Last week, a parcel arrived from China. Enclosed, was a beautiful hand-bound leather notebook, on the front of which are the opening words of my novel, A Memory of Violets. ‘Mammy once told me that all flowers are beautiful, but some are more beautiful than others.’
It is the most beautiful thing, but I had no idea who had sent it. It was a total mystery.
After sharing an image of the notebook on my Facebook page (how else are mysteries solved these days?), I received a message from my literary agent, Michelle Brower. It was a gift from her, to celebrate publication of the novel. The mystery was solved and I was blown away by her thoughtfulness.
This is the scene in the novel where my character, Tilly, discovers a lost diary in her bedroom at her new place of work in London:
‘Inside the box was a small leather-bound notebook, its cover worn and creased with age … Opening it carefully she read the inscription on the inside front cover:
For Little Sister
All flowers are beautiful, but some are more beautiful than others.
I will never stop looking for you.
I now have that fictional lost diary in my hands!
Michelle, an agent with Folio Literary Management in New York, first contacted me through a message on my Facebook page in May 2013. She had read my self-published novel The Girl Who Came Home on her Kindle and loved it. She wondered if I was represented by an agent and whether I had written anything else. I wasn’t represented at the time, and I had written something else – the book which became known as A Memory of Violets. After a phone conversation with Michelle, I instinctively knew she was the right agent for me. She secured my publishing deal with astonishing speed and brilliant advice and business savvy, and made my writing dreams come true after five years of trying. I have a printed copy of her Facebook message on the noticeboard above my desk. For a message that turned out to be so important, it seems incredibly simple.
They say that finding a literary agent is harder than finding a publisher. It is true. But I also know that finding the right literary agent is the really really important thing. I am incredibly lucky to work with Michelle, and her wonderful thoughtful gift says everything about the person she is.