MIKE JOHNSON - I started writing late in life. Age sixty four to be exact so I suppose that comes under the category: it’s never too late to learn! I’m English from the county of Yorkshire but moved to Spain in the year 2000. My writing career began after meeting other published author’s here on the Costa del Sol. My first novel; Dragon - written in long hand at first would you believe – was edited by my wife who I found was more than capable – and far less expensive – than the Publishers. The next two novels in the series; The Korean Connection and The Buddha in Ice followed soon after. It may be of interest to learn the wrap around front covers were designed by me, and illustrated by a local design company. You have no idea how cost effective that is for a first time writer self-publishing? In between these novels I began writing short stories: The Little Home on Wheels was one of them, but my readers wanted to know; what happened next? The story begins here in Spain in places I have visited and know well.
THE WRITER by Mike Johnson
My name is Joanne Miller and I’m a writer. Actually I suppose I should call myself a novelist or even a celebrity nowadays. I’m after all on the television and in the gossip magazines quite a bit. But I suppose I should start at the very beginning as Maria would say in the song!
DECEMBER – NEW YORK
I met Daniel at the Christmas office party. Talk about a cliché?
I worked for a local newspaper at the time and still did up until a few months ago. I loved my work and even if I say so myself; my gossip column was pretty good. My editor had just got me a raise in salary so I was even more ready to party; and I was single!
Daniel was also a journalist but with a rival newspaper with a circulation quite a lot bigger than ours. He wasn’t bad looking and got more handsome as I stacked up the martini glasses.
I think women give off some kind of scent when they get horny? Or maybe it was the way I was now beginning to leer at him across the room that made him introduce himself.
I think you can guess how the night turned out?
Two days later at work my desk phone rang. I get calls all day long so it took me a few seconds to realise who it was ‘Oh hello I wasn’t expecting you to call so quickly’ I stammered already blushing and trying to talk as quietly as possible. Big mistake that as everyone in the office now knew it was a personal call.
‘Oh dear Joanna you’ve got the after the office party regrets already?’ he sighed chuckling.
‘Oh no sorry I’m just a little busy maybe we can discuss this later?’
Discuss this later! What the hell was I talking about silly bitch!
‘Ok how about this evening?’
Well I had to agree just to get off the phone. The rest of the office were now straining to hear my conversation. I wrote gossip not made it!
I did meet Daniel that evening and realised it wasn’t just the martini’s that had attracted me. He was nice looking but that wasn’t it. I just felt like I had met a friend. Three weeks later we moved in together.
Our relationship lasted over two years which was definitely a first for me but in the end it was our work that made us drift apart. The job offers to work as a roving reporter all over the world was too good for him to pass up. When I moved apartments he didn’t come with me.
I was single again but dating was very far from my mind. The newspaper now had a new editor who I liked enormously and got on with like a house on fire. I did have a slight crush on him but that didn’t excuse the one-night stand. He was married and I knew it.
The next day I felt as guilty as hell. I also was not taking any precautions so I told myself to visit the local pharmacy just to make sure there were no problems! That day a big story broke and I was inundated with phone calls and typing. Six weeks later I got the morning sickness. I took the test but I already knew the result would be positive.
My god how could I have been so stupid? Two years with Daniel and not a problem. A one night-stand and I’m pregnant.
I considered not telling the father but that wouldn’t have been fair. When I did his reaction surprised me to say the least.
‘Joanna I must confess all this to my wife’ he told me ‘but I will of course help in any way you want me to’
What a nice guy he was. A week later he asked me to meet him at a restaurant to discuss something very important. I did; but I wasn’t expecting his wife to be with him.
‘Hello Joanna its very nice to meet you, please call me Emma!’ she said giving me a friendly hug.
Now come on; you must be thinking; what was going on? Her husband had just told his wife he had got another woman pregnant and she was treating the said woman like an old family friend?
The husband by the way wasn’t looking guilty either. He was actually looking quite pleased with himself albeit a little sheepish.
‘Hello Emma’ I replied. I was then just about to say how sorry I was but she stopped me dead.
‘I know exactly what you are going to say Joanna but please don’t. What I would like you to do is listen to me carefully. When I have finished I would then like you to go away and consider my proposal carefully. Would you do that?’
When she had finished her story everything became clear. Emma was barren!
They had been trying for years to conceive a child until the doctors finally admitted it was never going to happen. They wanted a child; mine!
At first I considered the proposal was ridiculous but the more I mulled it over the more I realised it was the perfect solution. Don’t get me wrong I would have brought my child up in a loving home but Emma was so sincere in her wanting his child that in the end I agreed.
Now how do you go about having a baby without the rest of the world knowing about it?
Well I don’t know how but we did; but what does a pregnant mother do if she is resting at home all day out of site from everyone; especially if she has worked as a gossip columnist for such a long time? She gets out her lap-top and starts writing that’s what she does.
Eight weeks and the novel was finished. How this happened so quickly I still couldn’t tell you but the words just seemed to flow onto the page. Two weeks after the baby was born I was back at work trying to fend off questions about my sabbatical!
The trouble now was what to do with the novel?
I needed someone to edit it. I was not arrogant enough to believe it didn’t need to but who could I trust?
In the end I collared the one person in the office I could trust to keep quiet. Her name was Lucy and she was our very own proof editor.
‘You’ve written a novel how wonderful’ she gushed. Lucy was a wonderful woman who still believed in Father Christmas. We had known each other for years and she was the nicest person you could meet.
‘You must promise me not to tell anyone. The reason will become obvious when you read the novel’
‘You did say it was fiction didn’t you?’
‘Well yes but just let’s say the characters are a little too close for comfort shall we?’
Lucy did the editing but when she asked to meet me discreetly I thought something was wrong. Was the story that bad I thought starting to panic.
When we met she flung her arms around me and started crying ‘I’m sorry if the book upset you Lucy’ I said feeling really bad.
‘Upset me!’ she said moving away ‘Yes it upset me. I haven’t stopped crying since the second chapter. Your novel is incredible’ she told me sniffing and wiping her eyes ‘and now I know why you don’t want anyone to know you are the author and why you’ve been away for so long’
‘Oh dear is it that obvious?’
‘To me it is. Oh Jo why didn’t you confide in me. You know I wouldn’t have said anything’
It was now my turn to cry. I had come to terms with giving up my baby but suddenly I was gripped with a terrible feeling of guilt. I needed someone to talk to and Lucy was the perfect therapist.
‘What do you want to do now, about getting it published I mean?’
‘God!’ I said genuinely stumped ‘I actually never considered having it published’
‘But you must Jo. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you it’s the most gripping and heart-warming story I have every read’
A bit over the top but I did manage a very satisfied smile ‘ok let’s do it, but under a pseudonym’
Now working for a newspaper does have its advantages especially for a first time writer. An old school friend who was now a publisher agreed to do me a favour and proof read the novel. A week later I was signing a contract. Like I said it’s not what you know it’s who you know as the saying goes.
This was all happening very fast. Any first time writer will tell you the frustration in getting someone to read your novel let alone publish it. But like I said working for a newspaper has its advantages.
What really shook me was six months later it was on the Best Seller list.
It was at this point my publisher started quoting contractual agreements and all the other stuff I had not bothered to read carefully.
My anonymity was about to come to an end.
A media specialist was appointed to work with me. By now the press and T.V. where already speculating who the mysterious author was. My publisher also had just informed me a movie contract was in the pipeline.
‘Jesus what have I done?’ I suddenly thought to myself. The whole world will know that I have been a surrogate mother; what will they think of me? The panic was already setting in and it didn’t help when my media specialist told me I was booked to appear on a late night chat show.
Bloody hell I’m going to be a scarlet woman on national T.V!
The chat show host had been one of my favourites for a long time. Thankfully he was as nice in the flesh as he was on T.V. It was a big scoop for him introducing the author everyone on the country had been speculating about. How we managed to keep me a secret I’ll never know but we did. What I wasn’t expecting was the reaction of the audience when I made my appearance.
I actually had to look around thinking some pop star had come in after me. The applause was deafening and made me just stand there speechless for a while. Thankfully I found my voice and did the interview.
Within a week the book sales had soared. It would be a long time before I caught up with some of our more successful authors but it was in the right direction.
The next day I went to work as usual. Looking back, I still can’t believe I was so naive in thinking nothing had changed. The first thing I noticed was the Paparazzi milling about at the entrance. I actually knew most of them personally because I had done the same thing on many occasions. The proverbial shoe however was now definitely on the other foot so I did what other celebrities did; I used the back entrance.
The second I entered the office I was mobbed. Lucy was in tears again but the relief on her face was obvious. She had let her role in publishing the novel become known and had not stopped answering questions all morning.
‘I think our new editor wants to see you?’ she whispered.
I’d telephoned the father of my child a few days ago to put him in the picture ‘thanks for letting me know Jo it makes my decision to accept a new job offer that much easier. My wife loves the book by the way!’
The new editor was an old friend and well known in the business. He offered his congratulations then politely advised me it would be a problem having me as the papers gossip columnist ‘sorry Joanne but you may well turn out to be more famous than the person you’re interviewing’ he said pointing to the T.V monitors in the office.
I couldn’t argue; my face was appearing on the screen every half an hour.
In many ways I was sad to leave but it did make one thing easier; writing the next novel!
Since finishing the first one my head had been swimming with ideas. I’d been a gossip writer for many years and wasn’t short of events and people to draw from. Time to get the lap-top warmed up again I decided.
The one big difference between working in a busy office and working at home was the lack of people to converse with. Within a month I was lonely and starting to have conversations with the cat. Oh don’t get me wrong there were more interviews and a constant stream of phone calls but that was classed as business now. I missed my friends; one in particular. I was also a little peeved he hadn’t called me to offer his congratulations.
When the call did come I was ready to bite his head off. I didn’t.
We met the next day. I knew instantly that I was still in love with him but did he feel the same, and was it really possible to carry on from where we left off?
Well that’s my story so far. A fairy tale one some may say; but who says it can’t happen to anyone. All you have to do is get started and hope for the best. Oh by the way. Daniel and I are getting married next month; I really missed my friend.