A Year In France – Episode 03

Supplied © A Year In France illustration by Mandy Dixon

In London, Maddy Turner was beginning her Friday by oversleeping. Since Julia had left and she’d been living on her own in the flat, mornings had reverted to being a mad rush.

Julia had always got up when the alarm went and had woken her. Nowadays Maddy automatically turned over when her alarm went off, promising herself just another five minutes.

This morning an extra 30 minutes had disappeared, meaning she’d be lucky to get to the office on time.

It was five past nine when she slung her bag over the back of her chair and switched on her computer.

The office was empty and there was no sign of Kirsty, the senior agent. Maddie breathed a sigh of relief.

“Morning, Maddy. Can I get you a coffee?” Leah, the current office intern, stood in front of her.

Maddy shook her head.

“No, thanks, Leah. I had a latte on the way.”

Leah had been in the office for three months and everyone agreed she was a real asset. Maddy, though, was wary. Leah was good at assessing the slush pile of manuscripts, always helpful and a whizz at marketing, but there was something about her that irritated Maddy and made her suspicious.

It wasn’t just that she’d made no secret of the fact that she was ambitious and didn’t plan to stay as an intern for long. It was also the feeling that Leah didn’t care who she trod on as she made her way to the top of her chosen career.

Maddy pushed thoughts of Leah out of her mind and clicked open the pending file on her computer.

She’d received some good manuscripts in the last few weeks, but there was one in particular that had grabbed her attention.

It was a time-slip story with a modern-day heroine learning about her mother’s life during World War II. For a debut novel it was full of promise, and Maddy had decided she wanted to read the full manuscript then invite the writer to join her list at the agency.

With Maddy’s speciality of representing women’s contemporary fiction, the author would be a welcome addition.

The day flew by in a succession of e-mails, computer work and phone calls, until it was time for the last editorial meeting of the week in Kirsty’s office.

To Maddy’s surprise, Leah was at the meeting.

“It’s time we gave Leah more responsibility,” Kirsty said. “Starting with sitting in on these meetings. Maddy, anything good to report this week?”

Maddy nodded.

“A couple of things, but mainly a time-slip novel. I’ve asked for the full manuscript.” There was no point in showing too much enthusiasm at this point.

“Can I read it when it comes in?” Leah asked.

“Sure,” Maddy agreed. “How about you?” she went on, looking at Kirsty.

“A children’s cookery book aimed at play-schools with an interactive DVD.” Kirsty glanced across at Leah. “This book is a bit of a departure for one of our clients. I thought you might like to sit in on my meeting with the author next week.”


Maddy, detecting a distinct lack of enthusiasm in Leah’s voice, knew a children’s cookery book was not on Leah’s list of things to advance her career.

“Maddy, next week we’ll need to work on our schedule for the book fair. Can you keep Tuesday morning free for that, please?”

Fifteen minutes later, the meeting came to a close with Kirsty wishing everyone a good weekend before rushing off to her country cottage.

Leah was going away, too, muttering something about catching an evening flight down to Nice.

“Have fun,” Maddy said, and made for her own office before she was forced to admit she was lacking in plans for the next two days.

Weekends had always been busy when Julia was around. The two of them were spoilt for choice with numerous invitations for book launches, receptions, opening nights of plays and the occasional nightclub.

With Julia moving to France and no longer involved in the world of PR, Maddy had quickly realised that it had been her friend who’d been responsible for their social life.

These days an invite to a charity shop’s annual coffee morning was the only thing pencilled into her diary, and that was months away.

Five minutes later, after closing down her computer and picking up a couple of manuscripts to read over the weekend, she was on her way home.

As the bus made its way through the busy streets, Maddy wished Julia were still living in London.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.