Signs and Corners

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that the Saturday night before last, at precisely 1:44am, a framed print I have hanging above my desk that says Something wonderful is about to happen suddenly fell off the wall.

I was at the bottom of a bottle of wine and into the second series of my West Wing re-watch, and after a long, dark and dull start to January (plagued by the plague *coughs*), I wanted it to be a sign that something wonderful was going to happen, and not merely that Blu-Tac is an ineffective material for hanging picture frames.


I was in Paris in July 2016 when my friend Erin sent me a text message from the CWA Daggers shortlist announcement. I knew Distress Signals was on the longlist for the John Creasey New Blood Dagger, but I had no expectations that I’d advance any further. Erin promised me she would text either way so when my phone beeped, I presumed it was with a ‘Hard luck’ message – but she was texting to say I’d made the shortlist.

Growing up, devouring every crime novel I could get my hands on, the same two awards kept popping up on the About The Author pages: the Edgars, awarded by the Mystery Writers of America, and the Daggers, awarded by the Crime Writers Association of the UK. So this, for me, was A Very Big Deal and probably the highlight of my writing career.

Last Tuesday afternoon, I got another message from Erin, but this one was completely out of the blue and totally mind-boggling. This time, she was texting to tell me that The Liar’s Girl had just been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. What?!?!?

Some context: the Edgar awards, named for Edgar Allan Poe, are awarded each year by the Mystery Writers of America to “the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television” and are “widely acknowledged to be the most prestigious in the genre”. If the Edgars are the Academy Awards of crime fiction, the Best Novel category is the equivalent of Best Picture. A judging panel of 8 whittled more than 500 entries down to a shortlist of 6 and The Liar’s Girl is – miraculously – on there.


I’m fairly sure I’m the only Irish author nominated this year and I’m pretty sure I’m only the second female Irish author ever to be nominated in this category. (Tana French is the other, for Faithful Place.) Previous winners of Best Novel include names like Raymond Chandler, Stephen King and – anyone who knows me will know what a big deal this is to me – Michael Crichton. (Writing under a pen name because he was still in med school, but STILL.) More recently, the winner of Best Novel was Flynn Berry, who wrote a crime novel so good – Under the Harrow – I broke my lifelong rule of not taking a pencil to books because I simply had to underline some of her stunning sentences.

Because of all this, I’m typing this a whole week later and I’m STILL muttering, ‘I can’t believe this has happened’ and periodically checking the Edgar shortlists online to check that I’m still there.

The ceremony is in New York on April 25. Stand by 24/7 Instagram updates from the City In Which Catherine Definitely Won’t Sleep Because She’ll Be Too Overwhelmed And Excited.

Writing books for a living is a wonderful but weird job to have, and it can be an emotional rollercoaster. My Inspiration Project partners in crime, Hazel Gaynor and Carmel Harrington, and I often talk about corners – about how, at any moment on any given day, you can get a phone call or an email with amazing news. It could be something major, like a new foreign deal, or it could just be something nice, like being invited to a festival you’ve always enjoyed going to. But with your books out in the world, the possibility is always there. Last Tuesday afternoon, I was sitting on my couch sorting out my laundry on a grey, dull, cold January day when, without getting up, I turned a corner.

Something wonderful did happen.

Bargain alert! If you live in the UK or Ireland, you can download The Liar’s Girl in e-book for just 99p for a limited time.

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Writers, Go Forth and Binge-Watch Netflix

I often think of the additional books I might have written if it wasn’t for the invention of Netflix, and I mourn them. I watch so much Netflix and I almost always do it in a binge.

Last summer I started what I’ve heard referred to as ‘extreme scheduling’, i.e. the only kind of extreme anything you’ll ever catch me doing, which is where you use an hourly planner to keep track of and/or to plan out your days. The same week I discovered Project Runway. There’s four (old) series of it on Irish Netflix, each of which have about 14 episodes, each of which are approximately 40 minutes long.

That’s 37 hours of television which I blasted all the way through in the space of about eight days.

This despite the fact that I was supposed to be writing the first draft of Book 3, Rewind (coming September 2019; more on that soon) and that, as per my Must Write This Amount of Words In Order Not To Be Late calculations, I was on track to not finish in time.

Thirty-seven hours. I had to write that down in my planner and look at it in black and white. I felt terrible about it. Shameful and guilty and icky and stressed. But yet I still hit PLAY NEXT EPISODE every time I was given the option.

My brain just doesn’t do rewards. I can’t say to myself, ‘I’ll write now, and save this as a reward for when my draft is submitted.’ Instead I say something like, ‘I want to watch this now, and the wanting is distracting me, so I think it’s better that I down tools and watch it now and then write later instead.’ I wasn’t going to change. I wasn’t going to stop binge-watching Netflix.

So I needed to justify it – and that’s why we’re here today. Here’s why I think all writers should be watching Netflix, lots…

Netflix Helps You Write

If you haven’t watched Set It Up on Netflix (five times already, ahem) then you definitely you should. Immediately.

It’s a smart, funny and fresh rom-com that also contains one of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever come across.

Harper is the very much overworked and underpaid assistant to Kirsten, the founder of an online sports news site, but she dreams of being a sports journalist herself. She was hoping that sticking it out as Kirsten’s assistant might help her writing career, but there’s a crucial problem: Harper has never actually written anything. When she finally opens up her laptop, she feels like everything she’s writing is a pile of molten sh*te and despair ensues. But then her roommate gives her some great advice. She tells her, ‘You’re not a bad writer – yet.

One of the biggest lessons you have to learn when you start out as a writer is that the first draft of anything is sh*t. Listen to me: the first draft of anything is sh*t. Because I’d heard that time and time again and yet, when I sat down to write, I got frustrated that the words on the page weren’t matching the vision I had of my book in my head. But realising – accepting – that you’ll never get to that amazing fifth draft without writing drafts 1 through 4 (or however many) is a game-changer. And it’s something you may have to accept again and again, as I did, when I sat down to write Book 2. And Book 3…

You can’t skip that step, you have to write through it. You can’t evaluate your work on your first attempt. You’re not a bad writer – yet.

Netflix Helps You Write Better

A few months ago, Netflix released The Good Cop. I was looking forward to watching it because it starred Josh Groban and I very much enjoy looking at his face. Plus it was from the creator of Monk, which was incredibly popular and I think multi-award-winning.

But I only got 12 minutes into the first episode before I turned it off.


Why? Because in those first 12 minutes, characters repeatedly said things like this:

‘That’s a nice way to talk to your father.’

‘You talked to Chuck Finch? […] ‘You’re not supposed to talk to anyone in the department. It’s a condition of your parole. […] Especially Finch. He was on your crew, for God’s sake.’

‘Oh, it’s Cora now? How sweet. My son and my parole officer.’

‘Don’t quote your mother at me. I was married to the woman for 29 years.’

‘You asked me to sell my liquor licence, I sold it. No problem. You asked me to move in with my kid, here I am… You gave me 90 days to find a job. I’ll do it. I still got 3 weeks left.’

‘Save your tears, Captain. Jack was dead to you 8 years ago, the second he agreed to testify.’

Now, disclaimer: I’m not a TV writer. I didn’t create a show that drew in millions of viewers and won awards. I can only evaluate this as a viewer, and as a viewer, I was annoyed. Because it felt like the characters weren’t having real conversations, but dumping chunks of exposition into everything they said. Show me Tony Danza’s character is father to Josh Groban’s character. Show me that his parole officer is in a relationship with his son. Show me that he’s living with his son against his will. And if none of that is possible, find a way to tell me in dialogue that feels like real people talking in real life.

Clunky exposition is the kind of thing where, once you notice it, every subsequent occurrence is mercilessly amplified. I’m sure loads of people watched this show without noticing this at all, but apparently not enough of them to convince Netflix to do a second season. Personally, 12 minutes in, I just couldn’t take any more.

When something someone else has written doesn’t strike you as ‘right’, ask yourself why it doesn’t. You can learn a lot about what not to do that way. It’s always easier to see mistakes in other people’s work (unfortunately!).

Oh well. I did very much enjoy looking at Josh Groban’s face…

Netflix Helps You Deal With Rejection

And finally, back to Project Runway.

If you’ve never watched it, it’s basically a reality competition show like The X-Factor or The Voice, except it’s for fashion designers. Michael Costello was a contestant on the 8th season, who was sent home first in the finale, in fourth place.

And he was devastated. Broken. CRUSHED. He looked like he was in physical pain and he was clearly struggling to accept that his chance of getting his dream – the prize is to show a collection at New York Fashion Week – was gone, over. He was inconsolable. In an interview filmed shortly afterwards, his eyes still red from crying, he said, ‘I just couldn’t take it. The first thing that came to my head was my family… Once they see it, they’re going to say, “See? Just give that up now.”‘ I was heartbroken for him, watching it.

Then I Googled his name to see what he was up to now.

Four years later, Michael Costello dressed Beyonce for the Grammy awards, on a night when she took home 3 of them, and his career has just been on an upward trajectory since then. He’s designed gowns for Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys and Katy Perry, and Oprah has personally delivered him pizza. He is living his dream, and it’s probably bigger and better than he ever imagined.

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I know of a time in my writing life when I had pinned all my hopes on getting a ‘Yes!’ from someone who then said, ‘Thanks but no thanks’. I was devastated then too. I didn’t see a way forward. It felt like this could be the only way, and now the door had closed on me. But you know what actually happened? I got a better version of the thing later. It was actually good that I got rejected that time. And that’s happened a few times to me. Rejection is part of the journey, not the end of it.

So next time you get a rejection, think of Michael Costello. And don’t feel bad about mainlining four seasons of Project Runway in the space of a week. Not too bad, anyway…

[Catherine’s Deadline: What the actual—?]

A note: one of my writing goals for 2019 is to get back into blogging on a limited basis, so 1-2 blog posts a month. But I’ve decided to turn off the comments. For chat, I’m over on Twitter, where I’m @cathryanhoward. Happy New Year! 

You might also like these older posts:

New around these parts? Click HERE to find out more about The Liar’s Girl, my latest book, or click HERE to find out more about me. Tickets are still available for The Inspiration Project in Cork on January 26, which you can find out more about by clicking HERE.

So You Want To Publish A Novel

In the past week I’ve visited a lovely writers’ group in Drogheda and taught a crime-writing workshop in a converted church, and at both events I brought along my plotting poster for the third and final draft of Distress Signals. Its four different coloured sheets of A4 card taped together at the creases, one for each part (Act I, Act II Part 1, Act II Part 2, Act III), and each one is covered in Post-Its, scribbles, reminders, instructions and scene summaries. You might have seen pictures of it on this blog before. Whenever I unfold it in a room of writers, it always gets greeted with the same noise: a collective Oooh. I don’t know if it’s because people are impressed, or terrified, or wondering how I ever actually wrote the book seeing as I spent so much time messing around with sticky notes and marker pens.

There’s less than a fortnight to go now to our Inspiration Project presents Refreshers Week event here in Dublin and this morning I thought I should post a short video of my messy, sprawling master plan and then the small, neat, lovely book that was the eventual product of it. The tutorial I’m teaching on the day, The Dreaded Synopsis, should help bridge the gap – and that’s what I was going to say when I posted the video.

Except I started thinking that, actually, the book started with an article in the Guardian’s Weekend magazine, and there was a lot of coffee involved, and a number of drafts…

And then, well, let’s just say I got a bit carried away.

So here is everything you need to get published, or how I got from dream to Dagger award. (Spot my plotting poster.) Enjoy! A handful of tickets are still available for our Inspiration Project event. You can find out more here.

(Okay, so yes, I am blogging again after a six month break. But-but-but… I’m finally done with college and the worst part of Book 3, i.e. the first draft, is done too, so hopefully it won’t be another six months before I blog again.)


The Liar’s Girl: A Launch Story

As of Thursday 1st March, The Liar’s Girl was out in Ireland and the UK as well as the US. Unfortunately Thursday 1st March was Day 2 of Snowmageddon, when the ‘Beast from the East’ met Storm Emma and Ireland turned into the set of The Day After Tomorrow. So I had to celebrate at home with a glass of bubbly…


We never get snow like that so we’re just not equipped to deal with it, and in the interests of everyone’s safety, the country effectively shut down. You couldn’t go anywhere and anyway there was nowhere to go. I did manage to snap a few pictures of the canal in the snow though…


Luckily the internet was still working, so:

I made an appearance on, where I wrote about where the idea for The Liar’s Girl came from.

Over on The Strand magazine’s blog, I wrote about the spooky feeling of having things you made up for your novel actually happen afterwards in real life.

I was also interviewed for The Gloss magazine’s Writers Block series about where in Dublin I satisfy my caffeine addiction and which books are on my To Be Read pile right now.


I was most proud, however, of my rant about rants about books with ‘girl’ in the title over on the Irish Times.

‘My new book is called The Liar’s Girl. Chances are I’ll say this to you apologetically, perhaps with a sheepish grin. If I detect an imminent eye-roll, I’ll quickly follow up with some conspiratorial comment about my publishers, perhaps even joke that they want to call my next book The Girl In The Window Of The Train Whose Tattoo Is Gone. You’ll say, ‘I’m so sick of these girl books,’ or ‘I really hate that word’ or ‘Ugh, why does everyone feel the need to copy The Girl On The Train?’ even though that book came after Gone Girl and that book came out after The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and you are, in all probability, a former girl yourself. And I’ll nod and smile and mumble something that sounds like agreement because I don’t want to be a bad feminist – or is that what we’re supposed to be now? I can’t keep up, the rules seem to change daily – but I’ll already be hating myself for not saying how I really feel.’ [READ MORE]

And on the Sunday, I managed to trudge through the icy slush to visit The Gutter Bookshop in Cow’s Lane, which – thank you! – had The Liar’s Girl in their ‘Must Reads’ for March. (Yes, that day’s outfit was on a theme of LAYERS. It was feckin’ freezing.)


The snow stopped falling just in time for me to travel to Cork for Launch No. 1, which took place in Waterstones on Patrick St. That Waterstones is my bookshop, the one I went to on a weekly basis growing up, the place where I bought my first copy of The Writers & Artists Yearbook, and On Writing, and my first Michael Connelly novel, so getting to see The Liar’s Girl have its own window there was pretty amazing.


96FM’s Deirdre O’Shaughnessy was the MC on the night and we had a great chat about where the idea for the book came from, the importance of Post-It notes and, um, Inspector Morse. My uncle Tommy was the unofficial videographer so thanks to him, you can watch all the proceedings below.

The following day I collected cupcakes from The Cupcake Cottage on Angelsea Street and hit the road with my chauffeur, i.e. my brother John. I left a trail of signed copies in the Eason branches on Patrick Street, in Ballingcollig, and in Wilton, Mahon Point and Douglas Court Shopping Centres – and, of course, Waterstones too!


Thursday was the main event: the Dublin launch! I’d ordered a very special necklace which only arrived that morning, thanks to the previous week’s snow. I just figured that (a) I needed a statement necklace and that (b) I was going to be in a lot of photos so my neck was prime advertising space. Thanks, Tatty Devine!


The launch was held in the lovely Dubray Books on Grafton Street, where Liz Nugent (Unravelling Oliver, Lying in Wait) did the honours. Unbeknownst to me, she had been in contact with various individuals – who shall remain nameless and unforgiven – and got all sorts of dirt on me which she revealed in the speech. It was absolutely hilarious because I wasn’t expecting it at all, and I’d forgotten half of the stuff she’d found out I’d done! This picture sums up my reaction:


Afterwards we headed to Neary’s for bubbles and bites and it was such a fun night. I really enjoyed it. Thanks to everyone who came, and everyone who couldn’t make it but who still kindly bought the book. You can see all the wonderful pictures Ger Holland took on the night over on my Facebook author page. Also, my writing buddies give the BEST presents. (Look at that wine! Thanks, Carmel! x)


On Friday – and on very little sleep – I visited Eason stores in Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, Blanchardstown Centre, the Pavilions at Swords and Dundrum Town Centre. It never gets old seeing stacks of my books in the shops! You should be able to find plenty of signed copies there.

I also got a great review for The Liar’s Girl from the UK’s Daily Mail

‘In this second novel, Howard’s emerging talent could not be clearer … This is expertly plotted, with a series of stunning twists.’ [READ MORE]



Saturday brought some media coverage and an incredible review in the Irish Independent which had me dancing around my living room in delight.

‘Solid plotting … propels The Liar’s Girl forward at a terrific pace, and there is nothing formulaic in the depiction of the main characters, all of whom are drawn with great sympathy. The imaginary St John’s College campus, set in Beggar’s Bush in Dublin 4, is a lively and believable invention. In this, only her second book, Catherine Ryan Howard has certainly pulled off, with remarkable confidence, the notoriously difficult task of surpassing a debut novel that was met with critical acclaim and garlanded with awards.’


Finally, this morning, I was interviewed on The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk. We talked about self-publishing, The Inspiration Project and books with ‘girl’ in the title, and Pat did an amazing job of reading from the opening page of the book. (Really, you should do audio books!) You can listen back here (it’s about 15 minutes into Part 2 of the 12th March episode).


What was funny was that a number of people at both launches who pointed to this page (above) in The Liar’s Girl and said something like, ‘Isn’t this the best bit about this?’ Honestly, it had never occurred to me until they pointed it out, but I think they’re right. The fact that this was second time around made everything so much easier for me to enjoy, mostly because I knew exactly what to expect. I was way more relaxed. I am way more relaxed.


But also because this isn’t just a once off anymore. Last time round, it felt like an achievement. This time it feels more like this is what I get to do for a living, and I love that I get to do what I love. Thank you to everyone who’s ever bought a copy of either of my books or plans to in the future, because you’re the reason why.

Find out more about The Liar’s Girl here.

P.S. I’ve just four weeks of my four years left in college (I know, I can’t believe it either!) and afterwards, I think I might actually have some time to get back to this blog. In the meantime, the best place to keep up to date with all the shenanigans – and, let’s face it, they mainly involve coffee, Post-Its and Netflix – is my author Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram

P.P.S. Because of Snowmageddon, we had to postpone our second Inspiration Project event. It will now take place on the weekend of May 25-27 and, since not all our original bookings could transfer to these new dates, some spots have opened up. Book yours now for €449 here.

So, I Have Some News…

… and this isn’t it, but I should really point this out first: my second thriller, The Liar’s Girl, is out today. (Today? What? Where does the time go?!) In the USA, anyway – UK/Ireland has another 48 hours to go. It’s out now in the USA in hardcover, e-book and audio from Blackstone Publishing and it’s out here in Ireland and in the UK on Thursday from Corvus Books.

So, my news.

As you may know, back in 2015 I signed a two-book deal with Corvus Books. Distress Signals was book one, and The Liar’s Girl – yes, you’ve guessed it – is book two. So what happens next?

PicMonkey Collage

Well, I’m delighted to share the news that I’ve signed a deal with Corvus for another two books, the first of which I’m writing now. It’ll be out next year. I don’t want to say too much about it yet, but here are three teasers: (i) the structure of this book is going to be a lot of fun to write and I hope read too, (ii) it’s a standalone set in Ireland and (iii) of course, yes, I will get a mention of Jurassic Park in there somewhere.*  See below for the official press release stuff.


I celebrated my USA pub day with the most American breakfast I could manage: pancakes and Eight O’Clock coffee in my Market Street Cafe (of Celebration, FL) mug!

And – another yay! – I’ve also signed a new deal with Blackstone, so books three and four will be out on both sides of the Atlantic. Hooray!

Now I, ah, just have to write them… *twitches*


Corvus, Atlantic Books are delighted to announce that they have acquired UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) to the next two novels by bestselling author Catherine Ryan Howard from Jane Gregory at Gregory & Company/David Higham.

Catherine Ryan Howard first broke onto the scene with Distress Signals in 2016, with her second novel The Liar’s Girl due for publication in March 2018.

She comments: ‘I couldn’t be happier to be writing two more books for Corvus. The whole team there is incredibly enthusiastic, there is no better editor than Sara O’Keeffe, and their crime/thriller list continues to go from strength to strength. I’m not only looking forward to the future, I’m excited about it.’

Jane Gregory says: ‘I am so pleased that we have agreed this new deal. I am sure that Catherine’s talent combined with Sara O’Keefe’s expertise and the enthusiasm of the team at Corvus/Atlantic will ensure that Catherine’s sales will soar.’

Sara O’ Keeffe says: ‘We’re thrilled to have signed another deal with Catherine. She has brilliant authorial instincts and is amassing an impressive list of fans in the trade. I’m excited to continue working with Catherine and look forward to publishing her amazing second novel, The Liar’s Girl, next month!’

Distress Signals was an Irish Times and USA Today bestseller, one of Amazon UK’s ‘Rising Star’ best debuts of 2016, shortlisted for Books Are My Bag IBA Crime Novel of the Year 2016 and shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger in 2017.

Out on 1 March 2018 in trade paperback and e-book, The Liar’s Girl is Corvus’ lead thriller for Spring 2018, having already received truly fantastic praise.

*The mention of Jurassic Park in The Liar’s Girl is VERY subtle. If you spot it, I’ll be very impressed. In the meantime, check out this utterly AMAZING book trailer Blackstone made for The Liar’s Girl:

Corvus are giving away 10 copies of The Liar’s Girl over on Twitter – get on that! 

Introducing… The Inspiration Project!

For the last couple of months, Carmel Harrington (The Woman at 72 Derry Lane, Cold Feet: The Lost Years), Hazel Gaynor (The Cottingley Secret, Last Christmas in Paris with Heather Webb) and me (um, Distress Signals and that one with ‘girl’ in the title that’s coming out in March) have been plotting and planning something we are so, SO excited to finally reveal today: The Inspiration Project!


What the fudge is that, you want to know? Well, I’m glad you asked!

The Inspiration Project is a writing retreat with a difference. This is an opportunity for you to check out of everyday life for a weekend and check in with your writing, in a place where you can think big and dream even bigger.

So often when we were trying to get published we repeatedly heard how difficult it is, not to mention how tough it is to make a living from writing. While it certainly isn’t easy, we are proof that it can happen as we have all made the leap from slush piles and rejection to publishing deals and bestseller lists. We asked ourselves, what advice would have helped us before the good stuff started happening, and what did we learn after our books hit the shelves? With this in mind, we’ve designed a weekend writing retreat full of real advice, practical tips, inspiration and motivation which we believe will work for writers at any stage of the publication journey.

With 14 bestselling historical, crime and commercial fiction novels between us, we are your writing cheerleaders: New York Times/Irish Times bestseller Hazel Gaynor, Sunday Times/Irish Times bestseller Carmel Harrington and USA Today/Irish Times bestseller Catherine Ryan Howard.

We want you to dream, dare, do – like we did. Spend a weekend away with us and your writing, and get the time, the tools and the drive to pursue your biggest writing dreams.

Here’s the where/when/what/how much:

  • Seafield Hotel & Spa Resort (4*) in Ballymoney, Gorey, Co. Wexford
  • Friday 12 January – Sunday 14 January 2018
  • The price includes 2 nights B&B in a luxury spa resort, a drinks reception, a full day of our ‘Inspiration Shot’ coaching sessions, one-on-one mentoring, lots of time to write and more
  • We are offering a special early bird rate of just €349 per person (full price is €399) if you book before 21 November.

earlybird1To find out more or to book your place, visit our lovely new website.

Why Paris Is Always A Good Idea

Rewind to exactly two weeks ago and find me arriving in Paris, getting to live out a dream: to spend a week at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, or the Irish Cultural Centre.

This is a facility for Irish writers, students, etc. smack bang in the heart of literary Paris. Three minutes’ walk away: Place Contrascarpe, where Hemingway had his first apartment in Paris. Five minutes’ walk away: the Luxembourg Gardens, where he frequently retreated to. Ten minutes’ walk away: Shakespeare & Co, the famous bookshop that first published Ulysses. (There’s so much more, but you get the idea.) The centre itself is down a quiet street, where a heavy green door reveals a tranquil inner courtyard. My room was filled with light and offered a beautiful view of a lush, ivy-covered neighbouring building and a rolling sea of Parisian rooftops (just like— Okay, okay. I’ll stop with the Hemingway now.) Ahead of me stretched a week of writing, Paris and streetside cafe cremes. I was giddy with bliss.

I didn’t even know this place existed until last year when, stood at the end of Rue Soufflot waiting for the lights to change, I looked up and saw a sign for Rue de Irlandais. Google told me what was there and why there was an ‘Irish Street’.  Later, I dashed through April rains to meet my writing friend Elizabeth R. Murray at Notre Dame. She was, by coincidence, in the city with her husband, and we talked about our CCI daydreams. Now, she left a comment on one of the photos I posted saying she was headed to a retreat in Iceland soon, for a month. I laughed and said that we might be in danger of propagating the myth that writers live an enviable, champagne lifestyle…

The next day I was up with the dawn. I eyed my laptop but then decided play first, work later. Everyone goes on about Paris sunsets, but I love the mornings the most. I walked from the CCI to the Eiffel Tower via the Musée d’Orsay (with the help of a few cafe cremes), but by mid-afternoon, I was feeling guilty: the copyeditor had sent The Liar’s Girl back to me a couple of days before, and I had to go through the manuscript to check the changes, answer queries, etc. I took a pre-packed sandwich and a Coke back to my room, opened my laptop and got to work, trying to ignore the fact that outside, Paris was waiting impatiently.

I was also trying to studiously ignore something else: that at seven o’clock Paris time, the Dagger shortlists would be announced at an event in London.

The Daggers are awarded by the Crime Writers’ Association and judged by a panel of crime-writing aficionados, and it seems like every crime writer I loved growing up had the word ‘Dagger’ somewhere in their author bio. They’re a big deal to me. As a reader, I was looking forward to them pointing me in the direction of new books to read. As a writer, they weren’t even on my radar.

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Back in May, I spent twenty-four hours at Crimefest. I was home barely thirty minutes when I got a text message from Andy, a writer friend: she was at the Dagger longlist announcement, and she’d just heard my name read out. This was so out of left-field for me I was scared to tweet anything in case it was a mistake, so I waited (and waited and waited…) until official confirmation had been posted online. Yes, Distress Signals had been longlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger award.


Tonight, I would again find out by text message. My friend (and Betty’s of Harrogate buddy) Erin was going to the announcement and had offered to let me know if I’d made the shortlist. Sitting in my room in Paris, I was thinking how awful it was going to be for Erin to have to text me to say ‘Sorry, but…’ but also about the fact that I was a published writer and I was sitting in bloody Paris, for God’s sake, so there was absolutely no need to be disappointed, whatever happened.

The clock ticked closer to seven. I tried to concentrate on my copyedits and pretend not to care. Then I decided that I was so not going to care, I was going to go out. I’d get a drink somewhere, gaze adoringly at Notre Dame  or the Eiffel Tower off in the distance for a while. I stood up, grabbed my bag. I was looking for my key when I heard a little beep: a text message. (Please excuse my, ahem, French response.)

Amazingly, Distress Signals has now been shortlisted for a Dagger. Paris is always a good idea!

You can read more about the Daggers and view all the books on all the Dagger shortlists here.