How I came to find Bonnie and Stan (or different ways to sell a novel….)

The selling of Bonnie and Stan to Trapeze was one of the most unusual of my – admittedly brief – experiences of publishing so far. Not that I’m complaining. I’d worked for years to think up, write and try and sell novels but this one I sold to Trapeze within less than a month of first hearing the concept. It was something of a dream come true!

But let’s rewind a little, to my first publishing contract. For years in the early 2000s I was trying to find an agent for a contemporary novel I had written and finally, after much editing and redrafting, I managed to catch the attention of the lovely Kate Shaw. I signed to her in 2007 but despite her best efforts it was a really tough time for women’s fiction and we didn’t sell the novel.

I decided to switch to historical fiction and Kate backed me all the way. Even then, my first novel – about Queen Edyth, wife of Edward the Confessor – didn’t sell but we caught the attention of a couple of editors who were kind enough to say that they’d like to read more of my work and to suggest that they’d like a novel that included the climactic year of 1066. Fair point! One minor character in that original novel had sparked my interest so I looked into her more and uncovered a wonderful character who became the heroine of The Chosen Queen, a novel we finally sold to Pan Macmillan.

Mind you, not only did we sell it but, thanks to Kate emailing the day before submission to suggest that ‘trilogies are big at the moment so could you come up with the idea for two other books?’, we sold two more as well. I’d panicked at first before suddenly realising that if there were three kings fighting for the throne of England in 1066 there must have been three queens too – half an hour on wikipedia and there they were and with wonderful stories to tell. The Queens of the Conquest series was submitted and sold under the pen name Joanna Courtney.

So, what about Bonnie and Stan? Well that novel, I must confess, wasn’t even my own idea. That credit must all go to the fabulous Sam Eades, my now editor at Trapeze. She’d read an advert in the New York Times by a woman who was dying of cancer and seeking a new wife for her husband after she was gone. It was a poignant and moving piece and one Sam felt would work well in a novel. She, however, wanted to look at it as a man seeking a new husband for his wife and with an older protagonist. She approached Kate looking for an author to run with it and Kate very kindly thought of me. I was stunned when she called me up as it had been ages since I’d sent contemporary fiction to her but I was also very excited at the chance she was offering.

As luck would have it, I’d been thinking a lot at that time about the fact that today’s supposedly ‘old’ people are now a product of the revolutionary sixties and so I seized on the chance to explore that with Bonnie and Stan. Sam wanted to include flashbacks to when they first met and I figured that if we were going to set a romance in the swinging sixties there was no better place to do it than Liverpool. Plus, it was a fantastic excuse for a research trip! From there, Bonnie and Stan just quietly grew in my mind until I felt I knew them as well as my own family. I really loved writing their story and hope readers enjoy reading it every bit as much.

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Anna Stuart


Anna is the author of Bonnie and Stan, out in paperback May 31st 2019 with a second novel (yet to be announced!) due in 2020.

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