2021 All Wrapped Up

A look back on 2021 - from The Kissing Booth 3 to a new house and more.

Well, it's been a while (a very good long while, to say the least) since I posted on here, but for the last few years I've done a sort of wrap-up post, looking back on the year. A bit of radio silence here on my blog didn't seem like any reason to miss 2021!

This year hasn't exactly been 'back to normal', but it's definitely felt a lot closer. I spent most of 2020 alone, but moved back to Wales near my family this year - which seems as good a place as any to kick off a list of all the wonderful, whirlwind year.

(Because hey, I'm not prone to being a glass half-empty sort of person, so this is going to be a positive sort of look on a still-weird, still-tricky year.)

I bought a house!

I've been looking for a house since pre-pandemic. I've been saving up towards one since I was 17 and got my first book deal (nine years ago, now!) and this year, I finally put that money down on a deposit.

I've been living in Solihull (the West Midlands) for the last few years and had been looking to buy there. I'd even put an offer in on a place. But, after having to drive back on Christmas night last year to spend the rest of the holidays alone instead of with family, after being away from everybody for most of the year, after some family members being unwell... I made the decision at the stroke of midnight on New Year's this year to move home instead. Wales has always been 'home', really, as much as I'd liked Solihull.

By the end of January, I'd found a perfect house near my family, and by April, I had the keys and was moving in. (I say 'perfect' - it needed A LOT of work, but it's getting there!) It was perfect for me, at least, with a brilliant garage conversion I use as an office. The kind of office I dreamed of, where I could put up several bookshelves, with plenty of light, and even enough room for a slim Christmas tree.

It's still a bit odd to have my own home. To be able to put my books (as in, the ones I've authored) up on display instead of hoarding them in boxes as I've been doing for years. To hang things on the wall! To paint the walls! To feel like it's mine, and I'm not beholden to someone else if there's a scuff on the door. (Except, perhaps, my eagle-eyed mother whenever she visits.) It's been nice to pick out furniture, to set up bookshelves, to not feel like it's all 'just temporary'. 

And it's been nice to not be so afraid of my finances, which brings me to my other big win of the year...

I gave up the day job, and took the plunge to be a full-time author!

In case you weren't aware, I've had a regular old 9-5 office job working in IT for an energy company since 2017. Before that, briefly, I worked in finance, after graduating university. (I studied physics.) It was what I saw myself doing when I was growing up, what I wanted to do - but due to the company being taken over, my job had become stagnant. I wasn't being challenged, there wasn't enough to keep me properly busy, and there wasn't enough 'new' to keep me interested or push me. I'd been hanging around for the end, thinking I might as well before I moved somewhere else, but that end kept moving further and further away.

So, finally, at the end of June, I handed in my notice. I'd also decided that it was time to give being a full-time writer a go - at least for a while. My day job has meant I've turned down opportunities before now, or not been able to throw myself into things on the writing side as much as I would've liked to. I've had a career as an author alongside studying or work for almost ten years; it would be nice to focus on just one, for a while. 

And, since buying my house, I wasn't 'hoarding' my savings with the promise of putting down a deposit one day so much anymore. I'd done that. With a better grip on my savings, my mortgage, my spending (thanks to years of budgeting and tracking my spend) I felt more secure in not having the steady salary of a day job. It's still a risk - but one I felt more comfortable taking now. 

It's been three months now, and I've gotta say: it's really bloody nice to have a day off that's a day off, and not 'a day off so I should probably get some book work done'.

Ten years of The Kissing Booth and the end of an era!

Moving on to some more bookish accomplishments now: in April, I celebrated ten years since I began writing The Kissing Booth and sharing it on Wattpad. (Ten years! Can you believe it?) And in August, still sans-premiere party as the pandemic continued, I saw in the end of an era when The Kissing Booth 3 was published and the movie released on Netflix.

The release of TKB3 was a weird one. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye to my characters - they've been part of my life since I was 15 years old, and have shaped my career and my life - but it also felt like the right time to say goodbye to them. It really was the end of an era, but it was the perfect one.

Part of the reason I felt ready to say goodbye was because I was ready to welcome in the next chapter: one where I was leaving the day job behind, finally had my own home, and was working on New Adult books rather than YA ones. 

Working on my tenth published book, and writing some new ones!

In case you missed it (or skimmed the last paragraph too quickly), I've been working on New Adult books more recently: characters who are twenty-somethings rather than teenagers. In 2020, I shared a book on Wattpad called Lockdown on London Lane, a collection of short stories of twenty-somethings stuck on lockdown in the same apartment building. Kind of like Love Actually, but in quarantine.

Excitingly, we sold Lockdown on London lane to publishers (it's being published as Love, Locked Down in the UK) and this year, I worked on edits for it and then, later this year, finally had early review copies to hold. I've never actually had advance copies like that of any of my books, so it was especially thrilling.

Outside of edits on that, I've also worked on a couple of other new books: I did a few edits on a new Christmas novel I wrote last year, wrote a brand-new book I'm very excited about (and will hopefully be able to say more about soon) and am currently 25,000 words into another new novel. 

(Have I mentioned how nice it is to have all this extra time to write, now?)

What else?

What else indeed! I won't bore you (or me, next year, when I look back on this) with many more details but there were a few more things from this year I managed to tick off my list of goals for 2021.

I've kept up my Duolingo streak and worked on learning three languages this year - my Polish is now extremely basic (a step up from 'virtually non-existent'), I brushed up on my Portuguese and my German's getting pretty good these days, too. 

I saw a lot more of friends and family this year. Mostly because of vaccines and the lockdown restrictions lifting, but also because I moved back to Wales. I still hung out with friends plenty online, too, whether they were just down the road for a virtual Christmas get-together, or across the pond for some Dungeons and Dragons. (My chaotic hill dwarf bard may be one of my favourite characters I've ever created, next to Lee Flynn.)

I guested on some brilliant podcasts - from Bacon and Eggs with my friends Ethan and Tyler (Go Wildcats!), to The Newest Olympian with Potterless' Mike Schubert, to Sincerely Us where I replaced Becca for a week to gush about the unofficial Bridgerton musical with Iny - all of which were great fun.

I donated my hair, which, for someone who rarely has more than 'just a trim', was quite a chop. I'd barely had my hair cut during the pandemic and it was already pretty long, so this year I got it chopped to a bob and donated almost 13 inches.

And lastly, I've beat my reading goal (for once!) and just finished my 30th book of the year - more than I've read in the last three years, combined.

2021 has been packed full of wonderful things. It's been packed full of weirdness and tricky times, and we're still a long way from 'back to normal', but there are plenty of reasons to be grateful, and to be excited about the new year.

So here's to 2021, and all it brought - and Happy New Year, for 2022!

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