Professional Writing MA alumni signs book deal with major publisher

20 June 2024

claire frances
claire frances
Type: Text
Category: Industry insights, Interviews

Professional Writing MA graduate Claire Frances has signed a two-book deal with HarperCollins UK’s award-winning imprint, One More Chapter. 

The first book in the contract, Someone Like Pearl, draws on Claire’s experience with living with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and will be published in early 2025.
Someone Like Pearl explores what happens when 27-year-old Pearl, who lives with OCD, pushes herself outside her comfort zone in search of a real connection. Pearl finds solace in the small routines of her life – lunch with her best friend, talking with her therapist and working in the local shop. Her other routines, from needing to count to ten before she can go up or down the stairs, to obsessively sanitising her hands pose more of a problem, that is until Jack enters the picture...

Claire graduated in 2012 after specialising in fiction, and went on to write for BBC Countryfile Magazine, Devon Life and was a host blogger for The Huffington Post UK. Reflecting on her time at Falmouth, she says “The course played a huge part in her dream of becoming a published author ... fast forward a few years and that dream has come true!” 

We asked Claire about her time at Falmouth, and how it prepared her for life beyond university. 

What were you doing before starting your MA?

Before studying for my master's, I worked as a journalist for two years. Before that, I did a creative writing course with The Open University and a Diploma in Print Journalism and Radio. I brought a portfolio of my work along to the interview at Falmouth,and was accepted onto the course without a formal degree based on my passion, experience and other qualifications. I was so happy because I felt like I was finally going to make my dream of writing books a reality! I was 28 when I got accepted, and 30 when I finished, so classed as a mature student. 

What drew you to go on to study a master’s in Professional Writing?

I liked that the course covered different aspects of professional writing; not just fiction, because I wanted to earn a living writing professionally while working towards my dream of becoming an author. I always wanted to write a book but didn’t know where to start. 

I was working two jobs at the time and couldn't study full time, I also lived in Tavistock so the commute to Falmouth every day would have been too far. The course was available part-time over two years when I studied, and this really appealed to me. I remember thinking how fantastic the course sounded and I was so excited when I was accepted onto it.

claire frances

How was your experience with the course?

I loved the course! There was a lot of support from the tutors. It was great to be a part of a community of writers – it is easy to feel ‘alone’ when writing, but not necessarily ‘lonely’ – I am always surrounded by lots of interesting characters and places in my head. 

While writing my debut novel, Someone Like Pearl, I was in New Zealand and Ireland having a great time (metaphorically speaking!) even though I was sitting at my kitchen table! So being able to bounce ideas off other writers was great. The course was fun, and interesting and I learnt a lot about how to write professionally, not just in fiction.

How did the course prepare you for a career as a writer? 

I learnt so much about tone of voice, trying out different types of point of view, how to write dialogue, showing not telling, the importance of the opening line in a novel, description, etc. I was also assigned a mentor – the brilliant bestselling author Emily Barr. She really encouraged me throughout and was a great champion for the book I was writing at the time.

The course helped me to feel confident moving forward to become an author and made me feel like it wasn’t just a dream - it was possible! 

What would your advice to aspiring writers be?

My advice is quite simple: don’t give up. My book deal didn't just happen. It took years and tears and a lot of self-belief!

I remember being in my twenties (I’m 42 now) and reading the back of PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern. I was reading her bio and saw that HarperCollins published it, and I thought: that is my dream.

My first book never went anywhere. In fact, I deleted it all but the first page. It then turned into my second book, which got me an agent. I stayed with that agent for 14 months and re-wrote the book four times only to part ways with the agent in the end because it just wasn't working.

I resubmitted the book to more agents, had another offer, and re-wrote the book for the fifth time, but then the agent left the agency! I felt like I was back in the trenches of trying to get an agent. I decided I wanted to try and stay with the agency, so I resubmitted again to a different agent, who made me an offer of representation.

I partially re-wrote the book for the sixth time only for it to go on submission and not get a book deal. I had wonderful feedback from big five publishers but it wasn’t quite right for them. So that was four years of hard work on one book, rewritten six times - and no one ever read it!

I started another book, got 17,000 words in but I just wasn’t feeling it. Luckily, my brilliant agent told me not to be afraid to start again (and let’s face it, I’d done so much of that it was like second nature to me!), so I did.

I told her about an idea I had about a woman in her twenties with severe OCD in search of a real connection. 

She told me to go for it and I wrote the book in four months. It went out on submission shortly after and I got a two-book deal with my dream publisher, One More Chapter at HarperCollins. They are referring to Someone Like Pearl as “The Irish Bridget Jones”!

What’s more, when they made the offer, they told me the book reminded them of Holly’s adventures in PS I Love You. I couldn’t believe it! It was like a dream come true for me that the publisher I dreamt of having now wanted me.

It's going to be sold in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and America, and will be available in print, audio and eBook.

I also got a book deal in the Netherlands and the book will be translated into Dutch, too.  

So, my advice is simple: you don’t give up on something you love. It might be hard, you might come across hurdles and setbacks, but those hurdles and setbacks will help you hone your craft and get better at what you do. You never know how close you are. If you don’t do it, you’ll never have it. But if you do, you stand a chance. So just keep going.


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