Two weeks ago today, it was publication day for the third book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – and I am so in awe of how much readers have taken the hedgehogs to their hearts and wanted to convey my heartfelt thanks.
When I had the idea to set a book in a hedgehog rescue centre, I was only thinking of writing a standalone book but, as is often the case when I’m writing, the setting and the characters burst into life and had so much more to offer than one story. And the hedgehogs had me too. The more I learned about them, the more I wanted to write about them. Just gorgeous. (Photo credit for top photo: Sarah Howell).
It’s quite scary not only committing to writing a sequel but to working on it before knowing whether readers like the first book. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow was released on 2nd July 2020 and, at that point, all of my books had been set in the fictional seaside town of Whitsborough Bay. I was worried that readers might not like the change of setting and not want to take a trip to Hedgehog Hollow. It never even entered my head that a whole new group of lovely readers might be attracted because of the mention of hedgehogs and would discover my writing through this series instead.
I’d almost finished writing New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow when the first book in the series was released and it was such a huge relief that readers responded really positively.
But when New Arrivals was released in January this year, the fear set in again. Would readers love book 2 as much as book 1? I was particularly nervous about this because my confidence had been knocked by two particularly negative reviews from readers who’d received an advanced reader copy (ARC). I have always been open and honest about the writing process and the highs and lows I’ve experienced along the way so I shared this negative feedback in my acknowledgements at the back of Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow:
“…The first few reviews were gorgeous, but then two came in together that stopped me in my tracks. Both reviewers declared that it had been a big mistake turning the first book into a series and one called book two ‘cringeworthy’ with ‘nothing to add, just padding’ before concluding that she was ‘very disappointed’. Wow! How was I supposed to continue writing a third book when I’d read something like that? The answer is, I couldn’t. I was creatively paralysed for days. I’d pitched the idea to my editor for a fourth book by that point but was now questioning whether I should even finish writing the third one. Yes, I’ll admit it, those reviews made me cry.”
I always read the acknowledgements but I’m conscious I do this with my author head on, curious about the journey the author has been on, where they got their idea (if they share that detail) and getting to know them a bit better. I have often wondered whether readers look at them.
Some certainly do because I have received so many gorgeous messages from readers and have read reviews which specifically address what I put in my acknowledgements. I’ve been quite overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness, asking me to never let the negativity get to me as those readers love my work and don’t ever want me to stop writing! I appreciate all of the lovely comments I’ve received so very much. In a world where you can be anything… be kind. And those readers absolutely have been and it has been so touching.
While I know and understand that there will always be readers who don’t like what I write – we all like different things after all – I suffer quite badly from imposter syndrome and comments like this really play to my insecurities. I continue to work hard on this and, with every kind message and review, I’m finding it easy to mute the voice that says, ‘You have no right to be here, your recent success is a fluke, you’re not good enough, and you’ve just been found out!’ Gosh, I hate that voice!
Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow went up as an ARC earlier this year and, funnily enough, the same two reviewers I’d referred to in my acknowledgements came back for more, despite having hated book two. They both gave me a 4-star rating this time although they still choose to have a dig about book 2: ‘I love all of this author’s work. Wasn’t a fan of book 2 in this series but this book certainly makes up for it. Absolutely gripping!’ and ‘I will literally read anything by this author. Book 2 of this series was a bit of a let down and after the first couple of chapters of this book I wasn’t holding out much hope. BUT things then began to come good and I suddenly found it was 1am and I really needed to sleep but couldn’t until it was finished!’ Perhaps a bit of a backhanded compliment, praising book 3 while still criticising book 2 but I’ll take it and keep focusing on the lovely parts!
I did get some negative ARCs from readers who struggled to get into the story but they mainly seemed to be from those who hadn’t read the first two books. The blurb did make it clear it was the third book in a series and readers would have a richer reading experience starting at the beginning so I wasn’t too concerned by those.
Overall, I didn’t get as positive a reaction from the book 3 ARCs as I’d received for the first two books so I approached publication day for Family Secrets with some trepidation once more. Especially as I knew how much one of the main characters, Chloe, was not a fan favourite.
I have, however, been blown away by the response since release date.
Not only did this book gather the most pre-orders I’ve had on any other book – something which helped place me in a chart in industry specialist publication, The Bookseller (see above), for the first time ever – but the hedgehogs and I have received more than 800 reviews/ratings in just two weeks. With 83% of those at 5-star and a 4.8 star average, it is also my joint-best reviews score on Amazon (tied with Charlee and the Chocolate Shop whose reviews have been transferred onto the fresh version coming out in August under the new title of Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop). Absolutely thrilled with this!
At this rate of reviews, I think we could well be at 1,000 within a month of release but… ssshhh… I didn’t say that as I don’t want to jinx it!
Speaking of milestones, New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow has passed a massive 2,000 reviews/ratings milestone recently and the hedgehogs are holding big celebrations. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow just needs 130 at the time of writing to hit that milestone too.
As well as the lovely comments about the story and my writing that I see in reviews, something that absolutely makes my day is when a reader comments on what they’ve learned about helping hedgehogs. I’ve had readers going out and checking their gardens to make sure they’re accessible for hogs, setting up feeding stations, leaving out food and water, and even volunteering at a local rescue centre on the back of reading my books. Wow! How amazing and humbling is that?
Since publication day, the third instalment of Hedgehog Hollow has held fast in the Kindle Top 100 to which is absolutely amazing so thank you to everyone who pre-ordered or and downloaded across the past fortnight.
Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow is now finally out on Audible as of today so thank you to all those who have been patiently waiting for that. Woo hoo!
It also appears to be properly available as a paperback via Amazon although it’s showing a UK price of £9.99. The RRP is £8.99 which is showing on the Waterstones website and you can ask at any good book shop and they’ll be able to order it in for £8.99. Or if you want a signed copy, get in touch with me via DM on any of my social media platforms. It’s £12.99 including UK p&p for any one book but I’m offering signed copies of the series so far for £35 including UK p&p.
Thank you again for all the hedgehog love. Have an amazing week.