Path to Publication: Charlotte Levin

I knew from the moment I read the synopsis for If I Can’t Have You by Charlotte Levin; that I had to read it. I am always in the mood for a story of love and obsession, its one of my favorite tropes in the suspense genre.

My expectations were super high, and I jumped into this book with pure excitement!

‘So beautifully written, such a devastatingly compelling story… I can honestly say it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read – it is without a shadow of a doubt, EASILY up there with Girl On a Train and Eleanor Oliphant.’ – Ruth Jones

Check it out:

Samuel, the day we met I knew I’d finally found what I’ve been waiting for.

You. Happiness, at last.  Then you left me. And now I am alone.   Everyone I love leaves in the end. But not this time.  I’m not giving up on us. I’m not giving up on you.  When you love someone, you never let them go.

That’s why for me, this is just beginning.


I thought Charlotte did a fantastic job with creating the character of Constance; I didn’t want to stop reading because you just know things aren’t going to end nicely. After I read the book, I reached out to the author to see if she would talk a little about her path to publication.

Here’s her story:

My road to publication was rocky, my mode of transport a giant rollercoaster.   I had written a terrible, nonsensical version of a novel based on the general premise of  If I Can’t Have You many years ago. But after losing my mum in 2015, I needed something positive to focus on, so I dug it out, acknowledged why it was so cringingly awful and started the whole thing from scratch.


The only element that remained were the names of the main characters. Though, I still wasn’t taking myself seriously. The idea of ever being published was merely a dream I occasionally allowed myself. People like me didn’t get to be published, but it was fun to imagine the idea.


Then on Christmas day that same year, my dad died too. And that was the real turning point. I could either sink or try and stay afloat by doing something positive, so I used my writing to negotiate grief, burying myself in the book. And there’s nothing like death to make us aware of our mortality and how life is slipping by. So, I finally began to take my writing seriously.


Early on, there were indications that I was on to something with the concept. I won a  couple of pitch competitions, and an editor I met at a festival was interested in reading the manuscript when complete. (Incidentally, I did send it to her, and five years on I’m still waiting to hear if she’s interested.) But when some money came through that my dad had left me, I decided to get a Mentor (author Ali Harper) which was such a confidence boost. She was adamant that I would have no problem finding representation. But how wrong was she!
(Sorry Ali).

30+ Instagram Quotes From Writers That Will Touch Your Soul

When it came to submitting, I did get quite a few full requests. Which was very exciting but ultimately, they all led to rejections. A common theme was that it didn’t fit a specific genre and was therefore unsaleable. Or that there weren’t enough twists and turns for  a psychological thriller. During the writing process, I hadn’t considered the genre. I now appreciate the importance of this, but along with the agents, I was uncertain what it was.


But I did know that it wasn’t a traditional psychological thriller and I didn’t want to force it into being that for the market. I was determined to remain true to my vision even if it was looking like placing it would be hard. One of the rejections came from an agent who said that I had something, but the book was a total mess and, once again, you couldn’t have a novel that’s part thriller, part human condition piece and part humorous.


Still determined not to succumb to changing it to fit the genre, one thing I could do something about was it being a mess. So, after nearly thirty rejections, I spent another six months working on it day and night. I took every criticism on board, looked beyond the emotional and made use of any feedback I had. When I finished this latest draft, I had that gut feeling that this was the best I could make it alone and if I was ever going to secure an agent with the book, this was the version that would do it. It was my last-ditch attempt.


I re-sent it to the ‘mess’ agent but it was still a no. I re-sent it to another agent who said she’d loved it, but it needed a lot of work and she said it was so much better, but she didn’t love it anymore. But I did get three other full requests within a few days. I posted about this on Twitter. The tweet was seen by my now agent, Jo Williamson, who sent me a DM asking if she could read it. She liked it, we chatted, and she made an offer. And once again I followed my gut and told the other agents that I had accepted representation elsewhere.

What consumes your mind, controls your life. It works both ways, negative and positive thoughts.

Then, of course, you’ve got the next hurdle of submitting to publishers. But in this regard, I was incredibly lucky because Wayne Brookes at Pan Macmillan got back with a positive response within a day, and I was so excited that he seemed to fully appreciate what I was trying to do with the novel.


It was still out with other publishers (though some had already rejected it with similar reasons to the agents), but, thankfully, Wayne made a pre-emptive offer, and I knew immediately, I wanted to accept.


So, it wasn’t a smooth ride. There were downs and disappointments along the way. But throughout it all, I never lost sight of how I wanted my book to be. It was a risk, and it could have gone either way. But it’s a risk I’m so glad I took.


If I Can’t Have You is out now and tells the story of Constance Little, a damaged young woman who is unable to let go of a relationship. Part thriller, part human condition piece it deals with the issues of loneliness, obsession, and how far we go for the ones we love.


Be sure to get If I Can’t Have You right now!

Follow Charlotte on Twitter – @tinycharlotte72
Instagram – tinycharlotte29
Facebook – charlottelevinauthor


If you are an author who wants to tell your story of becoming published, reach out to me at distressedbluejeans (@)