Monday, 4 October 2021

 Guest Post with Sarah Edghill

This week I am delighted to welcome onto the blog author, Sarah Edghill, whose debut novel, A Thousand Tiny Disappointments, has just been published by Bloodhound books. 

Welcome to the blog, Sarah. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your writing.

My name is Sarah Edghill and I have been making up stories since I was old enough to hold a pencil. When I was seven, my parents bought me a mustard-coloured Petite Junior typewriter and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Luckily none of my works of fiction from those early days remain in public circulation. Having finished a politics degree at university, I spent the summer doing work experience on four different women’s magazines, after which one of the editors offered me a job. I spent my career working as a journalist for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, before turning my hand to fiction about seven years ago.

Can you summarise your novel in just a few sentences?

It’s the story of Martha, whose mother dies unexpectedly and leaves her home to a stranger.
Juggling a difficult home life and getting no support from her uninterested husband or arrogant brother,
Martha is left facing the ultimate moral dilemma: should she carry out her mother’s last wishes, or destroy the evidence so no one will ever know?

Perhaps, you’d like to tell us about the journey to publication. 

It’s been a long one! About seven years ago, my husband enrolled me on a weekend Guardian Masterclass on fiction writing, which was inspirational. In just two days, the tutor gave us a lightning-fast overview of everything from plot development and characterisation, to dialogue and point of view – I came away with reams of useful notes. A year later I got a place on the six-month Faber Academy Novel Writing course, and by that time I was working on my second book (the first was truly dire). After the course ended, I began submitting that book to agents, with no success, and started writing something else. That third book got some interest from agents, but no offers, so then I wrote something else! By the time a publisher picked up A Thousand Tiny Disappointments, earlier this year, I had six previous novels tucked away in a drawer, three of which had been out on submission. Over the years I’d got quite knowledgeable about the submission process: I’d done a lot of research into literary agencies and which authors they had on their books. I usually started by going out to about a dozen agents, then – as the rejections trickled in – I’d send out to a few more. I had many requests for full manuscripts, and plenty of kind, personal rejections, but never made it any further than that. The breakthrough came when I started submitting directly to publishers. I’d had positive feedback from editors at Bookouture and Avon, then saw a tweet by a writer who was published by Bloodhound Books, saying how fantastic they’d been. I rattled off a submission and less than a fortnight later they got back to me and said they wanted to publish A Thousand Tiny Disappointments.

The characters in your novel appear very real and you successfully get into their heads, especially Martha’s. Did they come first or the story you wanted to tell? 

The idea came first: how would a daughter react, if her mother – to whom she’d always been close - effectively disinherited her? I then thought a lot about Martha and her relationship with her mother, Judith, and began to jot down notes. I would tap out a few hundred words on my laptop, then go away and mull on it, coming back to write some more the next day. So, from that initial starting point, I guess the plot and characters developed in tandem. Once I had Martha and Judith, the other characters began to fit in around them. I knew I had to throw an awful lot at Martha: make her life as difficult as possible and put her in a really tricky position. So, her husband and brother were important because they needed to make her life hard. Joe, her son, has a small part - in that he can’t personally influence events - but actually he was a vital character, because he shows us so much about Martha – what she’s been through, what she’s struggling with, how her life may pan out.

How would you like your readers to feel when they’ve finished reading your book?

I hope they’ll feel I’ve given them a satisfying ending. Some readers may think Martha lets herself be pushed around by her brother and her husband – and even by her mother. But she goes on a traumatic journey, and she emerges from it stronger, wiser and happier. She finds out who her friends are, and she discovers a lot about herself in the process. So, although this isn’t a typical ‘happy ending’ book – I hope readers will ultimately find it uplifting.

How much planning did you do for the novel?

I always used to be a pantser – flying by the seat of your pants – so I’d come up with an idea and feel so excited by it that I’d start writing with no real idea where I was going. That meant I got stuck regularly, not knowing what should happen, although invariably the next bit of the plot would eventually occur to me and I’d be off again. I wrote three books that way, and didn’t have much success with any of them. Probably because they needed a serious structural edit! But with A Thousand Tiny Disappointments, I planned the whole novel first, starting by writing a general ramble (which included character information, plot points and even snippets of dialogue). I then went through that and extended it. By the time I started writing, I had a detailed chapter breakdown. I still made changes as I went along, but the general plot was there for me to follow.

© Victoria Strauss

On a more general note, do you have a particular writing routine?

Sadly not. When I’m immersed in a particular project, I slip away and write whenever I have a spare moment and can escape from the domestic chaos. But some days there is no spare time. My youngest child is 17, so there isn’t endless parenting to be done, but I still do some journalism and work on an art magazine, plus we have two holiday cottages, and I do the cleaning and admin for those. So, there are days when no writing gets done, and other days when I have several empty hours stretching ahead of me – which I love!

What can readers look forward to next?

I started writing a new book at the end of 2020 and finished it early this year. I sent it out on submission a few months ago and was delighted when I was offered representation by Hannah Todd at the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency. This new book, Last Orders, is very different to A Thousand Tiny Disappointments – much lighter, possibly ‘cosy’, although I’m not sure I really like that description. But I’m currently working on the novel with Hannah and we’re hoping to submit it to publishers in the next couple of months.

What is the best piece of advice you’d like to give to a new writer?

Develop the skin of a rhino. Writing is full of disappointments – but that doesn’t mean you haven’t got talent and will never succeed. But it’s hard to keep believing in yourself when you get a stream of rejections, and it’s soul-destroying when you don’t even hear back from many of the agents or publishers you approach. But resilience is essential in this business, so pick yourself up again, brush yourself off and keep going.

Congratulations on getting an agent! What does that mean to you as a debut writer?

It means so much! It’s what I’ve been working towards for the last few years and I’ve been close on so many occasions, with agents sending me kind, personal rejections for books I’ve submitted, but saying they weren’t quite right for their lists, or they weren’t sure they could sell the book in the current climate. I’d long got past the stage of being excited when I saw an agent’s name appear in my email inbox – I was conditioned to expect it would be another rejection. When Hannah contacted me, things moved quickly: she emailed me on the Tuesday to say she’d just started at the agency and Madeleine had passed my book to her. We had a phone conversation on the Wednesday and I signed the contract the next morning. It was extraordinary, and almost surreal after I’d been waiting for exactly this, for such a long time. I was high as a kite for days and I’m now hugely looking forward to working with Hannah on my book. She is so positive and enthusiastic and has some great ideas for how we move forward.

If you were asked to tell us one thing about ‘the other me’, what would that be?

I drink too much wine and eat too much chocolate, but – to make all that possible – I do loads of exercise: tennis, netball, cycling, plus dog walking. There is nothing to beat the buzz you get from cardiovascular exercise. And afterwards, all the alcohol and chocolate can be guilt-free!

Thank you, Sarah. It's been fascinating to learn more about you and your writing. As you know, I loved A Thousand Tiny Disappointments and I hope the novel flies!


BLURB FOR ‘A Thousand Tiny Disappointments’:

Life is never perfect, but sometimes it’s just not fair.

Martha is being pulled in too many directions, trying to be a good mother, a loving wife and a dutiful daughter. Despite it all, she’s coping.

But then her elderly mother is rushed to hospital and dies unexpectedly, and it exposes the cracks in the life Martha is struggling to hold together. When she discovers her mother has left her house to a stranger, she’s overwhelmed by grief and hurt.

Getting no support from her disinterested husband or arrogant brother, Martha makes some bad decisions.

If she was a good daughter, she would abide by her mother’s final wishes. If she was a good daughter, she wouldn’t destroy the evidence.


Sarah Edghill worked as a journalist for many years, before turning to fiction. She attended the Faber Academy Novel Writing course, then went on to write two mediocre novels before a third (much better one) caught the eye of the judges and won the Katie Fforde Contemporary Fiction Award at Stroud Literary Festival. Since then she has written more novels and has been long- and short-listed in several short story and novel competitions and won 1st prize in the National Association of Writers’ Groups Short Story Competition. She lives in Gloucestershire with her husband, three (mostly grown-up) children and far too many animals. Her debut novel, A Thousand Tiny Disappointments was published by Bloodhound Books in September 2021. 

Links on Amazon/other platforms:

Blog and website:

FB Author page: Sarah Edghill Author

Twitter: @EdghillSarah

Instagram: Sarah.Edghill

Thank you for reading. Do you agree with Sarah's advice for a new writer? What would you add? 

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

See my books on Jan Baynham Author Page on Amazon.

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