It's funny how you can plug and plug away at something for ages and then, all of a sudden, a cog clicks, something begins whirring, and the machinery revs up.
And then you start moving.
Perhaps my planets aligned or something, but this year has been an extraordinary one for me. This was the year I won a prize, and this was the year I was offered a four-book publishing contract with pretty much my hero publisher Faber and Faber.
This was the year I found out that Squishy McFluff, a very curious and very invisible kitten, would live not only in our house, but in the houses of children all around the UK. I do hope he doesn't cause too much trouble.
I decided to start this blog to record how I got to this point. I'll do that over a few posts, and when I'm up to date, I'll share in real time what happens in terms of the publishing process. It'll be the story of McFluff's journey from being typed words on sheets of A4 on my living room shelf, to being printed words in a book, which hopefully, one day, will be on your living room shelf.
So I'll start at the beginning.
I guess perhaps the most challenging thing of all when it comes to writing (anything really, not just books) is coming up with that killer idea. You could be a truly amazing wordsmith, but without the original idea, what do you have?
Well, the truth is, the invisible cat was not entirely my idea – he was actually the product of my eldest daughter's very virile imagination.
Ava was two-and-a-half when she produced her invisible kitten. Suddenly, there he was(n't), in the palm of her little hand. She told me her cat's name was Cat, that he was sort of grey and silver, he was very fluffy and very, very tiny. He was also super cute – she went all gooey every time she looked at him.
Back then, I was writing a weekly column called Terrible Twos for Parentdish UK, so I wrote about our invisible kitten. It was good to get it off my chest really, because I did feel slightly mental stroking thin air, feeding Cat from my hand and putting him to bed for naps and so on.
I didn't mind any of that too much at home, but we also took Cat out with us sometimes (yup, you can imagine the looks I got) and what's more, he was often in the wrong place. Dan and I kept sitting on him. Ava would look genuinely horrified and we'd have to roll aside so she could pull him out from under our bottoms.
The summer after Cat arrived in our house, I had the idea to package all the columns I'd written, and somehow turn them into a book. Amazingly, I had a sniff of interest from Penguin – but unfortunately, it never led anywhere, because, the publisher said, I'd need to have a higher profile to ever sell any.
It was disappointing, but just the whiff of a publishing house set my brain whirring. How else could I use this material?
The very first thought I had was to take some of the stories I had written about Ava's escapades and re-write them for children.The column about our invisible kitten leapt out as the one to try first.
So, one weekend, with the girls outside playing with their dad, I sat down with my laptop and a copy of the column I'd written, and I started typing.
Written in about a day-and-a-half, content wise, the first draft of The Invisible Cat was an exact replica of the column. But now it was for children! It also broke what I'd heard SO many times was The Golden Rule when it comes to writing for kids.