Big Dreams and Book Deals

It’s National Hangover Day here in Ireland—I mean, um, it’s a Bank Holiday Monday because St Patrick’s Day fell on a Sunday—but I’m up early to share some news. You may have seen me tweet about it over the weekend: I’ve signed a major deal with my American publishers, Blackstone, for six more books.

Nine years ago this month, in March 2010, I stopped merely talking about how my biggest dream was to work as a writer for a living and actually did something about it, even though that something was never in the original plan. I self-published a memoir that was, I like to think, as much as mildly amusing (in parts), about my time working in Walt Disney World in Florida, i.e. Mousetrapped. This, through a series of fortunate events, led to speaking engagements, workshop gigs, invites to book festivals, a job with a major publisher and two more self-published titles. I worked my butt off during these years—sadly not literally—and was pretty much permanently attached to my laptop at all hours of the day and night.

But my dream had always been to get published and self-publishing, no matter what dizzy heights of success it could theoretically bring, was never going to be enough for me. So I kept trying to write novels. I only ever managed to finish two, the second of which was Dark Waters, a thriller about a serial killer on a cruise ship.

Four years ago this month, in March 2015, I got The Phone Call I’d been dreaming of getting all my adult life: it was my agent, Jane, telling me that my novel, now called Distress Signals, had been pre-empted as part of a two-book deal by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books in London. (Actually all I remember her saying is, ‘We have an offer…’ and the rest of the conversation is a blur.) That meant the book would be published in the UK and Ireland. Shortly thereafter, an American publisher called Blackstone also took Distress Signals in a two-book deal for North America. Blackstone had been in the audiobook business for more than three decades by this point but their publishing division was a new venture. I was one of its first acquisitions.

I had dreamed of being a writer since I was a child, ever since I figured out that someone actually sat down and wrote the books I loved, and that that could be your job. Distress Signals was published a month before my thirty-fourth birthday. It’s very hard for something you’ve fantasised about for that long to live up to your expectations and you also have to learn how to be a published author. I’ve often said it’s a job like any other and publishers should run a sort of induction course or orientation for their newbies. (Seriously!) There’s a lot of floundering in that first year.

The other thing is that even though you’ve spent years and years thinking If I just got a book on the shelf I’ll be blissfully happy forever no matter what else does or doesn’t happen, in reality you’re happy for about five minutes and then you want more. You want the next thing, the bigger thing. A number one bestseller. A blurb from Stephen King. A phone call from Reese Witherspoon. (Reese, I’m at home all day today, okay? CALL ANY TIME.)

That’s not to say amazing things didn’t happen. They absolutely did. Distress Signals was optioned for television. It was shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year and the CWA’s John Creasey/New Blood Dagger Award. I saw my books on the shelves of my favourite bookshops and got messages from readers thanking me for happy hours of reading. I got to watch Netflix and call it work. (Well…) My stationery addiction became a business expense.

Despite some serious Second Novel Syndrome, I managed to write a second novel, The Liar’s Girl, which was published last year. Shortly before that came out, I signed new deals on both sides of the Atlantic for two more books. Rewind will be out in September and a fourth, working title The Nothing Man—which I should really be writing instead of this thesis-length blog post—will be out next year. So that’s four books under contract, for those counting.

Meanwhile me and my very bestest writing buddies and unpaid therapists, Carmel Harrington and Hazel Gaynor, had assembled around some G&Ts and set up The Inspiration Project. By now, all three of us were making a living as writers and yet, time and time again, we read articles and sat in the audience at literary events and listened to people say that such a thing was impossible, that writing for a living meant living in poverty or doing loads of other things as well. We were Irish writers who, because we wrote genre/commercial fiction, were unlikely to be lauded on ‘Irish Writing’ lists, but we were living out our dreams and we wanted to help other people do the same. Plus when the three of us get together we have loads of graic, which is a word I just made up this minute that means gin-infused craic. (Just go with it, okay?)

Despite all this, at the start of this year, I was feeling a bit meh. I think the lowest point for any author is equidistant between two publication dates—you’re working so hard trying to make a deadline, but it doesn’t feel like anything is actually happening, there’s no forward motion—and it didn’t help that January this year was approximately 812 dark days long. Then, in the early hours of Sunday 20th, at 1:44am to be precise, my Something wonderful is about to happen sign suddenly fell off the wall above my desk. I have 10-12 framed things hanging above there and none of them had ever fallen off before. (Something Wonderful was the only one up there with Blu-Tack, but ssshhh.) I was at the bottom of a bottle of wine and on cold and flu medication and utterly convinced that THIS WAS A SIGN.

Three days later I got a text message from my friend Erin telling me that The Liar’s Girl was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel.

The Edgars, awarded by the Mystery Writers of America, are like the Academy Awards of the crime writing world and as I type these words that news is nearly two months old and I still can’t wrap my head around it. Best Novel’s previous winners include Ian Rankin, Dennis Lehane and Stephen King. I never thought I’d have anything to do with the Edgars in my entire career, let alone Best Novel, let alone my second book. But in the midst of organising my trip to New York for the ceremony and looking for something to wear to it (a navy dress, OF COURSE), something even more amazing happened: Blackstone made an incredible offer for the North American rights to my next six books.

Book deals tend to come in ones, twos or threes. I was mildly terrified by the idea of six but I love working with Blackstone and the offer was one I just couldn’t refuse. (I’ve had a few, let’s say, polite enquiries about how much the deal is worth. I really think writers should talk about money more, because knowledge is power, but I don’t want to give away the farm. So let’s compromise. I will point you in the direction of information that is freely available: American publishing has a kind of code for the value of book deals, and major means $500,000 and up.)

I think one of the reasons I got asked to do so many talks, workshops, etc. back in my self-publishing days was because I was always realistic about it. I said, ‘Here is this great thing you can do, but it’s not the same as getting published, and I still want that to happen for me in the future.’ I’d been rejected, but I didn’t take it personally. I didn’t have a chip on my shoulder about the [insert eye roll here] gatekeepers, and I didn’t want to burn traditional publishing to the ground. But I often found myself in front of people who did. And—probably because I was relatively young, blonde, female, and often wearing pink (I guess…?)—they felt they could smirk at me, or argue, or go home and write nasty comments about what an idiot I was online. One man nearly derailed a day-long workshop by telling me this up front, during the introductions. Another effectively ruined a special occasion for me because I had the words of his awful blog comment running around my head all day. One woman, during a Q&A, sat back, folded her arms across her chest, tipped her chin at me and said, ‘Oh, you think you’re going to get a six-figure deal, is that it?’ in a tone that was just dripping with condescension. But my silent answer was yes! Yes, I do! I just knew that one day, somehow, I would prove them wrong. All I had to do was keep going and hang on. I’m not bringing this up as a told-you-so. I bring it up because I think you should ignore the Negative Nellies too. Keep going and hang on.

So that’s the news, a few thousand words later. In other news, I’m coming to America! I’ll be at the Edgars Symposium and BookExpo/Con in New York City, and I’m doing three (!) events at the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley on May 4th. Closer to home, I’m teaching a five-day crime writing workshop at West Cork Literary Festival in July and last I heard they were only three places left on it. This weekend I did my last job as an author on Rewind, i.e. checking the page proofs. It will be out in September in North America/UK/Ireland. You can pre-order here for the US and here for the UK/Ireland.

I know some of you reading this have been around since the pink typewriter days of ‘Catherine, Caffeinated’ which I started on February 1, 2010. Haven’t we come a long way? Thank you, sincerely, for sticking around.

Seriously though, I need to stop with the long blog posts now.

I’ve got approximately 700,000 words to write.

GULP.

Click here to read the deal announcement in Publishers Weekly.

The Times (Ireland):
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/crime-writer-gets-an-offer-she-cant-refuse-t5dm6v2pr

RTE Entertainment:
https://www.rte.ie/entertainment/2019/0318/1037092-irish-writer-signs-major-six-figure-us-book-deal/

Irish Times:
https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/mind-on-fire-by-arnold-fanning-shortlisted-for-30-000-wellcome-book-prize-1.3831284

Hot Press:
https://www.hotpress.com/culture/irish-writer-catherine-ryan-howard-signs-six-figure-us-book-deal-22768910

The Echo (Cork): https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/Cork-author-signs-a-six-figure-deal-with-US-publisher–a3f98681-d1b2-4ec1-9458-f80baf332ce0-ds

Irish Mirror:
https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/irish-crime-author-catherine-ryan-14154368

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.

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?

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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.

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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*


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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!

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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.

(What?!)

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.

#IBW2017 And An Epic Bookshop Crawl

Hellooo! Remember me? Yes, yes, I know, I have been terrible at blogging lately. And yes, yes, I know, I seem to be starting every blog post in the last 18 months with an apology about not blogging more often. But I’ve discovered that this writing full-time gig alongside going to university full-time doesn’t leave you much free time, especially when there’s so much good stuff on Netflix. (Have you watched GLOW? No? Go!)

I’m here to tell you the hilarity/mayhem that went on yesterday but before I get to that, I have some news. Distress Signals has been longlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger! This means a huge amount to me because the Daggers are decided by a panel of crime fiction connoisseurs, and there’s only 12 books on the New Blood longlist out of all the debut crime novels published in the year-long judging period. They include some debuts that just blew me away, like Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land and Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker. So, yay! You can view the entire longlist and the other Dagger categories on the CWA website.

Book 2 has gone off to the copyeditor and I’ve seen the UK cover concept. In other words, sh-t’s getting real. I can’t wait to tell you more about it. Hopefully I’ll be able to soon.

Onto yesterday… This week is Independent Bookshop Week (IBW) in the UK and Ireland and to kick it off yesterday, a number of indie bookshop crawls were organised and Hazel Gaynor and I embarked on one. The idea was simple: visit as many indie bookshops as you can, maybe buy a few books, and tweet etc. about your journey on the way using the hashtags #IBW2017 and #bookshopcrawl. Then, reward yourself appropriately. Hazel and I picked ten shops between the picturesque little village of Kilcullen in Co. Kildare and Dubray Books on Grafton Street, the busiest shopping area in Dublin, bought a packet of Percy Pigs and hit the road.

We hit a couple of bumps – we got to our first shop so early they weren’t open yet (oops!), and the amazing Dublin Pride parade closed down streets between us and our city centre bookshops late in the afternoon – but all in all it was the most fantastically fun day and we got to meet some incredibly enthusiastic booksellers whose love for books and expertise on them was obvious.

Here’s the thing: independent bookshops offer something the likes of Amazon and chain book retailers just cannot. I buy a tonne of books off Amazon, but whenever I go there it’s to get a book I already know I want. I rarely end up buying books on Amazon I didn’t know existed before I got to Amazon. I also buy a tonne of books from chain bookstores, like Eason here in Ireland. They do great deals and if it’s a new commercial fiction title you’re after, you will find it there. I do find new books there, but usually books in genres I already read, i.e. books inside my comfort zone.

But consider what happened yesterday. On our stop at The Company of Books in Ranelagh, we asked the owner Gwen for recommendations to share with our followers, as we had been doing throughout the day. She mentioned a book called You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann, which she said was about a writer and had shades of The Shining by Stephen King. It’s a tiny book, a novella really, and it’s been published by Riverrun in a small but perfectly formed slim hardback, translated from the original German. I was sold. And I would never, ever, ever in a million years have happened upon this book any other way. THAT is the joy of an independent bookshop.

At other stops, Hazel and I walked back out onto the street in awe of how incredibly dedicated, knowledgable and enthusiastic the booksellers we’d just met had been. It was, honestly, joyful. We write books because we love them and it was such a lovely day meeting other people who love them so much too.

(I also bought some books on the recommendation of Frank and Amy in Magpie Books but I’m not going to share them here because they’re research for A Very Secret Project. Oooh, intriguing! I know.)

My crawling buddy Hazel Gaynor was multi-tasking because yesterday was also Harry Potter Day (celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication of The Philosopher’s Stone) AND International Fairy Day – and Hazel’s new book, The Cottingley Secret, is about one of the most famous hoaxes of all time, The Cottingley Fairies. This is her in Magpie Books, Enniskerry, on the bookshop crawl, wearing a HP T-shirt and a pair of fairy wings. Is she the most on-brand author of all time? I think so! (Find out more about Hazel’s new book and her New York Times bestselling backlist here.)

Independent Bookshop Week runs all this week. I highly recommend you stop into your local indie bookshop without any book in mind and ask the bookseller to pick one for you. You never know what you might discover!

Relive our bookshop crawl adventure on Storify here.

What’s the best book you discovered in an indie bookshop? Where’s your favourite one? Did you do any bookshop crawling yesterday or do you plan to this week? Let us know in the comments below… 

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.