Angela Smith asks a group of 15 authors about their day jobs – before they became an author. Today it’s Sasha Wagstaff, Talli Roland and Catherine McKenzie…
SASHA WAGSTAFF (Recipe for Love out May)
Before becoming a published author, I worked in a bank as an assistant vice president overseeing a large team of staff. I did this for more than eight years, working my way up from a graduate trainee (a fancy way to describe my role of filing clerk!) to various managerial positions. I absolutely loved my job – the buzz of the deadlines, the cut-throat environment and the champagne lifestyle. I was extremely ambitious and I had my eye on a high level role from day one… but it was a hard slog getting there and it took years of long hours and proving myself. In the background, I’d been toying with the idea of writing a novel, something I’d been thinking about for a while. I started off on a decrepit, old laptop and I called my first attempt ‘Too Many Vodkas’ or something equally ridiculous (based on my real life, naturally!)
After a while, I started to think more seriously about it and during my commute rides, I became obsessed with writing. With my husband’s support, I left my banking job some time later to concentrate on my novel, taking another part-time banking job to pay the bills whilst I was sending my manuscript off to agents. This job was far less stressful than my London one – a project, which allowed a few days for writing and also for opening a stream of depressing rejection letters which almost destroyed anyhope I had of being published.
Then, out of the blue, I acquired my agent, who loved my writing. She was really interested in something I was working on and she wanted me to get it finished. I wrote what became Changing Grooms with her guidance and encouragement and shortly afterwards, I had a book deal with Headline Review. I carried on working in the bank for a few more months and then I left to become a full-time author. I consider myself to be extremely lucky that I loved my original job so much – and even more so because I now get to write glamorous stories for a living and walk downstairs to my office in my pyjamas (if the mood takes me!) Juggling the needs of my two young girls with my responsibilities as an author can be challenging at times, but for me, it’s still the best job in the world.
TALLI ROLAND (Build a Man out now)
Dare I admit I’ve been slightly promiscuous when it comes to my job life? Although I’m a full-time novelist now and happily married to that position, it took me a good 10 years or so to settle down and commit.
I trained as a journalist, and straight out of school I was thrilled to take up a position as an editor at a medical journal in Montreal. Truth be told, I was more excited about living in Montreal than the prospect of correcting doctors’ grammar. Canada’s fashion capital and chock-full of funky cafes and clubs, for a 20-something, the city was a great place to celebrate independence. But reading about digital rectal exams (you don’t want to know) soon grew tiresome, and I defected to the ‘dark side’ of journalism – public relations. Working in the high-tech sector, the heady world of gigabit Ethernet kept me (relatively) entertained . . . until I chucked in my flat, my car, and my job, and moved to Poland!
I spent an amazing two years teaching English in Eastern Europe and travelling the continent before deciding to move back to Canada and train as a teacher. One year and one teaching qualification later, and I was off again – to England this time, where I got a full-time teaching post at a secondary school just outside of London. But writing always beckoned, and a few years later I was finally ready to take the plunge and commit to writing a novel.
Four years on, and I know I’ve found my niche. There’s nothing better than doing what you love. For me, that’s making things up. And it only me took ten years and umpteen jobs to find it!
CATHERINE McKENZIE (Forgotten out May)
My job before I started writing was being a litigation attorney. And my job since I started writing is … being a litigation attorney. I do commercial and constitutional law. So what the heck does that mean? I help companies and people when they need to sue someone or are being sued. I do a lot of employment work; you know the movie Up in the Air? Well, I see the employees that George Clooney fires the day after he fires them. Only, they usually weren’t fired by George Clooney. Also, on the constitutional side, I am involved in cases about freedom of speech, discrimination, that sort of thing.