West Sussex author Maxine Morrey has secured a two-book deal a publisher after winning a competition.

The writer, who lives in Upper Beeding, signed the deal with Carina UK, a Digital First arm of publishing giant HarperCollins, after winning its WriteChristmas competition.

The deal was signed at the end of August and her first book, a romantic comedy entitled Winter’s Fairytale, has been released.

Maxine says, “I’ve been writing for years, and have published various articles as well as a local history book on Brighton, but writing novels is what I enjoy the most. I ended up self-publishing my first one a few years ago after a deal with an American publisher fell through at the last minute when they were swallowed up by the recession.

“Last year, I decided I’d really concentrate on working on novels again and also to enter any competitions that caught my eye. Publishing is such a difficult industry to break into that sometimes contests can be a good way to – maybe – get your work noticed. Even if you just get some feedback, it’s a really good thing.

“I entered a few, and came close with one publisher earlier in the year, and then in July I saw the Carina competition. They wanted three chapters and a synopsis of a story with a Christmas theme. I took an idea I’d had rattling around and just adapted it to a winter setting and, after much tweaking, sent the chapters off with about 10 minutes to spare to the deadline!’

Short deadlines became a challenge for Maxine. “When the editor rang a couple of weeks later, she said how much they liked the chapters and that I’d won the competition. Although the prize was to have a Christmas book published, they actually offered me a two-book deal, so you can imagine how thrilled I was!

“The editor then mentioned that they wanted the rest of the novel in four weeks’ time. Of course, I said it would be no problem – even though I hadn’t written it yet! The next month was all a bit of a blur, I have to say. I wrote pretty much every day, bar one or two, and finished the book within three weeks, which left me a week for editing. Luckily, the editor loved what I’d written and, with just a few revisions, Winter’s Fairytale was ready for publication.”

“Digital First publishers can get the books out so much quicker than their print counterparts - it’s amazing to think that just a few months ago I was writing this book and now people are already buying and reading it. Some Carina books have gone on to be released in paperback, and, of course, I’d be over the moon if that happened at some point in the future.

“In the meantime, I’m busy working on Book Two, which has a summer theme, and a more local setting.”

· Winter’s Fairytale by Maxine Morrey is available from Amazon, iTunes, Kobo and all good ebook retailers.