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…

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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…

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Luckily the internet was still working, so:

I made an appearance on Writing.ie, 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.

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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.)

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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:

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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)

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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]

 

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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.’

(Wow!)

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).

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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.

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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.

The Irish Book Awards: A Debrief

One of the best things about writing for a living, in my opinion, is that you get to do it in your pyjamas. When I was sitting at home in them a few years back, writing the first draft of the book that would become Distress Signals, I wasn’t thinking about times like the past week, when Pyjamas Days were few and far between.

The week started with Vanessa O’Loughlin and I heading to RTE to be interviewed live on The Nicky Byrne Show on 2FM about the Amazon Independent Publishing Day. You should still be able to listen to it here, at around the 35 minute mark.

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Wednesday, the big day finally arrived: the Irish Book Awards ceremony! I’d been before, but never as a shortlisted author and I was a bit terrified. (Also, I’d never wanted to be a man more. By the time we left for the hotel I was SO sick of hair, make-up, tan, heels and clothing decisions. The stress!) My phone was buzzing all day with lovely good luck messages; I felt a bit like I was getting married or something. And then, to add to the already dangerous level of excitement, the buzzer went and the postman handed me an envelope containing this: the mass market paperback of Distress Signals, complete with IBAs shortlist sticker!

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The Irish Book Awards start really, really early – 6pm for the drinks reception this year. As you’ll know from previous posts, I was shortlisted alongside some lovely writer friends: Hazel Gaynor, Carmel Harrington and Elizabeth R Murray, and Hazel invited all of us (and our plus ones) to her hotel room for a nerves-calming glass of champagne. I really needed it, because the whole red carpet thing was absolutely terrifying. Huge thanks to Ger Holland for capturing these lovely pictures for me!

I really, really enjoyed my night – more so once my category was out of the way! As you’ll probably know by now, Tana French won the Crime Novel of the Year – and deservedly so, I think. I couldn’t even be disappointed because I never had any expectation of winning, because getting shortlisted was so amazing to me all by itself, and because if I could’ve picked one of the nominees to lose to (considering that Liz Nugent had already picked up some glassware in the Ryan Tubridy Listeners’ Choice Award category!) then I would’ve picked Tana French. I mean, how could you be sad that you lost to Tana French?! I was just delighted to be on a shortlist with her in the first place.

I was also delighted to see Mike McCormack win the final award of the evening, the Eason’s Book Club Novel of the Year, for Solar Bones. McCormack was the first writer I ever met in “real life” – he came to my school, Regina Mundi, back when I was in transition year and so aged about 16. (I still remember it vividly. We could ask questions and I asked “do you always know how it’s going to end when you start?” and he said that was a great question. Cue me walking on air for the rest of the day.) He made me think that “writer” could be an actual occupation, instead of just an impossible daydream. And on Wednesday night I was able to see him go up and collect his first Irish Book Award because I’d been shortlisted for my own. Magic!

Click on any of the images below to see some other shots from the night.

We didn’t leave the hotel until about 4:00am so Thursday was pretty much a lost cause, and I had to hand in a college essay on Friday. Then on Saturday, another big day: the Amazon Independent Publishing Conference at the Davenport here in Dublin. Honestly, I spent most of the day feeling jealous of the attendees because I would’ve killed for such an event back when I was starting out self-publishing. I did a few one-to-ones with some very impressive writers and sat on two panels, one about cover design and one about marketing.

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A great team from Amazon UK came over and the whole thing was streamed live online. Highlights will be made available to watch soon. #KDPDublin was trending in Dublin by the time the day was out. Huge thanks to superwoman Vanessa O’Loughlin for running another amazing event and for inviting me to it!

So that’s all the excitement. Now, back into the writing cave to work on Book 2 Draft 2. And after all this, I’m looking forward to it!

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There’s just one more bookish outing this side of Christmas: on Thursday I’m doing an event with Liz Nugent and Sam Blake at the Lexicon library in Dun Laoghaire, all about how to slay agents, editors and readers with a killer first chapter. Find out more information and/or book tickets here.

To see more red carpet pictures from the Irish Book Awards, click here. To see more pictures from the Amazon Independent Publishing Day, click here.  Irish Book Award photos credit: Iain Harris unless otherwise stated. Thanks to Ger Holland Photography for the official photos of both the IBAs and KDP Dublin. 

Distress Signals Shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year (Whaaa..??!)

If you missed my tweetgasm yesterday, I have news: Distress Signals has been shortlisted for Crime Novel of the Year in the Irish Book Awards!

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(One exclamation mark is really not enough for that but I’m trying to restrain myself here, okay?)

I’d love to be able to play it cool, but I can’t, I’m sorry. This is a really big deal to me. If you’ve been following my blog or me on Twitter for a while, you might know that for the last two years, I’ve attended the Irish Book Awards ceremony. The IBAs are a very unusual literary prize in that they highlight achievement in many different categories, with the winners are decided by a voting system that includes literary critics, booksellers and the public. In this way, you get a collection of books that the nation has actually been buying, reading and loving in the past year, as opposed to, say, a number of challenging literary fiction titles that hardly anyone has read and most people have never heard of. The ceremony itself is both the Irish Publishing Christmas Party (well, it is to me anyway!) and a warm and fuzzy celebration of all things books. It’s wonderful.

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The first year I went, I had only just signed with my agent a fortnight before and hadn’t yet started to edit the book that would become Distress Signals; I didn’t know it, but the realisation of my lifelong Get Published dream was five months away. The highlight of my night was getting to stand behind Tana French in the queue for the bathrooms. French to me was – and still is – a literary goddess among women. I’ve been reading her since I picked up In the Woods in the New Fiction section of what was then my local Barnes and Noble, back in Orlando in 2007. Just to be in the same room with her was thrilling – even if, yes, that room was a hotel bathroom!

This year my little book is nominated alongside Tana French’s latest, The Trespasser.

Isn’t that crazy?!

But it gets crazier. Better and crazier.

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L-R: Hazel Gaynor, Carmel Harrington, me (obvs) and Elizabeth R. Murray

At last year’s ceremony I was back at the Writing.ie table sitting with two lovely writing friends: Elizabeth R. Murray and Hazel Gaynor. Also present at the ceremony was another lovely writing friend, Carmel Harrington. We were all there because of Vanessa O’Loughlin, the founder of Writing.ie and a great friend and support to all of us, who writes crime fiction under the name Sam Blake.

All of us, I’m sure, harboured secret dreams of one day being more than a mere attendee, but getting shortlisted felt improbable. Just getting published had been a long, winding, difficult road. And only six books make the shortlist in each category, and there’s a whole year’s worth of publications to choose from.

But this year we will all attend the ceremony as shortlisted authors.

(I’m sorry, I’m breaking them out: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Between the five of us we have (at my count): five different agents, four different genres and four different publishers. One of us writes for children, one of us is on her third book. We all got published at different times after very different journeys. And yet all five of us have had this amazing, unlikely, thing happen to us, in the same year

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Sam Blake/Vanessa O’Loughlin and me

What are the odds? When you consider the odds of just getting published in the first place,  I think they’re pretty damn astronomical.

So shoot for the moon. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you it’s unlikely you’ll get there. Someone has to. You might.

The Irish Book Awards are partly decided by a public vote. Choose your favourite reads of the year here.

Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2016 – Full Shortlist

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  • All We Shall Know – Donal Ryan
  • Days Without End – Sebastian Barry
  • Solar Bones – Mike McCormack
  • The Lesser Bohemians – Eimear McBride
  • The Wonder – Emma Donoghue
  • This Must Be The Place – Maggie O’Farrell

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  • All Through the Night – Edited by Marie Heaney
  • Dublin since 1922 – Tim Carey
  • Looking Back: The Changing Faces of Ireland – Eric Luke
  • Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks – Edited by Fintan O’Toole
  • The Invisible Art: A Century of Music in Ireland 1916-2016 – Michael Dervan
  • The Glass Shore – Sinéad Gleeson

newcomer

  • Himself – Jess Kidd
  • Red Dirt – E.M. Reapy
  • The Last Days of Summer – Vanessa Ronan
  • The Maker of Swans – Paraic O’Donnell
  • The Things I Should Have Told You – Carmel Harrington
  • This Living and Immortal Thing – Austin Duffy

nonfiction

  • I Read The News Today, Oh Boy – Paul Howard
  • Ireland The Autobiography – John Bowman
  • The Hurley Maker’s Son – Patrick Deeley
  • The Supreme Court – Ruadhán Mac Cormaic
  • Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir – John Banville & Paul Joyce
  • When Ideas Matter – Michael D. Higgins

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  • Lying In Wait – Liz Nugent
  • Conclave – Robert Harris
  • Dictatorship: My Teenage War With OCD – Rebecca Ryan
  • All Through the Night – Edited by Marie Heaney
  • All We Shall Know – Donal Ryan
  • Victim Without A Face – Stefan Ahnhem

poem

  • In Glasnevin – Jane Clarke
  • Patagonia – Emma McKervey
  • Suppose I Lost – Andrew Soye
  • Love / Hotel / Love – Michael Naghtan Shanks

childrenjnr

  • A Child of Books – Sam Winston and Oliver Jeffers
  • Goodnight Everyone – Chris Haughton
  • Historopedia – Fatti and John Burke
  • Pigín of Howth – Kathleen Watkins
  • Rabbit and Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits – Julian Gough & Jim Field
  • Rover and the Big Fat Baby – Roddy Doyle

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  • Knights of the Borrowed Dark – Dave Rudden (Puffin)
  • The Book of Shadows – E.R. Murray (Mercier Press)
  • The Making of Mollie – Anna Carey (The O’Brien Press)
  • Needlework – Deirdre Sullivan (Little Island Books)
  • Nothing Tastes As Good – Claire Hennessy (Hot Key Books)
  • Flawed – Cecelia Ahern (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

cookbook

  • Recipes For A Nervous Breakdown – Sophie White
  • The World of The Happy Pear – Stephen and David Flynn
  • Natural Born Feeder – Roz Purcell
  • The Little Green Spoon – Indy Power
  • Neven Maguire’s Complete Family Cookbook – Neven Maguire
  • The Brother Hubbard – Garrett Fitzgerald

popularfiction

 

  • Game of Throw-Ins – Ross O’Carroll-Kelly
  • Lyrebird – Cecelia Ahern
  • Rebel Sisters – Marita Conlon-McKenna
  • The Girl From The Savoy – Hazel Gaynor
  • The Privileged – Emily Hourican
  • Holding – Graham Norton

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  • Adventures of a Wonky-Eyed Boy – Jason Byrne
  • Fat Chance – Louise McSharry
  • Making It Up As I Go Along – Marian Keyes
  • Pippa – Pippa O’Connor
  • Talking to Strangers – Michael Harding
  • Pussy: Before I Forget to Remember – Alan Amsby/David Kenny

sports

  • Blood, Sweat & McAteer – Jason McAteer
  • Coolmore Stud, Ireland’s Greatest Sporting Success Story – Alan Conway
  • My Life in Rugby – Donal Lenihan
  • Out of Control – Cathal Mc Carron
  • The Battle – Paul O’Connell
  • Win or Learn – John Kavanagh

shortstory

[You can read all the shortlisted stories here.]

  • Here We Are – Lucy Caldwell (Faber&Faber)
  • K-K-K – Lauren Foley (OL Society – Australia)
  • The Visit – Orla McAlinden (Sowilo Press)
  • Green, Amber, Red – Jane Casey (New Island)
  • The Birds of June – John Connell (Granta Magazine)
  • What a River Remembers of its Course – Gerard Beirne (Numero Cinq Magazine)

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  • Distress Signals – Catherine Ryan Howard
  • Little Bones – Sam Blake
  • Lying In Wait – Liz Nugent
  • The Constant Soldier – William Ryan
  • The Drowning Child – Alex Barclay
  • The Trespasser – Tana French

HUGE congratulations to all my fellow shortlisted authors!

Voting is now open. Cast yours here. The ceremony takes place in Dublin on November 16th. Follow @BGEIBAS on Twitter to find out more. 

Publication: The Epic Debrief

A word of warning: you know the way I have a tendency to write really, really long posts? Well, this might be the longest one yet. But just think of it this way: I may not blog very often at the moment but when I do, I really do. I’d recommend you go make a fresh cup of coffee before you start. Maybe even grab a snack. Perhaps prepare a packed lunch…?

Getting published is a very strange experience. I spent fourteen months waiting for publication day to come around and then, suddenly, it was a week to go and I was desperate for another week or two to prepare. There just seemed to be so much to do, all at once. I had more than 30 different blog features to write and Q&As to answer, pieces to write for Irish newspapers and magazines, goody bags to assemble for my launch and what seemed like endless e-mails to tackle.

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I was also preparing for not one but two book launches, which involved booking travel, hotels and venues for the drinks-and-nibbles party bit afterwards and, most importantly, losing ten stone in a week and shopping for outfits to cover an A, B and C Irish “summer” weather scenario. I also had to find a way to catch-up with the friends who were flying into Dublin for a weekend so they could attend my first launch, and to watch Harlan Coben’s The Five before someone spoiled it for me.

Oh, and keep plugging away at Book 2, study for four exams and, you know, eat and sleep and stuff.

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Remember how a few weeks back I went to Paris? Well, since I was going by myself my plan was to sightsee and coffee-drink all day and then work on the features I had to write back in my hotel at night. When I checked into my room and found a beautiful little desk near a window with a view I thought, Perfect. But I didn’t sit down at it once the four days I was there. Because, well, Paris.

That meant that my plan to spend the week before my exams cramming for my exams went to pot, because instead I was catching up on (a) all the stuff I didn’t do in Paris and (b) the backlog of stuff I had to do that starting piling up while I was in Paris.

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Cut to Tuesday, the day before my first exam and two days before Distress Signals comes out. I now have just one day to study for my first exam, except… Well, I really need to clean my apartment, go shopping for some industrial-strength shapewear to wear to my launch and collect my dry cleaning… So, ‘studying’ ends up being a SparkNotes speed-read. But it’s very difficult to care about potentially failing an exam when, you know, the only thing I’ve ever wanted is happening the day after it. The exam goes my way (I think – we’ll find out in a few weeks) and straight afterwards I met Eva, she of Mousetrapped fame, who’s flown in from Munich for the launch. We have an over-excitable catch-up lunch, compliment each other on not ageing a day (if we do say so ourselves) and then I disappear back home to tackle the last few emails and blog posts. While I’m there, I get a picture message: the girls (Andrea, also of Mousetrapped fame, and Michelle have since arrived from Orlando via Madrid) are in Dubray Books on Grafton Street, the site of tomorrow night’s launch, and have found my book on the shelves. Exciting!

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That night, we all go out to dinner. I tell myself the G&Ts are to help me sleep. When I get home, I stay up to see if the Kindle edition of Distress Signals – that I’ve shamelessly pre-ordered – will arrive on my device once the clock strikes midnight. Spoiler alert: it does.

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Launch day morning is actually quite calm. I have the day planned down to the minute and every minute before noon is for sitting in my PJs, drinking coffee from my new anchor mug and giddily clicking through all the lovely messages on Twitter and Facebook.

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My parents and siblings are coming up from Cork to stay in a hotel in the city centre for the night, and even though I live in the city centre, I think I should get to stay in the hotel too. I check in and within ten seconds I’ve told the front desk agent that my book is being launched tonight. Same thing in the hairdressers, although that’s really out of necessity. (“Put ALL the hairspray in, okay? ALL of it.”) I have lunch with my editor from Corvus, Sara, who’s flown over from London for the launch too. She’s a very calming influence and talking to her reminds me that the most important thing that evening is that I stop worrying about stuff, relax and enjoy myself. So I do.

A G&T back at the hotel afterwards, just before I have to go get ready, also helps with this.

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Then something amazing happens. My writer friend Hazel will be missing from the launch because she’s in Orlando on a family holiday of a lifetime. This is devastating because Hazel is one third of The Lovely Girls, the other two being me and our other writer friend Sheena, and without the two of them I might still be saying, “I’m just not ready to submit it yet…” But Hazel more than makes up for being away, because she’s at Kennedy Space Center, and she sends me this picture (above). If you know me but at all, you’ll know how much this means to me.

SO FRAMING IT.

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Here’s the thing with the launch, THE launch, my first one, in Dubray’s on Grafton Street: it’s been like a wedding. It feels as if not more important. I’ve been thinking about it and daydreaming about it and planning for it for more than a year. (Well, the daydreaming was definitely going on before that.) There’s a pit in my stomach where all the doomsday scenarios are hanging out: nobody will come, nobody will buy the book, everyone will come and everyone will buy the book and we’ll run out, I’ll get a ladder in my tights… And I’m really nervous about speaking, which is something I normally love doing. It’s all getting a bit much.

Is it too late to have another G&T?

(Yes, because the industrial-strength shapewear takes at least ten minutes to get off and back on.)

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But… the launch goes amazingly well. It really does. And the main reason for this is that I get to enjoy it. As soon as I see friendly faces arrive, I start to relax. Even the speech goes really well. I start by talking about how it isn’t my first launch in Dubray’s; because I’ve such a talented bunch of writer friends, I’m at launches there all the time. “So,” I say, “please forgive me for this, but the first thing I want to say is… FINALLY! It’s my turn.”

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That gets a good laugh, as does my top tip for getting published (“writing something”) and my instructions that, should I faint, just grab a scissors and cut me out of the underwear that is currently dissecting my spleen. There is one little moment when I realise what I’m doing, i.e. making a speech at my book launch, and my voice cracks and my vision blurs. Uh-oh. I’m crying. But I take a deep breath, tell myself to cop on and power through.

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My writer friend Ellen sent me a lovely quote via Instagram that morning – “Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable” by Mary Oliver – and I think it’s the perfect note to end the speech on. But I don’t trust myself to say it so I get her to instead. It’s all great fun and at one point, even if it’s just for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hot second, #DistressSignals trends no. 1 in Dublin.

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You can find all the launch pics on my Facebook page if you want to see more than what I’ve posted here. Huge thanks to Ger Holland who took all the professional shots on the night. Not only do I now have wonderful pictures to look back on, but she made us all look totally fab in them too. Hooray!

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I’m in bed back at the hotel by a very reasonable hour (in my Distress Signals-matching pyjamas) but I can’t sleep. I’m too jazzed and am up scrolling through Twitter and Facebook well into the night. The next morning I’m hungover and sleep-deprived, so downing a bucket of Starbucks is the first item on my To Do list. After that I do a radio interview with a station in Cork and then hit the road with my publicist, Declan, to sign stock in Eason’s branches around the city and suburbs.

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This is something a lot of authors do here in Dublin, but I wanted to add another element to my stock signing trip, namely something that would tie into Twitter. So: I brought goody bags. Remember all that blue, nautical stuff I was buying? That’s what that was for. At each location I left one or two behind and tweeted that the next person to buy a copy of Distress Signals would get the gift of a bag too.

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Seeing piles of the book in store, signing them, meeting with booksellers – it was all so much fun, if completely surreal. And then, on the very last stop, I notice that I’m piled high next to Harlan Coben’s new book, Fool Me Once. This is the most surreal moment of the day, because Coben is my hero. Back in 2007, when I was living in the Netherlands, I took a train to Paris and back on the same day so I could attend a signing event he was doing in La Defense. When I got to the top of the queue, I found that I couldn’t coherently speak. I just kept smiling and nodding and let my friend Sheelagh do the talking for both of us. I was mortified, but hey, I’d met the great Harlan Coben and I had my signed book. Now, nine years later, I was looking at my book – my book?! – next to his. I put this on my personal Facebook and tagged him in it, and he left a comment on my post.

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Bestseller lists? Awards? Good launch hair? Forget all that – Harlan Coben left a comment on my Facebook post!

So it was a really great, fun day, made even greater by the fact that I was home by mid-afternoon and so had time for a disco nap. Then it was back out for another gin-soaked dinner with Andrea, Eva and Michelle, who were all flying home the next morning. More fun, except—

Saturday morning. Back down to earth with a thud. All the excitement of the last few days, the running around, the dreams coming true, the gin… It’s all hitting me now and I can barely lift my head off the pillow. That’s a problem, because I have an exam at 2pm and I was supposed to get up with the dawn so I could try to cram enough facts about post-colonial literature into my brain to have something to write down come the afternoon. I keep hitting the snooze button and next thing I know, I’m out of time. I message my college buddy, Elaine, and tell her I’m thinking of not coming in, that I don’t think there’s any point, that I’m so underprepared there’s no way I’ll pass. She says, “Are you serious?” Well…

No. No, I should go. So I haul myself out of bed, throw myself into the shower for a second (I can get another day out of my launch hair, right?), eat an avocado with a spoon, swallow two espresso shots and run out the door. Do I pass the exam? I’ve no idea yet. I know I did better than I would’ve done if I’d stayed at home though. To get over the trauma, we head to a bar afterwards and have a French 75, which contains gin.

(I’m sensing a theme here. I really should have got Hendrick’s to sponsor this post.)

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Dublin the next day – Sunday – is all blue skies and hot sun, but I’m spending it on a train to Cork. Launch No. 2 is Monday evening in Waterstone’s Patrick Street. Vanessa O’Loughlin, AKA Sam Blake, is coming down to launch it for me.

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My attitude to this launch is totally different. I’m completely relaxed. I’m wearing a dress I’ve owned for years, I’m doing my own hair (badly) and I’ve arranged to meet Vanessa for a drink – yes, more gin – just before the bookshop bit. I’m that relaxed. But I shouldn’t be, because I’ve picked the absolute worst day for a launch. It’s a Monday, it’s raining like it did when the storm hit Isla Nublar in Jurassic Park and there’s been a traffic accident somewhere that makes the traffic absolutely apocalyptic. It’s going so slow it looks like that scene in The Walking Dead where Rick is approaching Atlanta while an endless line of abandoned cars snakes out of it. I think I’ll be walking into an empty shop, and wonder how long I can push the start time. But I’m actually one of the last to arrive. (My hair is disastrous, but we’ll get over that.)

My uncle took a video (above) of the Cork launch: Vanessa introducing me, me winging it and then my brother John reading the prologue of Distress Signals. (The speeches start at 1:35.)

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Can I just say: it was very special for me to have my launch in that shop. I’ve been buying books in there for as long as I can remember – especially the “how to write books” kind of books. When I was as far away from my dream of getting published as I could be, I would go into Waterstone’s and buy a new one, and just reading it would spur me on. Getting to have my launch there was really special and BIG thanks to John and the rest of the staff for making it such a fab night, despite the rain and the traffic!

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After a very late night, I was up early the next morning for more stock signings. This time, my brother was my chauffeur. I met some more lovely booksellers, saw my book in some more exciting places, and signed some more stock. Around lunchtime John and I are sitting in a Starbucks when I see that the piece I wrote for the Irish Times has gone up online (‘Catherine Ryan Howard on the secret of getting published: it’s all about the book’) and down the end of it is this:

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?!?!?!?!?!?!?

I had no idea I was getting reviewed, so that’s excitement enough, but to know already what that review is going to say, and for it to be that brilliant… It’s just too much. The whole point really of the trade paperback (which is the print format Distress Signals has been published in) is to lay a foundation for the mass market paperback (the smaller one) which will come out a few months later. One of the key ways to do is to get reviews that you can put on the mass market paperback’s cover and here, not even a full week after publication, was ours. I was smiling to myself the whole way back to Dublin on the train, and not just because I had two bottles of champagne carefully wrapped in towels in my bag…

The plan was that I’d take the next day, Wednesday, off, i.e. have a sweatpants and Netflix day, and then starting Thursday it’d be cramming o’clock for my remaining two exams, which were one after the other in seven days’ time. Yes, that was the plan.

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During my sweatpants and Netflix relax-a-thon, I fell asleep on the couch and woke up with an almighty crick in my neck. But no worries, I thought. It’s just because I slept funny. It’ll go away soon.

But it didn’t. The next day I went and got some heat packs (which look exactly like sanitary pads? Did nobody think that through?!) and some anti-inflammatories. They made me feel a bit better, but Vanessa Ronan’s launch for The Last Days of Summer was that evening, I was going, and I couldn’t really show up to it with what looked like a sanitary pad stuck to the side of my neck. So I just had to grin and bear it. Afterwards, I called into Dubray Books to see Distress Signals at No. 1 on their in-store chart for myself (below). By the time I got home, my neck was worse than ever.  Cue me trying everything: more heat packs, heat packs and a travel neck pillow, Ibuprofen gel, pills which made my stomach hurt, excessive sleeping …

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In the midst of all this, there was lots of newspaper-related excitement. I’ve self-published in the past, as you know, so seeing people talking online about your book, reviewing it, recommending it, etc. while absolutely wonderful, is something I’ve experienced before. Traditional media coverage, however, not so much. I’ve never been reviewed in newspapers. And the weekend after my Cork launch – the second weekend of Distress Signals’ published life – I was spoiled with coverage. There was the aforementioned Irish Times review, another wonderful review in the Irish Independent, a feature in the Irish Daily Mail’s You magazine, a mention in Woman’s Way magazine and I wrote the ‘My Week’ feature for the Irish Sunday Times, in which I fit everything I’ve blogged about in this post into just 850 words, something you’re probably wishing now I’d done today too.

(You can find out more about the reaction to Distress Signals here.)

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But my neck was still killing me, and nothing was working. Finally, the same college buddy who’d told me to get out of bed and go sit my post-col exam recommended something called wintergreen oil which I had to go buy from a Chinese medicine shop and just trust that it was wintergreen oil, because the label was in Chinese. And even though I was dubious and it smelled awful, it was a miracle worker. Almost from the first application, the pain started to go away.

But by the time this happened, it was Sunday evening. I’d lost nearly all my study time and now it was just forty-eight hours until the first of two truly awful exams. But they were the two last ones, so I crammed in as much as I could and just got them out of the way.

I took the last one the day after Vanessa O’Loughlin’s launch (for Little Bones, as Sam Blake – yes, it is book launch season in Dublin, in case you’re wondering) which involved a spectacular after-party in a secret speakeasy (that we needed a password to get into! Best launch EVAH) during which I drank yet more gin-based cocktails. I felt so sick the next day, I nearly threw up all over my Realism: The Novel paper.

(But I didn’t. That’s the main thing.)

In the midst of all this, the wheels started turning on the American publication, which is currently slated for October. Distress Signals will be published in the States in hardback, e-book and audio. I saw the cover for the first time last week and I can’t WAIT to be able to show it to you, because I love, love, LOVE it. It’s really amazing. And now we’re getting ready to go through the manuscript again, copyediting with American English and Americans in mind.

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And this morning, more newspaper excitement, because Distress Signals is at No. 8 in Ireland’s Original Fiction chart! Not only that, but I hear copies of it are lurking in some CrimeFest goody bags…

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This is one of my favourite pictures taken at the launch in Dublin. It’s me laughing about the fact that I’ve started crying again, because when I first met the wonderful Monica McInerney at an Inkwell workshop back in 2010, she inscribed a copy of one of her novels to me with a message that said she couldn’t wait to read mine. I was reminding her of this when I started crying again.

Three thousand words later, I just want to finish with thanks. Thanks to everyone who has bought, read or reviewed the book. Thanks to the amazing book bloggers who have written reviews that I want to print out and keep in a book that can be used to ward off self-doubt in the future. Thanks to everyone who came to the launches, and who helped me annoy everyone else on Twitter by tweeting about it incessantly. Thanks to Jane Gregory, Corvus/Atlantic and Gill Hess. Thanks to the booksellers and all my writing friends. Thanks to YOU, for reading this.

Now, back to Book 2. I’m actually itching to get back to it after all this non-writing excitement. Between now and next weekend – when I’m in Enniscorthy for the Focal Wexford Literary Festival – I’m locking myself away to finish it. The reaction to Distress Signals has been truly amazing, but, um, it is piling the pressure on… (First world problems, I know.)

Distress Signals is currently just £1.99 on Kindle. Tell a friend! Or tell an enemy. I don’t mind. If you want to find out more about it first, you can do so here. In short, it’s about a serial killer on a cruise ship. (Or IS it?! Dum-dum-DUUUUUUUMMMMM.)

Now please excuse me while I go lie in a dark room and watch Bates Motel.

(Thank you!)  

Dublin launch pics by Ger Holland Photography. Cork launch pic and video by Tom Ryan. Additional photos by Eva Heppel, Waterstone’s Cork, Marianne of Eason’s Mahon Point Cork, Gill Hess Ltd and Hazel Gaynor. 

(Being) On Submission Syndrome

I know it’s only been five minutes since I last mentioned it, but I got a book deal. In true Publishing “Hurry Up and Wait” Industry style, it happened in a flash after a couple of decades of waiting for it to. The offer from Corvus came just six days short of Mousetrapped‘s five year anniversary – I self-published Mousetrapped on Monday 29th March 2010; the offer was made on Monday 23rd March 2015 – and only five days passed between my agent sending my novel out to publishers and an offer coming back. (The moral of that story? Finish your damn book.) This was a good thing, because I did not take being on submission well…

DAY 1: Thursday 12th March 2015

I send the final, final, FINAL (for now) version of the book back to my agent’s in-house editor extraordinaire, Stephanie. Instantaneously I develop a host of flu-like symptoms, including but not limited to: headache, chills, sinus pressure, sore throat, cough, general feeling that death is imminent. I crawl into bed with Netflix and sleep for fifteen hours.

DAY 2: Friday 13th March 2015

I e-mail my agent, trying to be as breezy and casual as I possibly can be, trying to find out if I’m already out on submission or if that horror is ahead of me yet. In other words: should I have already assumed the foetal position on the floor alongside my phone, or can that wait until Monday?

Think Crocs with socks, in a tornado. I am that breezy and casual. “So,” I type, “just, like, whenever you have a chance – no rush! – could you, like, maybe possibly potentially just give me a quick update on what happens next? BUT LIKE I DON’T EVEN CARE. Laters.”

Day 3: Saturday 14th March 2015

No response. It’s the weekend.

Day 4: Sunday 15th March 2015

No response because it’s still the weekend.

Day 5: Monday 16th March 2015

I’ve been in bed for weeks, it feels like, because it’s difficult to fall asleep when you’re anywhere else and sleep is the only respite I have from wondering which way I will fall off this precipice: into my dreams (an offer!) or into disaster (thanks but no thanks).

It’s the day before Patrick’s Day – which is falling on a Tuesday this year – so in Ireland, it’s unofficially an extension of the weekend. No one is doing anything, including me. I decide not to leave my sick-on-submission bed for college, and sleep more instead.

Sniff.

Day 6: Tuesday 17th March 2015

News breaks of a colossal book deal that a female writer in the UK has signed, a female writer who I’m sure is lovely and talented and works harder than me, but who this morning I can feel nothing for except stone cold hatred and contempt, seasoned liberally with jealousy. But her book sounds really intriguing and I say so on Twitter. The publicist tweets me that it IS really intriguing and says he’ll send me a proof when it comes out. DOES THIS MEAN SOMETHING?

I venture outside, just to check it’s still there. I do this about half an hour before Dublin’s Patrick’s Day parade starts and therefore I encounter strings of tour buses and people from other countries wearing leprechaun hats. I go back inside.

I sit on the sofa, eying the bed.

I get back into bed.

Day 7: Wednesday 18th March 2015

I’ve made a doctor’s appointment for 9:00am so that I (a)  might score some antibiotics and (b) am forced to get out of The Bed and keep going, further, until I’m out of the house.

It turns out to be a gorgeous sunny spring morning, fresh and warm with blue skies, and I am hemorrhaging positivity (that’s a thing, right?) as I skip down the street, light-headed from the oxygen. The doctor refuses to give me any drugs but that’s totally fine, because while I’m in the doctor’s surgery I forget for a whole twenty minutes about my Gmail account and when I remember it again – GASP! – there’s an e-mail from The Agent…

HEART BEAT HEART BEAT HEART BEAT HEART BEAT HEART BEAT

… that says sorry for the delay in replying, but all is well and she’ll be sending out a short description of The Book to a number of editors later today. Which means I’ve spent a whole week of my life fixating on something that wasn’t actually happening yet. But I have learned a valuable lesson.

Well, I’m sure I have. I’ll realize what it is eventually.

So now we’re back to:

Day 1 (for realsies, this time): Thursday 19th March 2015

Between finishing the book and then being horribly diseased, I feel like I haven’t been at college much lately. Even when I was there, my mind wasn’t really. Today is my first post-rewrite, post-post-rewrite-flu day back and I have a busy schedule of lectures and tutorials and catching up with college friends to do. It’s another gorgeous sunny day and as I sit in the sun off Dawson Street sipping a flat white, it occurs to me that I’m feeling great.

So great that I only check my phone, like, 3,051 times during business hours.

Day 2: Friday 20th March 2015

I have two essays due in 6 days, so I better start them, eh? I spend the solar eclipse in the library reading about the symbolism of curtains in Dubliners.

That evening I head out to Dun Laoghaire to the Mountains to Sea festival, to see crime writing stars SJ Watson and Paula Hawkins in conversation with Sinead Crowley (also a crime writer) with my friend Sheena (also a writer whose novel The Lake opens with the discovery of a dead body). Not the ideal way to take my mind off being on submission, it turns out.

Day 3: Saturday 21st March 2015

Turns out it’s near impossible to resist stalking editors on Twitter who you suspect have been contacted about your book. Wait, she says she’s reading something she’s enjoying? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Could it be my book? How much praise is “enjoying”? Is that like pre-empt enjoying, or thanks but no thanks enjoying? What if –

Oh, it was just a magazine article about Paris. Unless… Is that a clue that she really meant my book but can’t just come and say so because it’d be inappropriate at this tentative negotiation stage? Does “Paris” really mean “Catherine’s book”? Is it CODE? Is she trying to communicate with me over the medium of Twitter? Or –

Oh. She’s not even at work. She’s on maternity leave.

DAY 4: SUNDAY 22ND MARCH 2015

[Sleeps]

[Wakes up briefly]

[Turns over]

[Sleeps more]

DAY 5: MONDAY 23RD MARCH 2015

This morning, I have a stern talk with myself. I remind me that it could be weeks before I hear anything – my agent warned that it would be – and when I do, it could be less than amazing news. I need to move on.

Or at least I need to pretend that I’m moving on.

I get up early and do some work on one of the two essays that are due now in approximately 98 hours. My plan for the day is hectic compared to what I’ve been up to since I started suffering from On Submission Syndrome: I have a Romanticism lecture at 2pm and am meeting writing friends – Hazel and the aforementioned Sheena – at Le Petit Parisien at three. We’re meeting to celebrate the fact that Hazel won the Historical Fiction category at the RNA awards a few days before, and the publication of Sheena’s The Lake.

But at exactly one minute to one o’clock, Monday 23rd March 2015 becomes all about ME.

Lecture smecture. I can’t possibly go to that now. Instead, I text Hazel and Sheena to tell them that I am now AN ONGOING SITUATION and to meet me at the cafe ASAP because OMG stuff is happening and I’m like WTF with the all caps and the acronyms.

*THE* PHONE CALL: 12:59, MONDAY MARCH 23RD 2015

I was about fifteen minutes from walking out the door when my phone rang with a UK country code.

Instantly I know: it’s my agent, Jane. My heartbeat starts thundering in my ears but I’m pretty calm, cool and collected when I speak to her. I actually miss her call – I don’t get to the phone in time – and I call her straight back without listening to her voicemail which will later tell me that there is “terrifyingly good news”.

I think she is calling with a general update – what else could it be? The book went out on Wednesday – so I’m not prepared at all when she says, “We have an offer.” Two books from Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic, and an advance that means I can be a student for the next three years without having to live off of Aldi’s instant noodles. With this, I’ll be able to dine on McDonnell’s Super Noodles instead. Major brand noodles instead of own brand/generic.

Major brand noodles, people. Hooray!

One small thing: it’s a pre-empt and it has a 5pm deadline.

A pre-empt is basically an offer  that says, “We want this book and we don’t want anyone else to have the chance to make an offer for it too. We want it off the FOR SALE shelf, now.” It is not the opening bid in a potential auction, because if you say no at deadline time, the offer doesn’t stand. It will definitely drop significantly – the Super Noodles would be gone and I’d be back to those mystery noodles in Tesco’s Everyday Value range that are so cheap (12c a pack! Whaaa….?) I’m not entirely convinced they can be a foodstuff – or it might go away altogether.

You know that sequence in 24 that plays on either side of a commercial break? The beep… beep … beep… of the ticking clock that speeds up until it’s more like beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep? That’s what my afternoon was like that day. As I said I skipped the lecture, heading straight for Le Petit Parisien, where Sheena had thankfully dashed to a bit early so we could sit drinking coffee and staring at my phone together, waiting for my agent to ring back. Hazel eventually arrived too.

We did this for three hours. I forget how many coffees I had.

Beep…

Beep…

Beep…

Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep.

We waited while Jane got more information, which she called me at about a minute to five to relay. Everything she came back with sounded like good news.

The editor, Sara, seemed to be incredibly enthusiastic, as shown by her coming back with a pre-empt just five days after the book went out. (My agent said it was the fastest deal she’d ever done.) Now I’ve had a foot in the publishing industry for the last three years or so and knew way more than I needed to about it before that, and what I’ve learned is that enthusiasm is everything. It can be hard to maintain through the long process of a publishing contract – for both sides – and so if you don’t start with oodles of it, you’re destined to be short of it later on.

So, on Wicklow Street, standing outside the cafe with my phone to my ear smelling the lovely stuff on offer in L’Occitane next door, I told Jane to accept the offer.

I know I’m incredibly lucky to have to suffer through only five days of being on submission – and for it to end in a deal – but that’s just as well, because it turns out that five days of being on submission is about all I could take!

The featured image is a view from the famous promenade in Nice, France. I love it there, and have spent many an hour sitting on benches like the one pictured, sunning myself and reading great books. It makes me feel the opposite of how being on submission felt. 

I’ve Been *BURSTING* To Tell You: I Got a Book Deal!

I know things have been a bit quiet around here lately but that’s because I was (a) cramming for and then taking end-of-year exams and (b) keeping an enormous secret that I feared I might subliminally spill. This morning though, I’m finally able to tell you:

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[And… BREATHE.]

If you’ve been hanging around these parts a while you’ll know that last summer I finally finished a respectable draft of a serial killer thriller I’d been mostly not writing for the best part of two years. In October I signed with Jane Gregory, an agent I almost hadn’t submitted to because looking at the existing clients on her website, I thought I didn’t stand a chance. After I got my first batch of university assignments done over Christmas I did some re-writes on the book, and it went out on submission back in March. Just five days later, on March 23rd, it was pre-empted by Corvus – an imprint of Atlantic Books – as part of a two-book deal.

(Yes, I’ve been keeping this a secret for the last two months. I know.)

So my debut thriller Distress Signals will be available for your reading pleasure* in the UK and Ireland (and Australia and New Zealand) in June 2016, and I got something I’ve wanted since I was approximately eight years old. Hooray! 

This is why I cleaned up my website, diluting the pink a bit, and changed my profile pic from Happy Coffee-Drinking Catherine to Possibly Watches You While You Sleep Catherine, because I can’t be quite so smiley anymore now that I write about murderers and stuff.

If in the last year you and I have met at the complimentary coffee kiosk at a writerly event, I may have described this book as being about “a serial killer on a cruise ship”. This is the extended version:

The day Adam Dunne’s girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart. Days later, the arrival of her passport and a note that reads ‘I’m sorry – S’ sets off real alarm bells. He vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Adam is puzzled when he connects Sarah to a cruise ship called the Celebrate – and to a woman, Estelle, who disappeared from the same ship in eerily similar circumstances almost exactly a year before. To get answers, Adam must confront some difficult truths about his relationship with Sarah. He must do things of which he never thought himself capable. And he must try to outwit a murderer who seems to have found the perfect hunting ground…

If you want to know more, rest assured that I will be blogging every minor detail of this adventure in the coming weeks and months. So be careful what you wish for. I do have a lot of fun things planned though, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride. You could also sign up to my newsletter, especially if you’re into getting sporadic, pink-tinged e-mails.

Speaking of things you wish for, the little girl below wished for this. That’s why she asked Santa for a typewriter back in 1989. And now, even though she’s had plenty of time for it to sink in, she still can’t quite believe that it’s happened. 

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And she’s totally going on eBay to see if anyone is selling Barbie’s Magic Van.

*The next phase in this adventure will be a year of sleepless nights and paralyzing anxiety about whether, when the book comes out, anyone will buy it, and if they buy it, will they like it, and if they like it, will they tell anyone – not to mention the little matter of WRITING ANOTHER ONE –  until I’m under my desk in the foetal position, clutching a copy of The Bookseller and whimpering. 

But that’s next week. 

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