Wednesday, 22 January 2020

My Road to Publication - Guest Post Lesley Sanderson

I'm always fascinated to hear about the writing journeys of authors. This week, as part of my continuing 'Psychological Thriller Writers series', author Lesley Sanderson tells me about her road to publication. Lesley's third novel, The Leaving Party, will be published by Bookouture on 31st January.

Over to you, Lesley.

Thank you Wendy for inviting me to your blog. I’m sharing my writing journey here with you as these are the posts I read avidly about my favourite authors!

Like many writers, books defined my childhood. My happiest memories are of being ensconced with a Malory Towers under the bedclothes or those moments when the children’s librarian in the public library produced a new book from her magic cupboard for me. Age fifteen, I was working as a Saturday assistant for Islington Libraries and despite following my other passion for languages and completing a French degree I gravitated back to libraries where I have worked ever since, eventually switching from public to school libraries. Consequently, I have spent most of my working life surrounded by books. Psychological thrillers and crime have always been my favourite genre and I attended author talks and festivals as an avid fan.

I’ve always loved writing; as a child I wrote poems and plays and forced my friends to perform them! I filled exercise books at primary school with ‘novels’. Every now and then I’d attempt a short story, or a novel but lacked confidence and abandoned these projects. As a school librarian I’d chat to visiting authors who often mentioned doing courses had helped them get started.

In around 2011 I changed my working hours from all year round to term time only and decided to make the school holidays count with a serious attempt at writing. This time, once I started I couldn’t stop. The single thing that kickstarted me was entering the Grazia First Chapter competition. I didn’t get shortlisted but I asked for feedback and was told ‘you can certainly write.’ That single sentence gave me the confidence I needed to pursue writing seriously and I was off!

I took a course in Writing for Children and began writing YA fiction. By this time I was keen to get an agent and was receiving the usual rejections - each one stabbed at my soul! Being an impatient person I self published four YA books as I knew I’d have a ready audience in my school library. The students liked the books and this motivated me to keep going. One of the most important aspects of the course was linking up with other writers, and I formed a group with three others. At some point we all switched to writing for adults. In 2015 I wrote the beginning of a psychological thriller and was accepted onto the Curtis Brown six month novel writing course.

In 2017 I entered the Lucy Cavendish prize and was shortlisted which was the most exciting experience of my career and the whole experience was lovely. The extracts we entered were displayed on the website and the day after the winner was announced (not me!) I was contacted by Hayley Steed from the Madeleine Milburn agency asking me if I’d like to submit to them. Would I?! My book was by no means complete but she still wanted to see it (defying all the advice I’d been given about submitting to agents!). Three weeks later I was offered representation and I could finally say those words ‘I’ve got an agent’! This culminated in offers from Bookouture and Audible and my first book The Orchid Girls was published in 2018. My second book The Woman at 46 Heath Street was published lin 2019 and I signed another two book contract. My third book The Leaving Party is published on 31st January 2020 - in ten days time and book 4 will follow in June.

Having my books published has been wonderful. I’ve discovered I love the editing process and working with Bookouture which has a fast turnaround I’ve become much better at planning my books. Instead of making it up as I go along I work through the synopsis with my editor and we plan it together so that when it comes to writing I have a detailed structure to follow. The magic of writing still happens - twists and turns come to me as I write and lead the characters in surprising directions. For me the best part happens after the first draft when I can pull the draft apart and make it work, adding clues and red herrings and extra twists.

Yesterday I received a comment from a reader on social media saying: ‘Love your books! Pre-ordered.’

This is what makes all the effort worthwhile. My favourite authors give me so much joy with their books and to be able to do the same is a gift. To all aspiring writers I’d advise to just keep on working at it and you will get there eventually; I never thought it would happen to me!

Lesley spends her days writing in coffee shops in Kings Cross where she lives and also works as a librarian in a multicultural school. She loves the atmosphere and eclectic mix of people in the area. She has lived and worked in Paris and speaks four languages.

She attended the Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course in 2015/6, and in 2017 was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish fiction prize.

Lesley discovered Patricia Highsmith as a teenager and has since been hooked on psychological thrillers. She is particularly interested in the psychology of female relationships. The Leaving Party is her third psychological thriller.

Pre-order your copy of The Leaving Party here 

Find out more about Lesley on her website here

Visit Lesley's Facebook author page here


  1. A great post. Thank you Lesley and Wendy.

  2. It is interesting to read the different routes to publication – it helps us see that there are many, many ways to get there, not just one right way.

    1. I love reading about another author’s journey, especially when it’s different to mine.