A Year In France – Episode 26

Supplied © A Year In France illustration by Mandy Dixon

Julia, standing in the field behind the cottage talking to Maddy on her mobile, sensed Maddy’s involuntary intake of breath when she heard there would be an unexpected condition attached to the loan.

The idea had only come to her as she listened to Maddy talking, so she hadn’t thought it through. What if Maddy didn’t agree? What if it spoiled their friendship?

“Don’t worry. It’s not a condition set in stone. You can always say no and I’ll lend you the money anyway. It’s just . . .” Julia paused. “Could I be involved with the agency? Be your business partner? I could organise the PR and publicity.”

“Are you serious?” Maddy asked.

“Very. Philippe’s started his new book this week. When he’s working all hours I need something to do.

“So I’ve been looking for part-time freelance work on the internet, but I haven’t managed to find anything yet. Helping you get the agency off the ground would be perfect.”

“It would be brilliant from my point of view, too!” Maddy exclaimed.

Julia let out a huge sigh of relief.

“We’ll have to draw up a proper legal agreement as well as a business plan.”

“Oh, we don’t need to do that,” Maddy said. “We’re best friends.”

“Yes, we do. We have to be professional about it.”

“OK. I’ll draw up the business plan and you work out a basic legal contract. I just have to start signing up some clients,” Maddy said. “Hopefully Kirsty won’t have bad-mouthed me to all and sundry.”

“Talking of Kirsty, you were going to tell me what happened,” Julia reminded her.

Maddy sighed.

“Well, you know things have been strained in the office for months now. I should have realised I was being slowly edged out.

“I should also have realised Leah was manipulating things behind my back. So when I blithely gave Kirsty a month’s notice, I played right into her hands.”

Maddy was silent for a few seconds before continuing.

“Apparently Leah went into her office and told her I intended to poach several authors, including the one I’d hoped to sign this week.

“As if I would do something so unprofessional! But Kirsty believed Leah and saw red. Hence the ultimatum and the ripple effect it’s having through the agency.”

“What do you mean?” Julia asked.

“Remember how Margaret was upset at Leah organising things at the London Book Fair instead of her? She rang me, very upset that I’ve left. She says she’s going to hand in her notice, too, once she finds something else. She doesn’t want to risk getting the same reaction I got from Kirsty.”

“Sensible lady,” Julia said. “So who’s going to handle your client list now?”

“According to Margaret, Kirsty’s taking the majority and handing the rest over to Leah,” Maddy said, sighing. “I just wish I didn’t feel so guilty. Kirsty will do her usual professional job, but Leah? Who knows? I feel I’ve let them down.”

“Nonsense. Kirsty is at fault here, not you.”

“I know you’re right.” Maddy sighed again.

“Anyway, once I get some press releases on the go you’re bound to get lots of enquiries,” Julia assured her. “I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your clients want to sign with you. Right, I’ve got to go. We have friends coming to supper tonight. Talk to you tomorrow.”

* * * *

In her London flat, Maddy switched off her phone and settled down on the settee with her laptop, a happy smile on her face. The Maddy Matthews Literary Agency was one step closer to being operational.

Opening the laptop, Maddy came to a decision. Kirsty would be informing clients that she was no longer at the agency, but Lucinda Edrich, the author of the time-slip novel, hadn’t yet signed for representation.

She’d write to Lucinda Edrich herself and explain the situation. She’d word the e-mail carefully, explaining she was no longer with Kirsty, and wouldn’t even mention the fact she was starting her own agency.

It was just a way of wishing her luck and telling her the book was good enough, in Maddy’s opinion, to be a runaway bestseller.

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.