I’m pleased to welcome Louise Walters onto my blog today, as part of my ‘What I did at 50’ series. I have a few things in common with Louise, not least that we’re both independent publishers. Hi, Louise, tell us your story!
Hi Tracey! I’m a working-class woman. I don’t make any bones about that, about my impoverished background, nor about my second-hand childhood. The one thing that saved me was books and reading. From a very early age books were my refuge. I went to a truly awful secondary school and didn’t go to university. It was never suggested, by any of the adults around me.
Life happened. Boyfriends, music, cigarettes taken up, books, the 90s (YES!), jobs, husband number one, kids, a divorce, cigarettes finally ditched, husband number two, more kids (I have five)… eventually, in my forties, a published novel. Life. My life. Not bad, not perfect.
As I approached my fiftieth birthday in 2017, I decided to become a publisher. It wasn’t really a sudden decision, but once the decision was made, I did rather swing into action. It was a response to the fallout from my second novel being turned down. My first novel, Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase, was published by Hodder, in 2014, and did very well – fifteen foreign deals and respectable UK sales. So my second getting turned down was a horrible shock and one of the biggest disappointments of my life.
After the initial feelings played themselves out, I realised I had to make a decision about that rejected novel. My decision was to self-publish it. I had little experience of self-publishing so I opted to use Matador (Troubador Publishing) who did most of the work for me. I learned quite a lot about what happens when, how long it all takes, and why.
A Life Between Us by Louise Walters
My second novel came out in March 2017 and while sales were low compared to my trade-published first novel, they were OK. I got large print deal and brought out the audio book via Audible. The book still sells, over two years later, and does quite well in ebook.
In 2017, approaching my fiftieth birthday in the November of that year, I decided I liked publishing and I wanted to publish other authors. I had a bit of capital to start up with, courtesy of my first novel. I set up my website over one long, sweary, wine-fuelled weekend; and announced in September 2017 that Louise Walters Books was up and running. I did this the weekend after my first ever public speaking event, presenting a characterisation workshop at York Festival of Writing…
My fiftieth birthday came and went – nice, quiet, a lovely day with my family.
Around that time, I found my first author for LWB – fantasy writer Laura Laakso. Nobody was more surprised then me that I kicked off proceedings with a fantasy author. I generally don’t read fantasy, and I had even put on my website No Fantasy. But the power of Laura’s writing won me over; her world-building is second to none; her characters are memorable and so much fun to hang out with; and I thought a series is often a good bet. Plus, I hope I started as I mean to go on: choosing surprising unorthodox books with heart, passion, originality… and excellent writing.
Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso
In 2018 I found another clutch of authors: Helen Kitson, Diana Cambridge and Dominic Brownlow, a wonderful trio of literary authors. My workload became increasingly heavy – there is so much to do in publishing – and I was a bit overwhelmed; so when a friend suggested a holiday in Lisbon, Portugal, with her, a couple of other mums, and our kids, I jumped at the chance.
Louise in Lisbon with two of her children
And this became another milestone. At the age of fifty, another fear faced up to: I flew in an aeroplane for the first time. It had always been a deep fear for me, and I’d become very used to avoiding fearful things – a habit ingrained in me from childhood. Lisbon was was hot; the flights were fun, and the kids and I had a lovely time. Upon getting home, I realised I had something else to face up to: I was overweight. So I changed the way I eat, have kept that up, and I’m pleased to report I have now dropped two dress sizes. I don’t weigh myself and I don’t count calories; life is too short for that nonsense. I simply eat less. Maybe I drink a little too much… but I like wine, I like gin, I like Pimms… I run on coffee… And the menopausal hot flushes have decreased… but still take me by unwelcome surprise from time to time…
I turned fifty-one last November, around about the time my first LWB novel was published: Laura Laakso’s Fallible Justice. The launch party was fantastic, with many of Laura’s friends in attendance, and her mum all the way from Finland; my husband helped out, manning my pop-up bookstall; and I got to meet several members of Team LWB for the first time – I have an amazing freelance team who help me to produce some beautiful books.
Beautiful books published by Louise Walters Books
In 2019 I have signed two more authors – Cath Barton and Chris Walsh – and set up my inaugural Louise Walters Books novel competition. In LWB style, it’s a bit different. I’m asking that entrants send me their novel’s page 100. I’ve had a great response so far and the comp remains open to entries until the end of September.
What’s next? Well, I’ve closed to novel submissions for now. The workload is immense and I am a one-woman band, so I do need to be sensible. I have an intern, a fabulous young woman called Billie who is doing all the admin for my comp (I will judge it anonymously) and I’m slowly establishing the editorial critique side of my business.
The other day I announced to my husband that I’m going to get a tattoo.
I’ve also talked about doing a parachute jump. Not something I would have contemplated at any point in my life, until now. I don’t know where this recklessness has come from, but I love it.
OK, I’m still very much menopausal and enduring the odd hot flush or two. But I’m very grateful to have made it this far in life and I can honestly say I’ve never been more confident, creative, and energetic. Life at fifty is fabulous indeed…!
The Road to California
The Road to California, Louise’s third novel
‘She saw the caller ID and her heart didn’t know whether to leap into her mouth or sink down into her toes. So it did both, in rapid succession, and she felt sick. There would be no coffee, no homemade cake today. Oh no, no, no, not again. What now? What now?’
Proud single parent Joanna is accustomed to school phoning to tell her that her fourteen year old son Ryan is in trouble. But when Ryan hits a girl and is excluded from school, Joanna knows she must take drastic action to help him.
Ryan’s dad Lex left home when Ryan was two years old. Ryan doesn’t remember him – but more than anything he wants a dad in his life. Isolated, a loner, and angry, Ryan finds solace in books and wildlife.
Joanna, against all her instincts, invites Lex to return and help their son. But Lex is a drifter who runs from commitment, and both Joanna and Ryan find their mutual trust and love is put to the test when Lex returns, and vows to be part of the family again.
“I think Louise Walters has just broken my heart.” Nicola Smith: Short Book and Scribes
“There are scenes in this book that are just achingly perfect.” Anne Williams: Being Anne
Louise Walters is the author of two previous novels: Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase (Hodder 2014) and A Life Between Us (Matador/Louise Walters Books 2017). She is a novelist, publisher and editor, and lives in rural Northamptonshire with her husband and children.
Available to BUY from Louise Walters Books