A Letter to My Pre-Published Self [GUEST POST]

Tools of the trade

Historical mystery writer E.M. Powell offers words of encouragement to unpublished authors everywhere, including her younger self, in this candid letter. (Photo by Chris Blakeley, Flickr)

If you enjoy reading mysteries just as much as you like historical fiction, we bet you’re really going to take a shine to the work of E.M. Powell. Her new novel, The King’s Justice (published under Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint) starts a thrilling new series of medieval mysteries you won’t be able to put down. But like many writers, Powell’s career wasn’t an overnight success. Find out what she overcame on the road to publication in her guest post, “A Letter to My Pre-Published Self.” Enjoy! —J&H
E.M. Powell's THE KING'S JUSTICE blog tour header

Dear Elaine,

I hope this finds you in good spirits, or at least, better spirits than when I last heard from you. Your last letter gave me the news that you’d received yet another rejection from an agent.

You’d really thought this was The One.

Yes, you’d had dozens upon dozens of rejections over many years, starting with your first completed novel, a contemporary romantic suspense. Then with your first attempt at a historical romance. And now with this one, a historical romance with strong thriller elements, a novel you’d called The Anchoress & The Fifth Knight. It was based on the infamous murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, where four knights brutally murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket in his own cathedral. You added a fictional fifth knight, and your premise was that the knights were not out to murder Becket, but rather to track down a young nun, an anchoress, who was hidden in the cathedral’s walls.

But this time, it felt different. You’d pitched your novel in person to an agent at a conference. You were so nervous, you were worried you’d lose your lunch all over said agent’s shoes. But she was really nice. And not only that, she’d loved the pitch—she requested a full manuscript. You came home to your nearest and dearest practically dancing. Well, actually dancing.

Then you sent it. And then you waited. And waited. By now, you’d become very good at waiting for agents. Maybe not that good: you’d check your emails a hundred times a day, sometimes sending yourself a test email to make sure the server wasn’t down. As the days, then the weeks, then the months rolled by, you really began to hope.

After five interminable months, the email arrived. It was a dark Saturday evening in March. You opened it with your pulse hammering like you’d run a mile. And it was another ‘no’. A very few words: ‘Plot was interesting, but I just didn’t engage with the characters.’ Back to square one. Unpublished square one. You said you didn’t cry. Just sat there in total dejected disbelief. Square one. Again. But, Rejected & Dejected Author, all is not lost, believe me.

I’m very proud of you—either that, or I simply can’t believe how pig-headed you are, I’m really not sure—for what you did next. You just filed that email away with all the others. Rolled up your sleeves. Set about trying to learn every single thing you could about character development in fiction. Revised the heck that darn novel. Sent it out again and again. Kept revising and rewriting. Until another March, a whole year later, when an email pinged in that wasn’t just a yes from an agent. It was a ‘I just love your novel, and please, please, please may I represent it!’ sort of email.

Now, six years after that wonderful, impossible email, you are writing full time, with the day job left behind long ago. The Fifth Knight was the first in a series of medieval thrillers, a series which has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide. It has spawned a spin-off series, too. Hugo Stanton, the messenger from Book #2, The Blood of the Fifth Knight, now has his own medieval mystery series. He’s solving murders alongside royal clerk Aelred Barling. Their first outing is called The King’s Justice, where they have to investigate the brutal murder of a village smith.

Readers are loving this series too. Best of all are the reviews that say things like ‘Stanton is a great character’, ‘the main characters are well portrayed’, ‘I loved the characters’, and ‘Barling has an interesting stuffiness to him, an endearing personality’.

You see? You did it. You can write characters. It took more work, a lot more work. But you got there. If you’d given up, you never would have.

So keep on keeping on, do you hear me?

Very best,
E.M. Powell

P.S. You still need to work on your dancing.


Thomas & Mercer


A murder that defies logic—and a killer on the loose.

England, 1176. Aelred Barling, esteemed clerk to the justices of King Henry II, is dispatched from the royal court with his young assistant, Hugo Stanton, to investigate a brutal murder in a village outside York.

The case appears straightforward. A suspect is under lock and key in the local prison, and the angry villagers are demanding swift justice. But when more bodies are discovered, certainty turns to doubt—and amid the chaos it becomes clear that nobody is above suspicion.

Facing growing unrest in the village and the fury of the lord of the manor, Stanton and Barling find themselves drawn into a mystery that defies logic, pursuing a killer who evades capture at every turn.

Can they solve the riddle of who is preying upon the villagers? And can they do it without becoming prey themselves? Find out in E.M. Powell’s dazzling new mystery, The King’s Justice. 

EM Powell

EM Powell


E.M. Powell is the number one Amazon and Bild bestselling author of the Fifth Knight series of historical thrillers, including The Fifth KnightThe Blood of the Fifth Knight, and The Lord of Ireland

She is also a contributing author to International Thriller Writers‘ The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society.

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in northwest England with her husband, daughter, and a Facebook-friendly dog.

The King’s Justice is the first novel in her new Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. Learn more about Powell and her books at her home on the Web at EMPowell.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.

By E.M. Powell
288 pgs. Thomas & Mercer. $15.95

HFVBT_Logo_Banner TwitterPurchase The King’s Justice at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

The King’s Justice is brought to you in association with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

About E.M. Powell
E.M. Powell is the author of the Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. She is also a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers' The Big Thrill magazine. Born and raised in Ireland, she now resides in northwest England with her husband, daughter, and a Facebook-friendly dog.

One Response to A Letter to My Pre-Published Self [GUEST POST]

  1. Amy Bruno says:

    Thank you so much for hosting this wonderful guest post & EM Powell’s blog tour, Jathan & Heather!

    HF Virtual Book Tours

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