The Progression of “The Manse”
I had been toying with writing for about three or four years, and had hand written about six novels, that, despite a huge effort to interest publishers remained mouldering in the filing drawer at home.
Then, one cold winter’s day, my husband and I travelled out to a small church in the Victorian countryside, to conduct a wedding. I played the piano and sang for the wedding, but as soon as my job was done, I’m afraid my mind and imagination was taken up by the little blue-stone church whose very walls seemed to call out to me. It was as if some romantic and dramatic story had taken place, and I needed to know what it was. Of course, that was just my imagination working over time. But from the day of that wedding onwards, I could not get that little church out of my mind, and I began to ask myself what had happened, and to whom.
The day it all began. Shelford Church – 1995
A story idea had begun to form in my mind, and I began to mull the plot over while thinking during the day, and even at night when I was supposed to be going to sleep. But because I’d had no positive response from any publishers with my first six novels, I didn’t think it worth the effort to actually put anything on paper.
In the meantime, my mother (the biggest fan a writer can have) had submitted one or two of my short stories to the CWA magazine, and they were duly printed. Then she suggested I write a serial story that could continue in each issue of this bi-monthly paper. I thought there was nothing to lose, and being as the story of “The Manse” was already in my head, and wanting to get out, I started to write on a regular basis for the South Australian Country Woman magazine.
Excerpt from the very first edition of “The Manse” Jan 1996
Well I wrote away happily, not very much each time, only enough to fill a page and a half in each issue. It was a little slow, and a bit frustrating, but it was an outlet, that apparently received positive response from the readers.
Then, the blow came in September 1997. The editor of SACW contacted me and asked me to write a conclusion, as the readers were getting frustrated. I nearly hyperventilated, as I had only just finished establishing the characters, and the main trouble. I was nowhere near beginning to work out the whole solution, and developing the romance etc. What to do??
It was at this point, during a church service, a visiting preacher from Wales was prancing all about the platform, preaching on I know not what, except that I remember him holding his Bible in the air and proclaiming firmly “take the opportunity!” He repeated this more than once, and immediately an idea sprang into my mind that seemed to me an opportunity I should take. I thought about it, and eventually put into action the plan. I earnestly undertook to write the entire story complete, spoke to the editor of SACW and asked if I might include a small advertisement with my ‘final’ segment, and set about consulting friends in the know about how to print a book.
I gave the readers an ‘ending’ – a little like the ending of ‘Back to the Future 2’, which is no ending at all, and encouraged them to order the complete novel from me.
A few good friends set about helping me shape up the manuscript into something that looked like a book, with a very budget looking cover that sported photographic images of my great-grandparents. I took the enormous risk of printing 300 copies, which my husband duly told me I would never get rid of.
The ‘budget’ edition of “The Manse” November 1997
Well I did sell 300 copies (298 as I still have 2), and some of the readers began to beg me for a sequel. I was confused and a little annoyed, as I had never thought of this story in terms of it continuing in any way, but one persistent reader said that she was going to pray the God would give me a sequel. This really annoyed me, and I thought it was just plain silly. I went from that interview to the grocery shop, and while I was putting groceries in the shopping trolley (who knows what I bought) I hit on a central character carried over from “The Manse” and by the time I got the groceries back into the car, the entire plot for “Green Valley” was in my head!
From there I contacted a friend I knew from the Christian distribution industry, and asked him if he thought it worthwhile pushing this book through the Australian Christian bookshop network. He had his mother-in-law read the ‘budget’ version, and she really liked it. He said to go ahead and as long as I put more effort into the covers, he would give it a try.
I got busy and produced “Green Valley” and “The Manse” (the new version) and really stepped out on a limb and printed 1500 copies. Being as there were now two books, there had to be a series name, and so “The Heart of Green Valley” series was born.
The new version “The Manse” July 1998
Well, my distributor friend and one of his sales reps did an outstanding job of representing these two books to the Christian market, and within no time at all, I had to do a reprint – another 1500 copies each, and this also seemed to just wiz through from the shelves, and so another print was ordered, this time 2500 for “The Manse” and another 1500 for “Green Valley”.
As of mid 2003, both “The Manse” and “Green Valley” stocks ran so low that I had to declare them both out of print. By this time, 5,800 copies of “the Manse” were circulating somewhere out there, mostly in Australia, but a few copies had made their way to overseas readers.
Meanwhile I continued to write and publish more books. The “Heart of Green Valley” series now has 5 titles, and I have published 3 other titles of my own, and 2 titles for other writers. All the while this has been going on, I have continued to believe that God would open up the international market. I had given up on trying, myself, as it seemed to be a futile exercise. Then, one day, a fellow Australian author called me to say that he had just had one of his books accepted by an English publishing company, and that he had told them that I was a wonderful author of Christian fiction (which was high praise as he’d never actually ever read any Christian fiction, especially mine). But despite this neglect, the publisher was open to having a look, and I was able to send him copies of the Green Valley series. Authentic Media UK have just this month released the new and improved version of “The Manse”, which I have high hopes will be enjoyed by readers of a broader community. The new cover was still the result of the efforts of my Australian team, and myself and we have given my great-grandparents a rest, and now used some young Australian models.
If you’ve never read “The Manse” or any of the Green Valley books, I’d love for you to have a try. I feel very sure you will be encouraged and inspired by the stories.
The new and improved version of “The Manse” Jan 2004
To accompany this new look it was only right that we brought the book to life with a video introducing the characters and the plot. It was produced at a picturesque location in the Adelaide Hills.
It is now 2016, and I have just finished writing a 20th Anniversary edition of ‘The Manse’. It is the same story and the same characters, but the novel has undergone a complete makeover.
Last year I released a sixth title in the ‘Heart of Green Valley’ series. I’m hoping that a new generation of readers will pick up ‘The Manse’ and link in with the series that has been very popular in Australia and the UK.
If you are from overseas, and haven’t had an opportunity to read any of my novels, they are available from Amazon UK.