Here’s an inspiring story for aspiring fiction writers every where. Renee Knight’s first novel is being published next week.
She is 55 years old.
There is always hope.
Disclaimer: Renee Knight.
Renee Knight’s debut novel isn’t even in bookshops yet but already, among both publishers and the select band of regular Amazon previewers allowed an advance peep at her “chiller”, Disclaimer, it is being talked about excitedly as “the new Gone Girl“.….
“It’s all a bit dizzying,” admits the slight, youthful 55-year-old mother of two teenagers, as she settles back into an outsized armchair in her own calm, ordered family home in north London. Knight fidgets and shuffles until she’s comfortable and ready for her first interview. “I’m still waking up and pinching myself.”
Since leaving her job as a TV documentary-maker a dozen years ago because she was struggling to balance its “all-or-nothing” working ethos with raising her children, she has been busily writing away in her garden shed. And not getting much outside encouragement.
“It has been lonely,” she says, smiling. “There have been times when I have wondered if I was mad, if I was only ever going to be writing just for myself.”
….. When she then tried her hand at fiction, she found an agent, but her first novel was turned down by every publisher who read it.
Was she tempted to throw in the towel? “What made it particularly hard was that I had another friend who was also trying to write a novel. We were working in parallel and would email at the end of each week to say, ‘how’s it going?’, or ‘how many words have you done?’ And her novel was sent out at the same time as my first one and caused a huge auction among publishers.”
That was, she says, “a reality check. It made me realise that to carry on I had to really like writing, and not expect to make any money at all. And that is what writing is for me. I feel grumpy if I can’t do it. It’s my way of clarifying things.”…
Writing careers that take off later in life than the norm have a particular resonance with everyone who, somewhere in their heart of hearts, believes they have a novel in them. There is, Knight acknowledges, a wider lesson to what has happened to her. “I feel as if I have spent the past two decades with people telling me, ‘Wait until you turn 50, you’ll become invisible, everything will start to narrow down, your choices will be fewer and fewer’. And now the opposite is happening. Suddenly doors are opening everywhere.”….