It’s funny to think that for almost two years I have had a top secret identity that almost no-one has known about. Not quite a super hero, although not adverse to spreading a little magic and a lot of fun, not quite an alter ego, but definitely a top secret identity never-the-less. Because for the last two years I have not been allowed to tell you truth – until today.
And the truth is that I am not only Rowan Coleman, no my friends – I am also Christmas Fiction writer Scarlett Bailey.
It happened like this.
I’ve loved writing my Rowan books, and I always will do. And over the years they’ve grown-up just like I have, they have become a littler deeper, a little darker and more thoughtful. A lot of life has happened to me in the last ten years, including divorce and re-marriage, and four children, two of whom decided to turn up at the same time. And as I braced myself against the onslaught of change in my life, my writing took a different turn. A turn for the better I think. I am so proud of the work I have done under my own name in the last few years and especially proud of the book I am working on at the moment – but more of that later.
And yet, those of you who know me on facebook and twitter will know I have a decidedly lighter side, a comic streak, a funny bone that I never can entirely suppress, and never want to. And part of me missed writing the kind romantic comedy romp, that in actual fact I never really did write – until now. So I came up with an idea for a wonderfully Christmassy book called The Night Before Christmas, and via my agent we pitched it to Gillian Green at Ebury.
It was a quick process, a match made in heaven, you might say. I liked Gillan, Gillian liked the book, and a deal was done. Now all that remained was to tell my Rowan publishers, Arrow, what the plan was. And that was when my TOP SECRET IDENTITY was born. Because Arrow agreed to let me write the book for Ebury as long as no-one, not a single person in the entire world apart from a select elite squad (okay, I know, a bit over the top. Some editors and PR people), knew that Scarlett Bailey was Rowan Coleman. It was a funny kind of rule, and I never really did get why they imposed it, but still, keen to respect the wishes of the publisher that had given me my first book deal, and a good deal of success, I agreed.
I can say now that I broke the rules pretty much straight away, because I am not a fan of hiding behind another name, particularly not when it came to talking via social networking to people I feel like I know, and who feel like they know me and who, I think, think of me as a pretty straight forward person -which is exactly how I like to think of myself. So I secretly told all the people that I thought I could get away with that I was Scarlett, and I asked them all to keep it to themselves, which somehow I think they must have done! And if I didn’t tell YOU until now, then I’m sorry. At the time I didn’t have a choice and I also, me being me, I sort of forgot who I had told and who I hadn’t… really its a miracle its been kept so quiet all this time…
Mind you, there were genuine plusses to publishing a book under another name when no-one knew it was me. First of all, readers who knew my Rowan books came to it with a fresh eye, without any expectation – and they liked it! And readers who would never normally pick up a Rowan book came to it for the fun of it, because they are fans of chick-lit or Christmas, and they liked it too! Readers really got behind the book, read and reviewed it, talked about it, pointed out the seriously awful amount of typos that accidentally slipped through the first print run (I was mortified), but STILL loved it, and to have that kind of reader feedback, especially on twitter was actually the best Christmas present I could have hoped for.
I was so overwhelmed with the unexpected level of support that I wrote my readers a Christmas Advent Story. There was a new installment for each day of December of Santa Maybe, an unashamedly Christmas themed time travelling romance, which is quite unlike anything I have ever written before. Every day I would get up before the children, and conjure a chapter out of thin air for twenty-four days in a row. It was a wonderfully fun, challenging writing experience and the resulting novella is now available as a lovely little e-book.
As a woman who’d been through a rough few years, the sheer fresh joy of publishing what was essentially a debut novel again, and having it so well received by readers was actually quite a life saver. It gave me back a hefty wodge of confidence that had been slowly ebbing away and which came at just the right moment, as it coincided with a lot of changes at Arrow. It came at the time when I realised that, although I had devoted ten years of my life to them, my future no longer lay there. Scarlett got me through this time of personal and professional turmoil, she was and is in every sense of the word, light relief.
Which is why I am delighted that my second Scarlett novel Married by Christmas is published today.
Married by Christmas is the story of Anna, a woman who has overcome a difficult past to get almost everything she want in life. Anna is looking forward to the Christmas Eve wedding that she has been planning since she was a child, when she finds out that there is a slight technical hitch – her fiance is already married. Cue Anna’s quest to get the annulment papers signed in time to be Married By Christmas. It is, I hope, a funny, fun romantic book with a transatlantic journey to festive New York, snow flake themed wedding dresses, singsongs in bars and my particular favourite scene – a Reindeer drawn sleigh chase. I hope that readers will enjoy reading it just as much as I have writing it.
Which brings me to my other piece of news.
My lovely book Dearest Rose was the last book I will publish with Arrow books. And I am very happy to say, no delighted actually, that my next two Rowan Coleman novels, The Memory Book and One Night will also be published by Ebury Press.
So with both my identities now under one roof what will happen to Scarlett? Well, she will keep up her email address and her twitter account, she won’t make a fuss about the fact that she is Rowan Coleman, but if anyone asks her she won’t deny it either. The two of us can now happily co-exist side-by-side without having to remember which one of us we are supposed to be at any given moment. And as for that red wig? Well, its still comes out, every now and again….