Eva died last week. She hated euphemisms, so there’ll be no talk here of ‘passing away’ or ‘on’ or ‘over’. She died. The words are as simple as they are tragic.
As well as leaving six full-length novels, two collections of short stories and a novella (not to mention extensive notes and a half-finished manuscript for future Ingrid Skyberg adventures), Eva leaves another important legacy (and I’m not talking about her pop career, but this link will give you an idea). Her true legacy is one of inspiration both to me as I carry on her work, but also to anyone else who wants to forge a career as a novelist. What Eva achieved was remarkable, yet she believed there was nothing she did that the rest of us couldn’t do too.
It wasn’t that long ago that Eva worked at the Department For Education in Westminster managing their websites. She didn’t hate it, but she knew it wasn’t what she wanted to do with her life. She had always been creative, whether with music, or art, or design or technology. She wanted more out of life and one day she simply she decided she was going to write. And, boy, did she write.
To start with, she just read. Everything she could get her hands on. Piles and stacks and miles of books. Good books and bad books, as well as the odd great one, and she learned from all of them.
Then she studied. She joined creative writing groups, she bought manuals on how to develop character, how to build plots, and how to structure a novel. She took her new career very seriously.
And then she started writing.
Her first two novels, she freely admitted, weren’t all that good and were quickly consigned to the bottom drawer. But from writing them, she learned the discipline of sitting in front of a computer and acquired the habit of filling a blank screen with words. Her third novel was The Loyal Servant. It was so good that it won the inaugural Lucy Cavendish prize for fiction and was short listed for the Alan Titchmarsh new novelist award. Eva’s new career had begun.
Eva never sought a traditional publishing deal for her books. She’d read blogs by people like Joe Konrath and was inspired to take the indie route. She had been one of the dotcom pioneers in the late 90s and had a taste for entrepreneurship: indie publishing suited her perfectly.
Then came the diagnosis. Cancer. It didn’t stop her. Two more novels were produced within months. I remember her working away in the chemo ward, keen for nothing to slow her down. Then, a year later, she found out it was terminal. Her response? To write more! Ingrid Skyberg, an FBI heroine as resolute and determined as her creator was born. In a little over a year, Eva completed three full-length Skyberg novels, a novella-length prequel and a collection of Skyberg short stories. You can see where Ingrid gets her toughness, and her brilliance, from.
Eva hated that she was dying. She was angry, and sometimes distraught, that her life was being taken just as she had finally found the thing that not only was she was good at, but that she loved to do. But there were also times when she was so thankful that she had started writing, so grateful that she had worked out how to live a better, richer, more rewarding life. She made her living from writing. It’s a dream many of us have: her legacy isn’t just her books, it’s her story. I hope I told her enough how proud I am of her, and how much in awe of her I have always felt.
So pick up her books, but also pick up where she left off. You want to write? You want more for yourself? Then let Eva inspire you.
In the past few days, I’ve been sitting in her office, trying to get my head round her notes and sorting out a few things. On her whiteboard, it just says:
Sums her up perfectly. It’s my new mantra. Maybe it could be yours too?
And now, I’ll get to work on the fourth Ingrid Skyberg FBI Thriller. I’ll keep you all updated on my progress.
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