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Beth O'Leary has wanted to be a writer for as long as she could read. In this exclusive piece, find out how Beth came to write The Wake-Up Call in secret, and in doing so rediscovered her childhood joy for writing, and deliver her most joyous novel yet.

Sitting here at my writing desk, with a pile of my books on the windowsill in front of me, I can still hardly believe I get to do this job.

I have wanted to be an author ever since I was a child. I finished five novels before my first published novel, The Flatshare, many of which I tried sending out on submission to agents, so though I actually got my publishing deal very young – in my early twenties – for me, I had been dreaming of it for a lifetime.

As a child, I wrote for the same reason I read so many books: it delighted me. It whisked me away, made me feel I could be anybody; I could spend whole days in made-up worlds, ones of my own creation. It felt magical, like a superpower, almost – the ability to make things up. I loved writing stories from the moment I could hold a pencil.

And now here we are, four international bestsellers later… and it feels like the perfect moment to talk about that childhood passion for writing, because my fifth book, The Wake-Up Call, was all about rediscovering that joy.

I never lost the love for writing, but without really noticing, I think some of the pure, childlike delight of it had faded away over the last couple of years. I was spending so much of my time thinking about my writing and was so aware of my wonderful readership waiting for me to deliver – I didn’t want to let them down. I was too in my own head.

The Wake-Up Call was actually a secret little side project I began one Boxing Day, sat out in the rain while my baby snoozed in the pram. I was under contract to write a different book – one I am still writing, and still love with all my heart, but a book that is wildly ambitious and has stretched me to the limit. The Wake-Up Call was my guilty procrastination: I found my mind wandering there when I ought to be thinking of other things. It was a book I promised to nobody, that nobody expected, and writing without expectation reminded me of what it meant to write purely for joy.

I revelled in it. I wrote the first draft of The Wake-Up Call in a heady rush, over just four months, and I wrote exactly what I wanted to read at that time: an uplifting, cosy, warm book full of sparky romance and humour. It was pure, uncomplicated, unadulterated fun.

Each of my novels means something special to me. The Switch was my tricky second novel, written when my confidence was lowest – I am so proud of it now, with its fierce women and the quirky community at its heart. The Road Trip was the book in which I let myself experiment, playing around with a slightly darker tone, exploring hedonistic summery first love. That book gave me the confidence to write The No-Show, in which three women’s stories are woven together in a novel more complexly plotted than anything I’d attempted before.

And now there is The Wake-Up Call: my most joyful book. The book that helped me rediscover the magic of making things up. I hope that joy shows on every page, and brings you some happiness, too.

Beth O'Leary

Beth O'Leary

The Wake-Up Call is available online and at your local Dymocks store.

The Wake-up Call
Beth O'Leary

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