Caroline Corcoran - Through The Wall author on her life in Neston
- Credit: Donna Clifford
Caroline Corcoran spent years in London trying to write a book. Now, as her debut novel hits the Sunday Times Bestsellers list, she explains how a move to Neston finally allowed her to do it
'I took the most exciting phone call of my life in October 2018. I was running a bath, cooking some pasta and trying to find an episode of Paw Patrol on the TV planner for my two-year-old. All while waddling around with a six-month baby bump.
"We have an offer," said my agent Diana, as I frantically whacked some buttons on the TV remote then ran to the bathroom to turn off the water.
"Can you say that again?" I said, hoping I had heard her right in the chaos.
But I had, and that meant that whatever happened now, my first novel would be published.
It had been two and a half years since I started working on Through The Wall. I had written a young adult novel already that I had canned - and then toyed with a lot of other ideas. I'm a journalist and like a lot of others I've been trying to write a book I was happy with for my whole life. Inspiration finally came when I moved from north London to Neston, a small town on the Cheshire/Wirral border.
I'm originally from the north west but had been in London for 14 years by then. I still loved the city buzz but when we decided to relocate, it was time for something different.
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My partner Simon and I wanted to buy a house and couldn't afford London prices. We were lucky enough that we both worked from home, so we didn't need to be in the city for work. It suddenly dawned on us we had the freedom to live anywhere.
Relocating near to my family in Liverpool made sense. I was trying to get pregnant and my sister had not long had a baby, too. It would be brilliant to - hopefully - bring our children up living close to each other.
After all that time in London though, we didn't want to swap it for another city - that was half the point. We were staying in so much in our thirties that having London's culture and nightlife on our doorstep was increasingly wasted on us.
Instead we were at a life stage where we got excited about corner sofas and woodburners. We dreamed about drinking gin and tonics in our own garden and going out for bike rides at the weekend. We wanted walks in wellies and a whole load of other picture postcard things that people in London dream will happen when they move out of the city.
So instead we decided to think about Cheshire. We drove around a lot of areas and loved Marple Bridge particularly. But in the end, with our Liverpool links, being near to the Wirral border made sense. We loved the idea of being near the beach too, with places like Thurstaston and North Wales close by.
The whole picture made sense and I knew there would be massive life benefits. What I didn't realise is they would include a book deal - because something in our relocation to Cheshire finally made me get on with it.
I had been thinking about an idea for the book, about two women that lived next door to each other in flats in the city and become obsessed with each other's lives without meeting, for a while.
But I started writing it properly a month after we moved. In our three-bedroomed house in Neston, we were still surrounded by boxes but in the midst of them all was a brand new desk, just for writing.
In our old flat, I had been used to balancing my laptop on my knee or shifting piles of letters and pepper pots across the dining table (which was actually in the living room) before I could write. Having a physical work space made a huge mental difference.
I worked with the patio doors open in summer and found it relaxing. I no longer muttered about the distraction of buses going past every 30 seconds.
When I hit a wall in the writing I would meander around our house - which is not huge but seemed it compared to where we had been. I felt like I had room to breathe and figure out what came next for the characters.
I could potter in the garden for 20 minutes when I needed a break; in our old flat we had no outside space at all.
If I needed to get further away, I went for a walk through a field two minutes from my house or the nearby Wirral Way, surrounded by dog walkers and ramblers and people that somehow instilled their own sense of calm in me too.
Soon, I started turning down paid commissions to spend days on the book. That wasn't easy but buying in Cheshire meant I felt financially secure enough to do it. If we had bought in the south east, with its inflated prices, there's no way that would have been viable.
The one plus of leaving all my friends in London - the worst part of moving - was that I had a lot of time in the evenings, which quickly became writing time.
When our baby was born in July 2016, I worked while he napped, sometimes with him across me and the laptop by my side.
Moving house had kick-started something and even in the sleep-deprived fog of a newborn, I had a focus that I hadn't had before.
When my partner started working away for a few nights each week I ramped it up a gear and gave myself a deadline. By the end of his six-month contract in February 2018 - when he would stop going away - I would have a first draft of my book.
I figured until then I had no-one to watch Netflix and drink wine with in the evenings so I might as well use the time productively. It was that, or a lot of reality TV.
I told myself the draft didn't have to be perfect but it did have to be good enough that an agent could see it and tell me whether it had potential. If not, I could stop wasting my time.
Being a journalist, deadlines work for me and I completed a first draft on time and sent it off to an agent that an author friend had recommended to me. Diana, who works at Marjacq Scripts, got back quickly and we met up shortly afterwards. She liked a lot about the book but it definitely needed work. She wanted to help with that process though, and I was euphoric when she took me on as a client.
A few rounds of edits later and we were ready to send Through The Wall to publishers. I got a two-book deal with the brilliant Avon at Harper Collins and international deals followed. Through The Wall hit the shelves just a few days ago, and I have a second book to follow in 2020. I just might need to put a few more episodes of Paw Patrol on the planner though, if I'm going to make that deadline…
Through The Wall, published by Avon (Harper Collins) is out now.