‘I published my first book at 50 – it’s never too late to live your dream’ – Becky Ward

Three questions were running through my mind on Boxing Day 2020… What is the bestselling novel of the last decade? (A whopping fifteen million people bought the Fifty Shades books.) What is the most watched series on TV? (It might not be top, but around nine million viewers tune into Strictly Come Dancing every week.) What would happen if I combined the raciness of one with the romance of the other and turned it into a book of my own? And with that, my first published novel, The Dance Deception, was born.

That day I grabbed my laptop and started writing with no real plan beyond a new reality dance show where real people rather than celebrities were the contestants. Maybe the protagonist would fall for her dance instructor (spoiler alert: she does). Maybe there could be some sort of scandal (you guessed it, there is). Maybe… maybe some other ideas would come to me if I just kept throwing words on to the screen.

I probably wrote about 4,000 words in total that day. We were still in the throes of Covid restrictions so I had plenty of spare time on my hands. I was working full-time but from that point on, evenings and weekends were set aside for writing my feel-good, steamy rom-com.

Time wise, it helped that I was single. But that wasn’t so handy when it came to writing some of the raunchier scenes. In the end a fully clothed male friend volunteered to act them out with me to make sure they were realistic!

I hit 20,000 words fairly quickly and felt optimistic. It was coming together more easily than I expected. But five months later, at 80,000 words, I still didn’t have an ending, and I didn’t write anything more for almost seven weeks while I struggled to decide on one.

I wondered if The Dance Deception was going to end up in the box under my bed with all my previous attempts at writing. I’d always dreamed of being an author and there was a ‘choose your own adventure’ book I wrote when I was around ten, two and a half chick lit novels and a crime thriller in that box. I’d had some positive feedback on the later efforts, but I’d come to believe getting published was something that just happened to other people.

Back to the summer of 2020 and finally, seven months after starting The Dance Deception, I managed to complete the first draft. I was thrilled. But oh, the disappointment when I read it through. I still had faith in the premise of the book, but large parts of it were so clunky.

I wasn’t ready to give up though. So with renewed determination, I set about editing the 100,000-word document. I edit magazine copy for a living – surely it wouldn’t be too hard? But it was. Another six months passed before I was satisfied and ready to test the latest version out on my friends.

Thankfully the feedback was unanimously positive. They even begged me for a sequel. Their incredible enthusiasm spurred me on to look for an agent and I was lucky – approaching only five who were open to submissions from unknown authors and being signed straight away by Ki Agency, who blew me away with their belief in my work.

Once the contractual paperwork was out of the way, we set about editing one more time, tweaking and sharpening the copy until we were ready to pitch it to publishers in August 2022. I’ve been asked many times since if I ever got bored of reworking the same words over and over, but I can honestly say I never did. I wanted it to be the very best version of itself.

A publishing deal swiftly followed, from Avon Books, a division of HarperCollins, and I couldn’t have been more delighted, even if it meant yet more editing. I’d start just as soon as I’d finished my celebratory champagne.

Finally, in March 2023, more than two years after the idea first popped into my head and five months after my 50th birthday, work on The Dance Deception was complete. It was ready to make its way out into the world.

There were so many amazing moments in the weeks leading up to its summer release – seeing the cover design for the first time, holding a copy in my hands for the first time. It was so exciting watching everything come together. There was the odd anxiety-inducing moment too. A twenty-second promotional clip for Instagram took me two hours to capture on film because I was so nervous! And at my first ever radio interview my palms sweated more than I knew was possible.

I’m so glad I persevered with writing The Dance Deception though. It may have taken a long time and a lot of hard work, but seeing copies on shop shelves for the first time and getting my first five star review has made it all worth it.

So what happens now? Well I’m hoping it does well, of course – and if Netflix decides to turn it into a miniseries that would be the absolute dream! But for now I’ll just start throwing some new words into a document on my laptop because you never know where it might lead…

The Dance Deception (£8.99, Avon Books) is out now at Asda stores nationwide and all good bookstores online

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