Welcome to another week on Catherine, Caffeinated! While I recover from making Mother’s Day dinner on three hours sleep thanks to the Australian Grand Prix (Sky Sports started coverage on the new dedicated channel at 4.30am—although I should’ve just stayed in bed until the race started at six, because Sky Sports F1 is total rubbish. But anyway… ), my friend Hazel Gaynor is going to amuse you today with the story of her book, The Girl Who Came Home. With a stunning cover, timely subject matter and glowing reviews stacking up, I just know this e-book is going to be a huge success. Here’s Hazel to explain how it came to be...
“So, I did it. I finally took the plunge and self-published my novel, The Girl Who Came Home, on Kindle this week. It’s an exciting, nerve-wracking, exciting, terrifying, exciting experience! So, why Titanic? Why Kindle? Why now?
Ever since I was a child, I was amazed by the story of Titanic: the ship, the people who sailed on it and the unimaginable scale of the disaster. From the age of about twenty, I’ve been saying I’d love to write a novel, set on Titanic. People nodded politely. ‘Of course you do,’ they said, patting me on the back. When I was 27, I cried buckets as I watched James Cameron’s epic movie and fell in love with Titanic all over again. ‘I’m going to write a book about that one day,’ I said. ‘Of course you will,’ my friends replied politely, patting me on the back. The dream never went away – I knew I would do it one day.
When I was made redundant in March 2009, I finally set about taking my dream of becoming a published author a lot more seriously and last year (after various ups and downs, failures and successes in my writing endeavours), I started doing some serious research into Titanic – not realising at the time that 2012 would be the centenary year of the disaster. It seems I had got serious about writing this book at just the right time. I mentioned the idea to my agent, who encouraged me to write my book.
I soon became completely immersed in Titanic’s fascinating history, absorbing every detail of the event, from the deck plan of the ship to the handles on the dinner knives to the moving accounts of survivors. Then, I stumbled across the story of a group of fourteen Irish emigrants who left their homes in Mayo and sailed together on Titanic. They are known locally as ‘The Addergoole Fourteen’. I was so moved and inspired by their story that I wanted to write about it. Going back to the notes I’d been keeping for the previous fifteen years and using the new research, The Girl Who Came Home was written over the following four months in a blur of early mornings, late nights, twenty-minute bursts while the dinner cooked, a five hour flight to New York and snatched hours on a Sunday morning while my husband took the children swimming (they are great swimmers now!).
The completed novel was submitted to publishers last summer. Feedback was positive and very complimentary – but that elusive contract wasn’t forthcoming. I was devastated and went away to lick my wounds. I couldn’t bear to see anything about Titanic for months afterwards.
Having read the book, my mother-in-law encouraged me to keep trying to get it published and friends suggested self-publishing. I thought about it, put it off, suffered from crippling self-doubt, thought about it some more, edited my manuscript and just before Christmas 2011, decided to self-publish. I set about self-publishing the novel on Kindle. This in itself wasn’t the easiest of tasks, being a bit of a technical luddite, but buoyed by the self-publishing success I’d seen of fellow authors (Catherine Ryan Howard and Mel Sherratt in particular, I stuck with it.
The Girl Who Came Home – A Titanic Novel was published on Kindle this week. You can click on the link to read the description, or I have also taken the liberty of copying it in below! I am so proud to see it up there with my name on it. The stunning cover (even thought I say so myself!) was designed by Andrew at Design for Writers and he did an incredible job, capturing the era and the mood of the book perfectly. The image of Titanic on the cover is from a painting by Belfast artist Jim McDonald, who very kindly gave me permission to use his beautiful work. You would be surprised to learn how tricky it is to get an image of Titanic – such is the stuff you learn when self-publishing!
From here, I can only hope that my novel does well and that self-publishing turns out to be a good decision. I am so passionate about the subject and feel a real sense of responsibility to tell the story of the thousands of people who travelled on this incredible ship with the passion, sensitivity and respect they deserve. Undoubtedly, Titanic’s legacy will live on long well beyond this centenary year. And I suspect our, and our children’s, fascination with her story will only grow stronger over time.
Of course I am still chasing the dream of being traditionally published and am already well under way with my next novel which is set in Victorian London. But more about that another time.”
The Girl Who Came Home – A Titanic Novel (the blurb!)
Inspired by true events surrounding a group of Irish emigrants who sailed on the maiden voyage of R.M.S Titanic, The Girl Who Came Home is a story of enduring love and forgiveness, spanning seventy years. It is also the story of the world’s most famous ship, whose tragic legacy continues to captivate our hearts and imaginations one hundred years after she sank to the bottom of the Atlantic ocean with such a devastating loss of life.
In a rural Irish village in April 1912, seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy is anxious about the trip to America. While the thirteen others she will travel with from her Parish anticipate a life of prosperity and opportunity – including her strict Aunt Kathleen who will be her chaperon for the journey – Maggie is distraught to be leaving Séamus, the man she loves with all her heart. As the carts rumble out of the village, she clutches a packet of love letters in her coat pocket and hopes that Séamus will be able to join her in America soon.
In Southampton, England, Harry Walsh boards Titanic as a Third Class Steward, excited to be working on this magnificent ship. After the final embarkation stop in Ireland, Titanic steams across the Atlantic Ocean. Harry befriends Maggie and her friends from the Irish group; their spirits are high and life on board is much grander than any of them could have ever imagined. Being friendly with Harold Bride, one of the Marconi radio operators, Harry offers to help Maggie send a telegram home to Séamus. But on the evening of April 14th, when Titanic hits an iceberg, Maggie’s message is only partly transmitted, leaving Séamus confused by what he reads.
As the full scale of the disaster unfolds, luck and love will decide the fate of the Irish emigrants and those whose lives they have touched on board the ship. In unimaginable circumstances, Maggie survives, arriving three days later in New York on the rescue ship Carpathia. She has only the nightdress she is wearing, a small case and a borrowed coat, to her name. She doesn’t speak of Titanic again for seventy years.
In Chicago, 1982, twenty-one year old Grace Butler is stunned to learn that her Great Nana Maggie sailed on Titanic and sets out to write Maggie’s story as a way to resurrect her journalism career. When it is published, Grace receives a surprising phone call, starting a chain of events which will reveal the whereabouts of Maggie’s missing love letters and the fate of those she sailed with seventy years ago. But it isn’t until a final journey back to Ireland that the full extent of Titanic’s secrets are revealed and Maggie is able to finally make peace with her past.