The Holiday T.M. Logan as ‘a nerve-jangling tale of tension, suspicion and betrayal’ while the Sunday Times number 1 bestselling author Claire Douglas called the novel ‘an addictive, jaw-dropping read. I loved it.’
On the day her debut thriller The Honeymoon is published in hardback, audio and ebook in the UK, with billboards lining train station platforms and stacks of the novel piled high at airport bookshops across the country, Kate Gray has written this honest and heartfelt blog for us about finding inspiration in a difficult time, how The Novelry helped her get her writing mojo back, and how a nightmare sparked the best novel idea of her career.
Happy publication day, Kate!
Trying to write had become difficult at a stressful time
I joined The Novelry during the first lockdown, that one where all ‘non-essential’ high street businesses were closed and people were ordered to stay at home. After publishing six women’s fiction novels with HQ, I was out of contract and feeling a little bruised and battered because of the terrifying news and uncertainty over what the future would hold.
It was not the best time to encourage creativity, especially when in charge of a lively one-year-old, a sassy three-year-old, and a journalist husband tasked with reporting on the most shocking daily developments.
Writing has always been my way to escape. From when I was the ‘jilted bride’ who quit her job to backpack solo – which inspired my debut destination rom-com series of novels – to losing my lovely dad so suddenly, which inspired my up-lit books that dealt with grief and loss. Whatever life threw at me, I found solace in the laptop screen, refuge in research and reassurance in a writing routine. Structure and purpose tethers my sails, no matter what storm I find myself in.
But this felt different.
Like many parents, the lack of alone time or the chance for a single, uninterrupted thought was stifling. I couldn’t run away. I couldn’t create. Before lockdown, I’d been working on my seventh Katy Colins novel, another up-lit tale, which needed to be strong enough to go on submission and hopefully bag me a new book deal (no pressure) but something wasn’t working. There felt like no better time for guidance, support and virtual hand holding offered on The Ninety Day Novel Course at The Novelry. So, in desperate need of some TLC, I joined.
Finding inspiration and a writing tribe at The Novelry
I wanted to feel part of a gang, share writing wins and woes, and remind myself that I’d done it before and I could do it again, no matter how daunting the blank page first appears. I hoped that if I surrounded myself with like-minded writers, I would soon be fired up with creativity and rediscover that escape I desperately craved.
I looked forward to the weekly team chats, the Sunday blogs and the live author Q&A sessions where I wrote down all the advice and notes in my new Moleskine until my hand ached. (I blame Louise Dean for this new obsession with these brilliant notebooks!) Flicking through my scribbles sustained me through those long mirror-image days of domestic drudgery.
I had been working on this up-lit novel with the wonderful Emylia Hall, my writing coach, who would patiently listen to me grumble about all the things that weren’t working, despite my best efforts and her sparkly ideas. Finally, 18 months after starting this draft, I sent the manuscript to my literary agent who agreed that it was still lacking something. Perhaps it was too genre-crossing or maybe the themes were just a little too bleak, given the current agenda, but we both came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be going on submission, so we shelved it.
I was crushed. Despite all the advice and support, I felt like I was back at square one. Without a new contract, feeling trapped in an overwhelming headspace, not sure I had the creative energy to start over again. There were no more ideas.
How wrong I was.
A fresh idea in a new genre
Just a few weeks later I had a nightmare. I was on a white sandy beach and at my feet, as the waves came in, was the brutally attacked and bloodied body of a stranger. And, for some reason, despite knowing I was innocent, blood was on my trembling hands. I couldn’t explain what on earth had happened. The thought of being locked up for a crime I didn’t commit, in a country where I didn’t speak the language was utterly terrifying.
My husband had to calm me down as I woke, drenched in sweat, jabbering nonsense, reminding me that we were in lockdown. I hadn’t accidentally killed a man on a beach in Thailand, I was safely at home. But it felt so real.
I couldn’t shake the utter dread and panic of being involved in something so horrible, yet knowing I wasn’t to blame. The idea stuck with me. I wondered what would happen if this incident took place on your honeymoon, how you might go about starting married life with a secret like that. And that was how The Honeymoon was born!
I knew how the novel was going to start: two holidaymakers’ paths crossing after choosing sunbeds beside one another at a luxe resort in Bali, neither realising the deadly importance of this simple decision – and roughly how it was going to end. But I didn’t have a clue about how I was going to get there.
Writing the first draft using the Golden Hour method
It was a conscious decision to write by the seat of my pants. I was terrified that the fire in my belly would go out, or the self-doubt would kick in if I spent months restricting myself to planning. It was almost as if I had to write faster than the negative voices in my head would allow. It felt like I was in a race with myself to prove I could tell this story.
Any time an imposter thought leaped to my mind, intent on convincing me that I wasn’t good enough, that I couldn’t write in a different genre, that this was a waste of effort… I literally shouted aloud to ‘shut up!’. Thank goodness the neighbours couldn’t hear.
So much of writing comes from confidence. Having the belief that even the messiest first draft will, with time and patience, transform into something you’re proud of, really pushes you to keep going. Sentence after sentence. Paragraph after paragraph. That’s how a book is built. I made a vow not to let this burst of creativity disappear.
One of the things I loved so much about The Novelry was the Golden Hour method. This became an almost meditative form of self-care for me, especially during that first draft of The Honeymoon. I would wake before everyone else in the house, sneaking down to the converted garage that was now my office, making a frothy coffee and blocking out whatever the day held (mostly CBeebies on the television, snack making and doom-scrolling). This morning ritual was so precious.
I decided to write the sort of book that I would want to read. A fast-paced thriller with twists aplenty, relatable characters in situations that you as a reader could easily find yourself in and gritty themes; everything I adore in suspense fiction.
The Honeymoon is about two couples whose lives become entwined when they find themselves caught up in a gruesome and mysterious death of a stranger on the last night of their honeymoon in Bali. Returning home to England they must start their married lives with this secret which threatens to ruin everything. Many marriages can survive anything but when it starts on a lie is it really till death do us part?
Within two months I had a finished first draft. Unheard of in my writing career. Within four months it went on submission. Then it went to best and final bids at auction a fortnight later. This story, one that hadn’t existed even half a year ago, was now going to be a lead title for Welbeck.
The Honeymoon is published in hardback today
Almost two years to the day since that realistic nightmare, The Honeymoon is published today in hardback, audio and ebook in the UK. It’s been picked as Heat Magazine’s Book Of The Week and WHSmith has selected it for their Airport Exclusive Fiction of The Month. I really feel like I need to pinch myself. Thank goodness I didn’t listen to those negative voices of self-doubt.
It may sound like an overnight success but actually, everything I’d learnt from my time with the Novelry, all my years of writing in the other genres, and having the courage to shelve that painful manuscript had been part of this achievement. Like tiny stepping stones, you don’t realise were paving the way all along.
I’m currently editing my second Kate Gray novel – set over the course of a fateful 24 hours, where deadly secrets are hidden and not everyone will survive the night – and I’d love to say that this one has been as speedy and seamless as writing The Honeymoon but no, sadly not all books are created equal! Every story brings a new host of challenges and complexities.
It’s time to bring out the trusty Moleskine once more as I dive back into yet another round of edits, reminding myself that perseverance is the only way this story will be told. Wish me luck.
Kickstart your own success story
If you’ve got a brilliant idea – or just a love of writing – it’s time to invest in your own dream. Follow in Kate’s footsteps and sign up to one of our creative writing courses today – just look over our offerings to find the one that’s right for you, or get in touch for guidance on how we can help you get your story straight. (Entering writing competitions can be a great way of boosting your morale too.)
In the meantime, we’ll be raising a glass with Kate to celebrate her achievement. Congratulations Kate, and here’s to many happy readers and many more years of happy writing.
Kate Gray has a degree in journalism and has previously worked in public relations. Kate lives in North Yorkshire, England and juggles her love of writing around her two young children. UK/Commonwealth rights to her debut novel, The Honeymoon, were snapped up in a four-way auction by Welbeck and published in hardback, ebook and audiobook in July 2023. Rights have also been sold to Knigolove in Ukraine. Kate has also written commercial women’s fiction as Katy Colins – her previous six novels have been translated into several languages and been published internationally.