Keighley Bradford releases Debut Novel 'Once We Were'

Keighley Bradford has started 2021 off in the best way- by releasing her debut novel Once We Were. Following the lives of Bea and Alex as they navigate their friendship-turned-fling, Once We Were is an enthralling read.

Bradford grew up in the North-Western NSW town of Narrabri but moved to Newcastle to study. Her passion for writing started in Year 6, before being put on the backburner when she reached High School. Once her passion was reignited, she hasn’t been able to stop writing since.

The Plot

Nobody really knows if Bea James and Alex McClay are friends or lovers, but no matter where they go scandalous rumours follow.

Bea is flirtatious, witty, and knows how to appease a crowd. Alex is charming, determined, and knows exactly what he wants. Their friendship has just one rule- honesty. Any form of omission could be costly.

Their one night in Paris was supposed to be a fun, no-strings attached moment, but it began their downfall.

As Alex runs back to his ex-girlfriend who soon becomes his fiancée, Bea is left torn. Does she tell Alex the truth and risk ruining his relationship, or keep her greatest secret and risk losing him forever?

The Process

Once We Were has been many years in the making having endured several changes. Inspiration first struck when Bradford was on a plane from Rome to Athens where she was writing to pass the time.

  “It was just a basic concept about two best friends travelling Europe, and I was beginning to learn and write more in the romance genre. I decided I wanted their relationship to be a tad mysterious- were they together? If not, would they be at the end? I knew that to make their friendship unique and not truly understood by ‘outsiders’ that they needed some sort of connection to bring them together”.

Bradford discovered that the more she began working on the story, the more the direction of the narrative changed.

“Originally, Bea and Alex were doing a grand European tour to places I was visiting at the time or ones I had previously visited".

The final version is focused on two locations- Paris and Tuscany.

Bradford was heavily influenced by authors she was reading at the time, one being Colleen Hoover whom she draws great inspiration from. 

“One of her works in particular, It Ends With Us, opened my eyes to a different perspective of the genre that challenged expectations and tropes associated with the genre, and that’s something I has wanted to experiment with in this piece”.


Once We Were is independently published, a challenge in and of itself. Bradford has spent the last five years studying independent publishing, so she has a decent understanding and knowledge of what is involved.

“I’d reached the point in my research that information was becoming repetitive, starting things that I already knew, which gave me confidence that I was ready and prepared enough to take that next step in my career buy pursuing self-publishing".

She had a list of all the required resources she knew was needed for the process and noted any deadlines in her calendar. December 31st was the third date she had set for publication, a date she believes fits the narrative arc and is more meaningful than either of the other planned dates.

Bradford also learnt through the experience and connections within the industry about the process involved. 

“As a first-time Indie author, there were a few additional hurdles I hadn’t exactly expected but now know for future novels.”

One thing Bradford learnt is that she couldn’t promote pre-ordering until the book had entered into the retailer systems, which can take up to six weeks to happen. Online retailers also have the power to determine the retail price.

“I couldn’t set up my author profiles on sites like GoodReads or BookBub until I could prove the title was coming out through a retailer link.”

Editing began at the start of 2020, but Bradford found herself falling behind schedule. She also spent a lot of time perfecting the cover design as graphic design isn’t in her skillset. Compromises also had to be made when it came to things such as typesetting.

The Finished Product

Now that the publishing process is complete and the book has been released, Bradford can look back on what she has accomplished and how she can continually promote the book.

“A lot of my time is dedicated and focused on the marketing aspects, creating content in relation to the book. As an indie author, you are your only source of promotion, aside from your readers- as such you’ve got to balance both the ‘creative’ and ‘business’ side of things”.

Bradford’s hard work and perseverance has paid off. She has created a polished novel that is captivating.

Bea, the protagonist, is headstrong and determined. When she finds herself in a situation that could be easily used to manipulate another, she decides that it would be best for her to handle it alone. Bradford has made a great creative decision here and one that people may not expect.

Although the plot follows a ‘Now’ and ‘Then’ narrative, Bradford has done so in a way that isn’t confusing and tells the story as it should be told. It maintains the readers interest because just as they reach a crucial plot point in the ‘Then’ narrative, it switches to ‘Now’. And like with real life, things don’t always turn out the way one might think they would.

Overall, Once We Were is immersive and hard to put down. Bradford has delivered a polished and solid work of fiction. You’ll find yourself falling in love with some characters and detesting others. You’ll also find yourself wanting to scream out at certain plot points, largely thanks to characters decisions. But that is what makes this book so great- the fact that it makes you feel something. A strong effort for a debut novel.


Once We Were is available to purchase through the following retailers.

  • Apple Books
  • Amazon
  • Angus & Robertson
  • Booktopia
  • Dymocks
  • Better Read Than Dead
  • Fishpond
  • Nook
  • Kobo
  • BookMate

Keep up-to-date with Bradford through her website where she shares blogs and other short works:

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