Boldwood Books are celebrating their 3rd birthday today and I have no idea where those three years have gone but I can say they have been absolutely amazing.
What have they achieved during their first three years? So very much. Here are some of the stats:
Independent publisher of the year
8 million books sold
70 global top 10 bestsellers
And here’s how many books they’ve published from me during this time – sixteen titles plus two foreign translations published so far with book 17 out in September and a second Swedish translation in October:
Do you like my motivational sign? I bought that pre-Boldwood to give me inspiration. It really was a perfect day to start living my dreams the day I submitted to Boldwood in February 2019 when they first opened for submissions because they have completely changed my life.
So if Boldwood opened for submissions in February, why is it today they celebrate their birthday? It’s because today was the day the first Boldwood Books book was released. Nina Manning’s The Daughter in Law was out three years ago today, followed by Honeymoon for One by Portia MacIntosh on 6th August and Villa of Sun and Secrets by Jennifer Bohnet on 8th August. I was sure there’d been four books out in August and mine was the fifth – The Secret to Happiness – out on 3rd September but I can’t work out who the other August release could have been from. My memory didn’t serve me well but I’ve just been through the rest of the list of first twenty authors and they were all after me so maybe it really was three releases in August and I was book four.
We were invited to bake a cake to celebrate the birthday but I’m rubbish in the kitchen. Hubby says it’s a case of can cook won’t cook rather than can’t cook won’t cook. Whichever it is, the kitchen is not my happy place and my strongest relationship is with the toaster so I didn’t attempt a cake. Why try to bake when Mr Kipling already makes exceedingly good cakes? So here’s me with a lemon fancy. Mmm. Great excuse to scoff the rest of the box!
If you follow @BoldwoodBooks over on Twitter, there are some fabulous cakes being shared by other Boldwood authors. And a few cheats like me!
We were also invited to take pics of our pets wearing party hats and I’m really looking forward to seeing those later in the week. There’s absolutely no way my sprocker spaniel Ella would let me put a hat on her. It’s hard enough to get her to stay still for anything more than a blurred photo as it is! But my rather large hedgehog collection was willing to oblige.
First the larger hedgehogs raided Tesco for a chocolate cake…
But the little hedgehogs weren’t going to be outdone by that so they raided my box of lemon fancies and joined in with their own celebration…
And then they all got together for a chorus of happy birthday…
There are competitions and various other activities across social media this week so do keep your eye out for everything happening. You could be a winner!
I’m so very grateful to Boldwood for everything they’ve done for me as an author and so grateful to the readers, listeners, bloggers and reviewers who’ve shared the love for my books and any from my Boldwood buddies as you have helped us be the success we are. Here’s to the next three years…
My audiobooks have been having a party over on Audible UK today and I’ve been celebrating something very unexpected – chart domination!
Ok, not complete chart domination – somewhat dramatic choice of word there – but it has been very exciting.
It all started with an email first thing from my fabulous editor – who is also our Publishing and Sales & Marketing Director at Boldwood Books – congratulating me on having two titles in the Audible UK Top 100! I had a look and was stunned to see The Secret to Happiness at #37 and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow at #73! Eek!
They’re not on a promotion so I wondered why they’d suddenly stormed the chart. And then it struck me. These two titles are from a selection of six of my audiobooks which are part of the Audible Plus programme and today signalled the start of the second year of the title selection. Some titles may have come out, others been added in, and some will have stayed the same.
In my case, all six of my audiobooks which went in last year have been kept in the programme as Audible have been really impressed with their performance and the impact they’ve had on my other audiobook sales. There’s a mix of start of the series and standalone titles:
Making Wishes at Bay View – book 1 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series
New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – book 2 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series
The Secret to Happiness – standalone book set in Whitsborough Bay (although connected to All You Need is Love so best read after AYNIL)
Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes – book 2 in the Christmas on Castle Street series
Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café – book 3 in the Christmas on Castle Street series (Note: these story follows on from Carly’s Cupcakes but book 1 Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop is more of a standalone and doesn’t need to be read first – they’re a series as they’re all set on Castle Street at Christmas)
Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – book 1 in the Hedgehog Hollow series
Subscribers to Audible can listen to the selection on Audible Plus for FREE and this is a great way of trying new authors and even new genres. It has absolutely paid off as I’ve had messages from listeners saying they’d never have tried a particular title of mine but gave it a go as it was free, were hooked, and had listened to the whole series or even my entire back catalogue as a result. How lovely is that?
I’m assuming that there was a big email campaign about the fresh catalogue this morning which is what prompted the leap in the chart for those two audiobooks which, incidentally, are my two bestselling titles across all formats.
I was so chuffed with this unexpected charting but then hubby appeared in my office asking me if I’d looked at the Romance category chart because those two titles were #3 and #5 respectively. Double eek!
After I’d done some excited squealing, I decided to look at the rest of the Romance chart to see whether any of the other titles were there and I couldn’t quite believe what I discovered!
So that was nine of my sixteen titles in the Top 100 in the Romance chart – only three of which are in the Audible Plus programme – and ALL of the Hedgehog Hollow audiobooks in the Top 50. Woo hoo!
I’ve been out today for lunch and a wonderful catch-up with my bestie, author Sharon Booth, and there’s no WiFi or phone signal at the pub we go to so I had hubby keeping a watch on the chart all day but nothing moved. When I got home early this evening, I did a quick check and there had been some movement at last. Some titles had dropped but New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow (book 2 in the series) had climbed a little higher from #39 to #31 and Spring Tides at The Starfish Café had charted in the Romance chart too!
So, although it wasn’t at exactly the same time, 10% of the Romance chart has been given to my audiobooks today. I can’t quite believe it! There are over 200,000 audiobooks on Audible so it blows my mind to see my titles in top charts.
A huge thank you to my amazing main narrators Lucy Brownhill and Emma Swan who have taken the leads on all my audiobooks between them, and to an amazing cast of talented narrators who’ve brought life to the second perspectives in the stories: Gareth Bennett-Ryan, James Dryden, Polly Edsell, Kitty Kelly, and Gloria Sanders.
And thank you to you the listeners for making today’s chart ‘domination’ possible. I’m so very grateful. Happy listening.
In my last blog post, I said I was heading off to the RNA’s conference and would report back ‘next week’. That should have been last week and I’ve just realised that, although I shared some photos on Facebook, I never did a blog post so here I am catching up.
The conference was at Harper Adams University which is for agricultural studies near Telford, Shropshire. It’s a small campus and ideal for an event such as this as there’s not too far to walk between the accommodation and lecture rooms. We were staying in the student halls and ours was the one covered in ivy on the right.
It was my fourth conference and by far my favourite, mainly because I felt much better about myself as a writer than I had the previous three times. I knew what to expect format-wise and I’d finally learned to the pressure off myself by not booking onto an event for every slot on the timetable, allowing some breathing and thinking space.
There were four out of the ten of us from my writing support group, The Write Romantics, in attendance, and there were quite a few Boldwood authors, some of whom I hadn’t met before so it was lovely to be able to say hello to them.
I also had a chance to catch up with some of the delegates from my March workshop. I’d been really looking forward to sitting down and having a proper chat to them all, finding out how their writing journeys had been since the workshop, but the timetable just didn’t allow it. I’d been invited to join them at lunchtime on Saturday but my pre-lunch session ran over slightly and, by the time I made it to the back of the food queue, there weren’t many spaces left in the dining room and I knew there was no way they could save me a seat at their table. I could also see that several of them had already eaten so it just didn’t happen.
I did get the opportunity to speak to several of the group, albeit briefly in some cases, but I swear time goes into a vortex and I left thinking about so many people I’d spotted but just didn’t get a chance to say hello to properly.
On the Sunday morning, we had about twenty minutes before a session started and I looked around the coffee room but realised I’d hit a wall and was probably incapable of having a coherent conversation. Doing a job where I spend most of my time completely on my own, it can be intense and overwhelming being surrounded by people. My since apologies, therefore, to anyone I didn’t get a chance to talk to.
I did get to talk to my idol, Jill Mansell, though! We’ve spoken several times on social media and met before and it’s ridiculous that I get shy about these things but I do. I actually find it hard to approach anyone already in a conversation so add in one of my writing heroes and that escalates. My Boldwood buddy took a photo of me with Jill in the background and then took me over for a proper hello which was very special.
I met loads of other amazing authors across the weekend but took a distinct lack of photos so I’ll leave the blog post here. Thank you to everyone involved in the organising, who ran sessions, or who chatted to me. I’m already looking forward to the next one.
I’m off to the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) Conference tomorrow. I attended a couple of virtual ones during the pandemic but the last time I went to one in real life was four years ago when it was held in Leeds and look who I met!
They say don’t meet your heroes but not in this case as Jill Mansell was just as lovely as her books. I, however, was a gibbering fan-girly wreck and was actually shaking at the photo opp! I couldn’t believe it when I spotted her nearby and was far too nervous to approach her myself, despite a couple of glasses of wine inside me, so I asked the RNA Chair if she could introduce us!
I fell in love with romance books after reading one of Jill’s. I’d never read anything in this genre and a friend loaned me Millie’s Fling on holiday and I loved how fun and romantic it was and how it left me with the warm and fuzzies. I devoured all her books after that and, for the past twelve years or so, have annually purchased her new release on hardback and have a Jill shelf in my office.
I’m really looking forward to the conference this year for several reasons:
Being my fourth conference, I know what to expect. It’s actually at the same place as my second one so I’m even familiar with the venue
I’ve been an RNA member for a decade and know so many more people now so (hopefully) won’t have that startled rabbit situation. Or hopefully not!
I’ve taken a much more relaxed approach to which sessions I’ll attend. In previous years, I’ve chosen something for every time slot which can make for an exhausting experience. This year, I’ve allowed myself some downtime
I’ll have a chance to meet several Boldwood authors who I’ve never met in person which will be lovely
I’ll get to meet several of the participants from the RNA Learning workshop I ran in March and I’m really excited to hear how their writing has progressed since then
I won’t be having any publisher 1:1 appointments (more on this shortly)
I feel very differently about my writing
Let me explain those last couple of points…
Four years ago at that 2017 conference, I was in a dark place with my writing. I was a struggling indie selling a handful of books a week and fearing I might have to give up writing as I couldn’t keep investing all the time (alongside a demanding FT day job) with no pay-off.
A valuable part of the conference programme is the feedback slots available with industry professionals (editors and agents). I managed to secure four of these – all with editors – where I pitched a brand new manuscript called Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye.
My manuscript wasn’t complete which actually resulted in Editor D reprimanding, saying it was very unprofessional of me. Ouch! I understood what she was saying as you would never submit to a publisher when an MS is incomplete but the annual timing of the conference means that this may sometimes be the case and it’s not a requirement of the sessions to have a complete MS. Also, the humiliation to be told off by someone half my age! I felt like I was back at school!
Anyway, despite the telling off, all four editors wanted to see the full MS which gave me a massive dilemma because Editors A and B wanted it to be a light-hearted romcom and Editors C and D wanted a deeper more emotional women’s fiction story. With the MS being unfinished, I faced a decision around what direction to take it in because whichever I chose was going to rule two of them out.
While confusing, this was a very happy dilemma to have, especially for someone feeling so down about their writing. My biggest takeaway was that four editors wanted the full MS. Surely one of them would want to take me on.
Editor A asked me to submit one of my indie books in the meantime. As she wanted the romcom approach, I sent her a lighter story (what is now Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop) and a more emotional story (what is now All You Need is Love). The rejection was positive but still a rejection: you write well with a lovely style. However, I’m afraid I don’t think any of these are quite right for our list at this time. I would be happy to take a look at a new idea in due course though should you wish to submit to us again.
I decided not to submit to Editor B. She’d been the least enthusiastic, I couldn’t see us working together and she wanted a romcom which, by this point, I knew wasn’t what I wanted to write and, in finishing the story, I’d stuck to my gut feel that I wanted to write more emotional stories.
I was really proud of my finished MS and had high hopes for Editors C and D who’d wanted the emotional story.
From Editor C: …think you have an interesting premise. However, after careful consideration, we don’t feel that Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye is quite right for us. Your writing is great, and there is huge warmth and emotion in your narrative. All of the women’s stories are hugely poignant, but because there were three of them, it felt at times like there wasn’t quite enough space for each story, including the tragic events before the book begins, to be fully explored. The women’s fiction market is so tricky at the moment, and what we tend to be looking for at the moment are in-depth emotional stories with a tight scope, or high-concept stories that can be pitched in a single line. I’m afraid that Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye didn’t quite hit the mark for me.
As rejections go, it was a positive one and I tried to hang onto the lovely comments about my writing which is always hard when it’s ultimately a no. I was encouraged to submit other stories so I sent the original version of All You Need is Love to them too and had another rejection: Again, there is a lovely warmth to your writing and the situations your characters find themselves in are incredibly sympathetic, but I’m afraid that this isn’t one for [us]… As you know, the women’s fiction market is so difficult at the moment, and I don’t think that we could reach a bigger audience for you than you have managed yourself. Again what is missing for me is that specific, focused concept that we could use to hook readers in with a single line. For me there were again quite a lot of characters introduced in the early chapters and I felt this did make it difficult to keep track of them all and to work out whose stories were the main focus of the book.
While I was asked to think of them again for future books, it was clear to me that I didn’t write what they wanted so I couldn’t bring myself to court further rejection and closed that door.
Which just left Editor D. Despite her telling me off, I had a feeling that she was going to be the one. She wasn’t: It was such a pleasure to meet you at the RNA conference in July and I’ve looked forward to reading your submission. I absolutely loved diving back into the world you’ve conjured here and the changes you made to the manuscript have really improved the pace and tension which is great. There was a clear improvement from the MS I read back in July. Sadly though, as the story went on I struggled to empathise with the characters as much as I wanted to. Rather than being invested in their journeys I felt they lacked the necessary depth and layers, I wanted to see more of their emotions and feelings on the page. In such a competitive book market we have to ensure we feel passionate about the book and characters and sadly I just couldn’t find myself getting lost in Alison or Karen’s story as I couldn’t connect with them. In terms of next step I recommend looking at how you can weave more depth into the characters, offering readers different layers to uncover from them all.
This floored me. The feedback I’d received from readers of other books suggested that getting lost in the characters’ stories was a strength of mine and that I could write emotion well. Obviously this was just one person’s opinion but, in my dark place, this told me that the things I thought were positives weren’t. And it broke me. I wasn’t invited to submit anything else either. Door closed.
By early December 2018, a couple more submissions I’d made of Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye came back as rejections and I felt so lost. The voices of doubt in my mind were having a field day:
You can’t write
No wonder you’ve barely sold any indie books
All those thousands of hours were a right waste of time
It’s time to give up and accept it’s never going to happen for you
You’re fooling yourself that you have talent
And so it went on. Just when I was feeling at my absolute lowest, Amazon rank-stripped me. An automated email accused me of engaging in dodgy activities to manipulate sales or pages read on my bestselling book (what is now New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms) in the USA. It was absurd. In the timeframe this wrongdoing was alleged to have taken place, I’d sold one eBook in that market and had the equivalent of one eBook read on Kindle Unlimited. If I was going to manipulate sales, surely logic would say I’d have sold more than two books!
Rank-stripping means that the book disappears. It has no ranking so it has no visibility. The only way a reader can find the book is by specifically searching on the title. Ironic, really, that the book at the time was called Searching for Steven and the only way he could be found was by literally searching for him! And not just in the USA where I was accused of naughtiness. This was all markets!
Naturally, I protested and asked for more clarity on what I was meant to have done. Cue an automated response telling me that no more information would be given and accusing me of still engaging in said untoward activity and that if I didn’t stop it, all my books would be removed from the site! What?!
So I protested, which just triggered another auto-response. There were four bot responses in total, each more threatening than the one before.
My Christmas was ruined that year. I was barely selling anything anyway but this pretty much took everything from me and left the fear that I’d be removed from sale completely. I’d been wondering if I needed to give up and it seemed Amazon agreed too and were potentially going to make it happen, whether I wanted it or not.
It took two months for them to reinstate the book. No apology. No explanation. Two weeks later, the exact same thing happened to the same book. Argh!
In January 2019, I saw an advert for a new publisher called Boldwood Books opening for submissions on 1st February and I felt drawn to them. One more try. And if it was a no, it might just be the time to throw in the towel.
Reader, they said yes.
And the book that lacked emotion, lacked depth, had no concept, had too many characters with whom there was no connection became my first release through Boldwood Books in September 2019 under the new title The Secret to Happiness. It has sold more than 70,000 copies across all formats, has been an international Top 10 bestseller and, at the time of writing, has over 3,600 reviews on Amazon alone, 93% of them positive.
For any aspiring authors out there, please do take some learnings from my experiences:
Keep believing in yourself and keep going. While I felt like giving up on so many occasions, I knew I never could. If, like me, stories burn inside you, then keep writing them
You need a lot of patience. Getting traditionally published is about landing the right MS on the right person’s desk at the right time. That’s a lot of stars to align and it doesn’t happen that often … but it can. Hang on in there. If you’re going down the indie route, you still need patience as there’s a lot you need to learn and do to get your book visible and it will take time
Reading is subjective and what one editor passes on, another may love. What is one reader’s scathing 1-star review is another’s favourite book
And on that note, I’ll share with you a 1-star review I’ve just spotted for The Secret to Happiness. An Amazon user in March this year declared that it was “written for children… predictable and long and drawn out. Utterly disappointed” The same reviewer gave a 5-star review to a pair of flat shoelaces!
And my latest for the same book is oozing with meanness: “Oh dear… Drivel. Embarrassingly bad dialogue. Tedious plot and poorly constructed characters. I had the unfortunate experience of the audiobook which added a further eye-rolling level of dreariness”.Honestly, is there any need to be so nasty? So the book wasn’t for her but this audiobook is actually free on Audible Plus so I can pretty much guarantee she has listened to it because it was free so it’s not like she’s even spent any money on it. A 5-star review from her has gone to some fabric dye. Classic.
But that’s fine because that’s their opinion and a huge number of readers disagree. So do my publishers. And so do I!
I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and, even though I was devastated at the rejections from Editors C and D, I’m so grateful that it was a no from them because I couldn’t imagine being in a happier place than Boldwood Books. It’s my home.
I’m off to do my packing for the conference now. Hubby has been to fill the car with fuel and has returned with some emergency biscuits. I need to get them off my desk and into my suitcase as the temptation to break into them is already strong!
Tomorrow (Tuesday 12th July) will be a fortnight since book 5 in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow – was released and it has just completed a thirteen-day thirty-nine stops blog tour.
I’d like to say an enormous thank you to:
All the bloggers/reviewers who took part in the tour
A couple of extra reviewers who weren’t on the tour but who posted during this fortnight
Anyone who has shared/retweeted any blog tour posts on social media
Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising and hosting the tour
My publishers, Boldwood Books, for being generally fabulous
Even though Chasing Dreams is my sixteenth book, I do still get a little apprehensive ahead of blog tours, wondering how it will be received. I think there’s an additional pressure that comes with writing a series – especially one that has been loved as much as Hedgehog Hollow – as there’s the ever-present fear that the latest release will be the one that readers/listeners don’t like. As I read each review, I dread seeing the words ‘not as good as the one before’ and heave a sigh of relief when, for most, that’s not the case.
Fortunately the fifth instalment in the series has been very much loved and I was particularly thrilled that the first twelve reviews were all five-star. I don’t know what the thirteenth was but the next two were also 5-star so it could have been the first fifteen! Woo hoo!
There were two negative reviews (3-star) for this tour but they mainly gave positive comments. I’m very grateful that all the others were 4 or 5-star (mainly 5). I’ve just looked on NetGalley where there are currently 112 advanced reviews recorded and there is only one other 3-star on there (so far) which is from someone who hasn’t read any of the other books and was a bit lost. I therefore can’t help dismissing that one because joining a 6-book series at book 5 doesn’t make sense to me. There are no 2-star or 1-stars on NetGalley… yet! I can therefore conclude overall that the love for the hedgehogs is still there at book 5 because 3 negative reviews out of 112 reviews is pretty good going (2.6%).
I’ve put a random section of quotes in this post. There isn’t one from every reviewer who took part as I don’t have the complete set yet but wanted to get my thank you message out there first thing so I can crack on with writing book 18.
I really do appreciate the time it takes to read a book and gather thoughts into a comprehensive review and what I really appreciate on this particular tour is that none of the reviewers gave any spoilers away about Lauren’s story. I’m very grateful for that integrity and for allowing subsequent readers to discover it for themselves.
Thank you again to everyone who took part. The next blog tour will be in early September for the very final book – Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow – and I know many of those on this tour have already signed up for it. Hope you love the final instalment just as much.
It’s just over a week since Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow was released and two astonishing things have happened.
The first is that, in the week up to Saturday 2nd July, despite only being out for five days, the eBook has hit the #4 slot in the Bookstat eBook chart shared by The Bookseller based on UK pre-orders and eBook sales during those first five days. I’m absolutely delighted with this.
A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow in January and Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow in May last year both made it into this chart at #6 and Spring Tides at The Starfish Café was #3 on release in April this year.
What was extra lovely is that fellow Boldwood buddy and good friend Jo Bartlett’s latest release – A Leap of Faith for the Cornish Midwife – was also in the Top 10.
I’m so delighted that there is a chart specialising in eBooks as most of the others are all about print formats and therefore authors with smaller independent presses who lead with digital formats usually aren’t represented.
The second amazing thing was this morning when I was completely flabbergasted to see the audio version of Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow at #7 in the Audible chart. Wowsers! It had got up to #23 the day after release and had stuck around in the Top 50 ever since but had looked to be slowly dropping, being at #48 last night. To see it at #7 all morning and still in the Top 10 this evening (#9 at the time of writing this) is something I never ever expected.
It also topped the Romance chart. Woo hoo!
I’m so very grateful to all the readers who’ve made both of these things possible and, for the audio version, thank you to my amazing narrators Emma Swan and Gloria Sanders for this particular book.
What will the hedgehogs do next? I’m excited to find out!
I’m celebrating an extremely special book birthday today. It’s two years since the first book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Finding Love at a Hedgehog Hollow – was published (2nd July 2020).
What started as an idea for a standalone story has grown into a six-book series:
Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (2nd July 2020)
New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow (7th January 2021)
Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow (4th May 2021)
A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow (6th January 2022)
Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow (28th June 2022)
Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow (6th September 2022)
It’s been an amazing two years. I had no idea that there’d be so much love for the hedgehogs and that this series would grow into something that so many readers and listeners have taken to their hearts.
I’ve been christened ‘hedgehog lady’, ‘mother of hedgehogs’ and ‘queen of cliffhangers’ thanks to a little cliffhanger at the end of book 2 and a whopping great one at the end of book 3. I often get sent photos of hedgehog-themed items in shops or in readers’ homes which I love and I’ve been honoured and touched by messages from readers who’ve taken hedgehogs to their local rescue centre when they would never have known they were in danger if they hadn’t read my books.
I’ve befriended the amazing team at my local hedgehog rescue centre – Wolds Hedgehog Rescue Centre – which is the ‘real’ Hedgehog Hollow set in the Yorkshire Wolds. I’ve pumped the team for information, have welcomed Ann and Angela on a Facebook Live and have even fed a hoglet this year which was such a privilege.
The first of books in the series have been stocked by The Works. It’s such a thrill to see them on the shelves and to sign copies in my local branch in Scarborough. I’ve also seen them in garden centres locally.
The first three books have also been translated into Swedish. The first one was out at the end of May this year and book 2 is out in October. I love how the covers are different to the UK ones but have kept the colour and theme. I can’t wait to see what they come up with for book 3, which I suspect will be out early next year. There were only three books out at the time the foreign rights deal was made so I’m hoping they’ll be well received and they’ll take on the remaining three.
My own collection of hedgehog-related items is huge. I have ornaments, a door stop, soft toys, cushions, stationery, dresses, T-shirts, Christmas decorations and even a chair upholstered by Ann at Wolds Hedgehog Rescue. I’ve definitely run out of room now! Here’s just a small selection….
There’ve been some incredible chart achievements:
All five books released so far have made it into the Kindle Top 100 with all but New Arrivals achieving Top 40 positions
Chasing Dreams made it to #23 on publication day – my 2nd highest charting of all my books
Finding Love has been Top 20 in Kindle Australia
Finding Love was #1 in the Apple Free chart in the UK and Ireland and, while that was on promotion, New Arrivals hit the #2 slot in the overall Apple chart and Family Secrets hit #5
Chasing Dreams soared up to #26 in the overall Audible UK chart this week
The first four books combined, as at the end of April this year, have sold over 200,000 copies across all formats
At at the time of writing, the first five books combined have over 15,000 ratings on Amazon, over 14,000 of which are 4 or 5-star rated. They’ve also gathered well over 3,000 ratings on Audible, most of which are positive
It’s most apt that the title of the current release is Chasing Dreams as the Hedgehog Hollow series has made so many of my writing dreams come true. Will Christmas Miracles bring the miracle of a TV series? Hee hee hee! That would be the stuff beyond dreams!
Thank you to everyone who has bought/borrowed/downloaded/streamed any of the Hedgehog Hollow books. I’m so very grateful.
What a busy day it has been! Not only has it been the publication day of Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow but we’ve also had a cover reveal for the final book in the series: Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow. I absolutely love the cover – I mean, what’s not to love about hedgehogs wearing Christmas hats?
Book 6 will be out on 6th September so not long to wait and can be pre-ordered on Kindle UK here. It will go up for pre-order on Audible and other eBook sites nearer the time. A little heads up on the audio version is that, while we aim for all formats to be available on publication day, there will be a slight delay with the audio and it will be available a week to ten days later so please bear with us on that.
I’ve been out for most of the day and have had no WiFi connectivity which has been a bit frustrating so I was able to respond to messages first thing but not since. I hope to catch up tomorrow. Thank you everyone who has wished me publication best wishes and said kind things about the story. I’m so very grateful.
I’m still reeling at the current chart positions too. Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow is currently #27 in the overall Kindle chart and #42 in the Audible chart. I can’t quite believe it! The only eBook of mine that has reached a higher chart position on Kindle UK is New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms which happened when it went on a Prime deal. This is purely on pre-orders and purchases today and I’m so overwhelmed. Keep having to pinch myself!
So let’s talk about book 6 going up for pre-order and the series ending…
Since book three, I’ve been transparent about the series coming to an end and, after the release if book 4 – A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow – in January, I’ve been very clear that there would be two more books, both out this year.
It’s so flattering that readers and listeners love Samantha, Josh and all the other characters so much – human and spiky – and want the series to keep going and I’m so grateful for that love and support. There’ve been expressions of disappointment, requests for me to keep writing the series indefinitely and a joke among some lovely fans of the series about staging a protest in my front garden (during which I must feed them biscuits) which has been great fun, making me laugh. What hasn’t been quite so fun are a couple of reviews stating that I’ve let readers down by ending the series. A particular advanced review said very little about the book and was instead a rant about how annoyed they were with me for this being the penultimate book. Eek! That’s a bit harsh! It’s not like I’ve abandoned it mid-series with a gazillion unfinished plot points.
The Hedgehog Hollow series has been exceptionally successful. What started out one book – a blending of an exercise I did on my Masters in Creative Writing with the desire to set something in a hedgehog rescue centre, inspired by my auntie’s work as a hedgehog rescuer – grew into something I don’t think any of us ever imagined. There’s a lot of love out there for hedgehogs. And quite rightly so!
Readers/listeners might therefore think I’m a little bonkers to end a series which is so popular so I thought I’d explain several reasons behind this decision:
Reason 1 –Not staying too long at the party
Anyone who read the acknowledgements at the back of book 3, Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow, will know that a couple of early reviews of book 2, New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow completely put me off my stride. Those reviews said I should have stopped at the one book because nothing happened in book 2 and it was all padding. Ouch! That hurt so much that I couldn’t write for several days and had a huge panic about agreeing with my publishers to extend the series.
Thankfully more lovely reviews came in and the pre-orders, sales figures and quality of reviews have shown that, while there will always be some readers who decide they’ve had enough and dip out of a series, the vast majority of my readers have loved all the books and can’t get enough of Hedgehog Hollow.
But there’s always that fear at the back of my mind that, if I keep going on indefinitely, I will hit the point where those ‘should have stopped earlier’ comments are valid criticism and even I agree with them.
For me, for my amazing cast of characters and for those wonderful hedgehogs, I want the series to end on a high.
Reason 2 – Having enough stories to tell
There’s a large and fascinating cast of characters connected with Hedgehog Hollow and they all have stories to tell but some are more interesting than others so, in creating this series, I’ve needed to think about who has something interesting to say, ensuring the main storyline remains fresh and very different from book to book while keeping some of the series threads and themes going.
Many of the characters are so closely connected to each other that in telling one character’s story, I’ve revealed much of another’s story too, meaning there’s insufficient left to explore in a separate book.
If we take Samantha’s parents, for example – Jonathan and Debs – their lives are so tied in with Samantha’s storyline and much of their backstory has already come out within Samantha’s narration. I did toy with a book where Jonathan was the narrator (then changed my mind) but I was always adamant that Debs wouldn’t narrate one. This is because the relationship between Samantha and Debs is a key thread across the whole series and giving Debs a book would lessen the impact of following that thread through Samantha’s eyes. We’ve already discovered why Debs is the way she is through information shared across the series and we know the relationship history between Debs and Jonathan through other books so, if I told her story (or Jonathan’s) I’d have been regurgitating known information which would take away the excitement of a backstory reveal.
It’s the same with Josh’s parents, Connie and Paul. Enough of their backstory has already been revealed through Josh in New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow and we’ve kept a track of how they’re doing with their new partners throughout the series. They don’t need books of their own. I could write them but the ‘staying too long at the party’ criticism would be deserved if I did.
Reason 3 – Giving Samantha her happy ever after
This is actually the biggest reason for stopping at six books. The way I set up this series was to have Samantha as the narrator all the way through. This makes sense. After all, Samantha is Hedgehog Hollow. She’s the person who set it up, she’s the person who runs it, she’s the connection to all the other characters.
From book 2 onwards, a guest narrator whose life is connected to Samantha’s has told their interlinked story. While the ‘big’ story is usually the one belonging to the guest narrator, Samantha does need to have key things happening in her life to keep her story interesting and not just padding.
SPOILER ALERT – Skip over these next 2 paragraphs if you’ve just started the series
In New Arrivals, we found Samantha struggling to balance the needs of the rescue centre alongside her full-time role as a tutor, resulting in her collapsing at work and accepting she couldn’t do both jobs. In Family Secrets, she started experiencing PTSD episodes as a result of the vendetta from the Grimes family and, in A Wedding, she was planning her wedding while dealing with the theft of the rescue centre’s money and the subsequent arrival of Phoebe and Darcie.
There have also been three key relationship threads developing across the series – with Josh, her mum and Chloe – where something has changed in each book to move those relationships forward. With Josh, this has been the stages in their relationship, with Debs it has been the gradual thawing of hostilities, and with Chloe this is about Samantha standing up to her during her selfish moments, developing Samantha’s confidence and resilience.
NO SPOILERS FROM NOW…
So there’s always been a conflict/challenge facing Samantha in each book running alongside the ongoing relationship threads.
I sometimes get messages from readers, see comments on social media, and read remarks in reviews telling me to lay off Samantha and asking when I’m going to let her have her happy ever after. I love that readers adore Samantha and want her to be happy but my response is always that, if I give Samantha her HEA, the series ends. Without conflict, there’s no story to tell.
Much as I understand this desire for Samantha to settle down with Josh, have babies, have a calm and quiet life rescuing hedgehogs, no more family conflicts and no more trouble with the Grimes family, do readers really want to read about a ‘normal’ happy life? Of course not! They want to be excited, moved, drawn into a story. And a HEA doesn’t do that.
Which is why the series must end.
My amazing editor, Nia, had also questioned the sense in ending the series when it’s doing so well but, when she read my first draft of Chasing Dreams, the reasons clicked into place for her. She could see what I was saying about how increasingly difficult it would be to have a story for Samantha to tell. I had conflict planned for her in books 5 and 6 but where else would I go beyond that?
There’s conflict I could bring in to keep the series going. I could mess things up for her and Josh. I could introduce a number of scenarios leading to arguments or even a split … but why would I do that? For a start, they are such a well-suited couple. They don’t argue. They’re a partnership, supporting each other through everything so this wouldn’t sit with the relationship I’ve built. I doubt the readers would appreciate it either. Why invest in a couple only for the author to then split them up? And Samantha and Josh certainly wouldn’t thank me for it. One of the things that was really important to me was that, when they got together, it would work for life and I know from reviews that readers have loved how solid they are.
What to expect from the final book
There is one more story I want to tell which is Fizz’s. I loved her from the moment she turned up unexpectedly on the page. With her pink hair and sparkly unicorn T-shirt, she made a strong first impression and I just knew she was going to become a key character.
Running alongside Fizz’s story, Samantha will have one more challenge to overcome before I finally give her a happy ever after.
The final book – Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow – is available for pre-order on Kindle now and will have conclusions for many of the supporting characters. It will go up for pre-order on Audible and other eBook formats nearer the time and be available as a paperback from publication day. I’ve shared the blurb at the end of this post.
Is that it for Hedgehog Hollow?
The great news is that, although this is the end of the series, it’s not the end of Hedgehog Hollow. I still plan to write a prequel book telling Thomas and Gwendoline’s story which I’m excited to write. This is currently penned in for release in July 2024 on the 4-year anniversary of the release of the first book in the series – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – but no definite promises on this just yet. Things can and do change in publishing.
I’m also planning some spin-off books which will tell the stories of people who become connected in some way with Hedgehog Hollow, whether as volunteers or for some other reason. I can’t give too much away as that would give spoilers for what’s coming up in Chasing Dreams and Christmas Miracles but readers will get to catch up with what’s going on at the rescue centre without Samantha being the narrator (and without me having to mess up Samantha’s life!)
I’m really looking forward to writing the first one of these – which I can confirm will be out in January 2023 – and I think readers will be happy with the glimpses into life at Hedgehog Hollow through the eyes of new characters.
So that’s why the series is ending! Would I ever write another Hedgehog Hollow book (other than the prequel)? Never say never but I’m not planning to do so for the moment.
Thank you to everyone who has fallen in love with the series and with hedgehogs. Your support and kind words have meant the world to me. For those who are disappointed, please don’t be sad – feel happy instead that you travelled to Hedgehog Hollow and made new friends and know that there’s more to come from the Yorkshire Wolds, Whitsborough Bay and my new setting in 2023 of the stunning Lake District.
Big hedge-hugs Jessica xx
It’s the countdown to Christmas at Hedgehog Hollow Wildlife Rescue Centre, and everyone is gearing up for a festive season to remember…
It should be the most wonderful time of the year for Samantha and Josh as they prepare for the arrival of their first baby. But life at Hedgehog Hollow rarely goes to plan and the pair are faced with adversaries, old and new, and unexpected challenges to overcome.
Fizz’s job at the heart of the rescue centre is a dream come true but her personal life is more like a nightmare. With her love life a disaster and her past about to dramatically catch up with her, she needs the love and support of her Hedgehog Hollow family more than ever.
As the snow falls over Hedgehog Hollow, will Samantha and Fizz find the Christmas miracle they need to overcome their heartache and find happiness?
Top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland welcomes you back to Hedgehog Hollow this Christmas for the final time in this series for a heartfelt story of love, family, friendship – and hedgehogs of course!
Almost exactly two years since the first book in the series was published (Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow on 2nd July 2020), we return to the hedgehog rescue centre for the fifth instalment with Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow.
I am so touched by how much love there is for this series. The first four books combined have already sold more than 200,000 copies across all formats. Thank you so much to everyone who has made this possible.
Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow is out today in all formats. Publication days are exciting but also a little nerve-wracking, awaiting the verdict. The early reviews have been very encouraging so I hope it will continue that way.
Boldwood Books through Rachel’s Random Resources have organised a blog tour so thank you to the amazing bloggers/reviewers who are participating. The first two reviews in have been gorgeous 5-star ones which have helped allay some of the nerves.
My publication biscuits from Boldwood Books made by Enchanting Bakes have arrived and look delicious and my husband bought me the most gorgeous publication day plant. I love flowers and plants but I’m not very good with them. This one looks pretty hardy so fingers crossed it will last! My mum and dad also gave me the most adorable publication day card. It’s by a North Yorkshire-based artist called Bree Merryn who specialises in wildlife drawings. You can find her website here and she has some stunning hedgehog prints and cushions. Just search ‘hedgehog’ and you’ll feel very happy!
So how am I spending publication day? I’m in the Beverley chapter of the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) and we meet on the last Tuesday evening of the month so it’s our meeting tonight. As Beverley is an hour away from me, I like to make the most of the trip out so meet my bestie Sharon Booth for lunch and we are always amazed how six-and-a-half hours can whizz by before we need to head to our meeting. I only saw Sharon yesterday when we met up with another amazing author, Eliza J Scott, but we’ll still have loads to talk about.
Thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow on eBook, audio, paperback or has ordered a signed paperback from me. I’ll be anxiously checking my chart position across the day. I was very excited to see it at #7 in the overall AppleBooks chart first thing and #1 in the Fiction and Literature category.
It’s Top 250 (not that that’s a thing!) in the Audible chart already and just outside the Top 500 on Kindle but will hopefully make it into the Top 100 before the end of the day based on pre-orders and first day sales. Keep scampering, little hedgehogs!
Tomorrow, Fiona and Sue over on Heidi Swain & Friends – A Facebook Book Club are kindly hosting a publication day party for me. This is a lovely book group so if you’re a fan of Heidi Swain’s wonderful stories and books like those, do consider joining the group. They’re also hosting a Facebook Live with me on Monday 4th July at 7pm. You can join that event here although it’s possible you may need to be a member of the group first. Not 100% sure on that one.
I’m off to eat my publication day biscuits now. Nom nom nom.
Big hedge-hugs Jessica xx
Samantha has a secret. Returning home from her dream honeymoon to the normality of running her beloved Hedgehog Hollow rescue centre, she’s ready for the next chapter of her life with Josh. Or is she? Samantha is hiding something which could forever change the dreams they shared and bring their happy ever after crashing to the ground.
Lauren has given up on love. Twenty-six years ago the love of her life, Shaun, left her a note and was never seen again. Two painful divorces later she still can’t face opening up to anyone. But little does Lauren know that the closure she’s dreamt of for all these years may be closer than she thinks, and perhaps the only way to let new love in is to forgive and forget.
Samantha and Lauren will need the love and support from the Hedgehog Hollow family more than ever. After all, some dreams are worth chasing…
Top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland welcomes you back to glorious Hedgehog Hollow where love, family and friendship conquer all.
On Saturday, the hubby, munchkin and I took Ella (our 6-year-old sprocker spaniel) for a walk near Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire (near Thirsk) on the way to a visit to my parents. The temperature had dropped and there was quite a breeze on top of the cliff so it was good to be able to take Ella out during the day. Poor pooch had been stuck indoors for most of the week to avoid melting or burning her paws on hot pavements.
There are so many gorgeous walks from Sutton Bank of varying lengths but we just wanted to do a short one so walked to the white horse. This takes us past the gliding centre and it was obviously the perfect conditions for gliding as there were two planes towing them and a queue of gliders waiting to go up.
I don’t have any photos of the white horse as you have to walk down to the car park below it to see it and we didn’t have enough time to do that. And, let’s face it, we didn’t have the inclination either as that would have meant climbing back up again! However, I did get some lovely pics of the beautiful countryside and the gliders. Aren’t those views stunning?
On the way through Thirsk, I spotted the most amazing knitting/crocheting display so we stopped off on the way back home from my parents’ although it started bucketing it down just as we drove into Thirsk so we had to loiter in the car for a bit first!
All the bollards on one side of the main road were dedicated to support for Ukraine which was lovely to see.
On the other side of the road they were all Jubilee-related. A man approached me as I was taking photos and claimed he’d made the coach (several rows down) – first attempt at anything like that but he was retired and thought he’d give it a go and was pretty chuffed with his efforts. I am ridiculously gullible and actually believed him and praised him for his work… until he walked off to the chippy chuckling and admitting he hadn’t made it at all!
Aren’t they absolutely fantastic? It was such a brilliant display. There were so many crowns and they were all a bit different but I decided I was going to have to stop taking photos of all the individual ones or we’d never make it home! With all the flower tubs too, they looked pretty special.
The cobbled area where they all were was in front of a chip shop and I noticed a hanging basket with a difference – knitted chips, ketchup, vinegar etc. Love it!
Round the corner from the main installation was Her Majesty the Queen having afternoon tea with her corgis, although the munchkin pointed out that she did look a little drunk, bless her. Excuse my random bending down on the pic featuring me. The munchkin told me she couldn’t fit us both in the photo and I needed to sit down. The bench was soaked so no way was I wasn’t falling for that!
I loved how all the raised flower beds round the display had knitted/crocheted flowers and bunting and even a horse in them. And check out that fabulous postbox topper!
And speaking of postbox toppers, the hubby and I nipped to Filey for a walk on Friday evening. Warm sugared doughnuts may also have been consumed. We spotted this amazing RNLI themed postbox topper there. The collection box for the RNLI was full to bursting and could only just take our donation.
I really love spotting postbox toppers. They make me so happy and I’m in awe of the imagination and skill of those who make them. I can’t knit to save my life and have never tried crocheting as I suspect I’d be just as bad.
Hope you enjoyed the photos. I’ll say goodbye for now but I’ll be back tomorrow as the hedgehogs return then. Yes, it’s publication day for Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow and I’m my usual mix of nerves and excitement. Eek!