How To Get An Edgar Nomination in 72 Easy Steps

Last week I wrote a new blog post for Writing.ie, or rather I updated an old one. I took my How To Get Published in 50 Easy Steps post and added the extra ones needed to get to where I am now, i.e. an Edgar nomination. It’s been a long, long road – that involved F1 Champion Jacques Villeneuve, Disneyworld and several John Mayer albums…

In May 2016, my biggest dream came true: my debut thriller, Distress Signals, was published. I had wanted to get a novel published since I was 8 years old and the journey to that moment had taken much longer and had many more twists than I ever could’ve anticipated. To mark the occasion, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog post called How To Get Published in 50 Easy Steps.

Last week I learned that my second novel, The Liar’s Girl, has been nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Their coveted Best Novel award has been awarded since 1954 and previous winners include titans of the genre like Raymond Chandler, Ian Rankin, Minette Walters, Dennis Lehane and Stephen King, who won it in 2015 for Mr Mercedes. I can’t say this is a dream come true, because I didn’t even dream it! To be even tenuously linked to such names is beyond incredible and it’s only in the last few days – helped, probably, by my latest deadline on Book 3, ahem – that I’ve come back down to earth.

And so now, to mark THIS occasion, I’ve updated my list.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST ON WRITING.IE

Introducing… REWIND

Ten years ago this year, I did something slightly dramatic and incredibly reckless: I quit my Proper Job and booked myself into a holiday home by the sea in East Cork. (I totally blame Alex Barclay for this because I read an interview where she said she finished her first novel in holiday homes around Ireland in the wintertime.) This holiday home was actually not very close to the sea, it was more like in the middle of nowhere. And it was November. And I don’t drive and I was alone. The idea was that with no wifi, no company and only two channels of static on the TV, I’d get loads of writing done. And I did. But in an isolated house in the desolate cold of an Irish coastal winter – a house that felt like it had more windows than solid walls – I also didn’t get a proper night’s sleep for six weeks.

What was weird about this house was that, due to the aforementioned windows and isolation, it could be scary even during the day. There were huge double doors that led to the rear garden from the kitchen, and that garden was communal, i.e. there were no fences, walls, etc. Typing away at the kitchen table, I often wondered: what would I do if I looked up and a strange man was standing at the window, looking in at me? (Clearly born to be a crime writer, these were perfectly normal thoughts for me. How can a serial killer get me here?) There was no one around. I had no mobile phone reception. Glass is breakable. What would I do?

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Image credit: PostSecret.com

Flash-forward now, I think, to the summer of 2016. I’m on holidays in one of my favourite places – a much nicer place than that holiday home – AKA Villefranche-sur-Mer, just outside Nice, France. My friend Andrea says, ‘Did you see what Postsecret posted on Instagram today?’ I take a look. It’s a picture of a bedroom and the secret on it says, ‘I swap hidden sex camera videos with other AirB&B hosts.’ I think, first of all, boy am I glad I never stayed in an AirB&B and then, immediately after that, what if you were doing that and you got more than you bargained for? What if you captured a murder on tape? How could you report it without revealing your own criminality? What if the murderer – somehow – knew the camera was there and who was watching?

This week, I revealed the cover for my third novel, Rewind. It’ll be published by Corvus in the UK and Ireland on September 5 and I hope to have American publication information for you soon (stay tuned). I am very, very, VERY excited about this one. Not only is the cover amazeballs, but I’ve had a lot of fun writing this book because of its structure. The idea is you’re ‘watching’ a ‘tape’ – but you start watching it in the middle. Then you have rewind to see what led up to this moment, at other points you fast-forward into the investigation, and sometimes you just let it play. What really happened will be presented to you out of order, but when you get to ‘The End’ – or STOP – you’ll know the whole, shocking truth.

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PLAY

Andrew, the manager of Shanamore Holiday Cottages, watches his only guest via a hidden camera in her room. One night the unthinkable happens: a shadowy figure emerges onscreen, kills her and destroys the camera. But who is the murderer? How did they know about the camera? And how will Andrew live with himself?

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PAUSE

Natalie wishes she’d stayed at home as soon as she arrives in the wintry isolation of Shanamore. There’s something creepy about the manager. She wants to leave, but she can’t – not until she’s found what she’s looking for…

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REWIND

Psycho meets Fatal Attraction in this explosive story about a murder caught on camera. You’ve already missed the start. To get the full picture you must rewind the tape and play it through to the end, no matter how shocking…

From the bestselling crime writer shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger, the Irish Crime Novel of the Year and the Edgar Award for Best Novel comes an explosive story about a twisted voyeur and a terrible crime.

COMING FROM CORVUS BOOKS ON 5 SEPTEMBER 2019

Click here to pre-order the Kindle edition (Amazon UK)

Click here to pre-order the paperback edition (Amazon UK)

Comments are closed here but you can let me know what you think on Twitter and Instagram at @cathryanhoward. 

 

Signs and Corners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something wonderful did happen.


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

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Writers, Go Forth and Binge-Watch Netflix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netflix Helps You Write

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

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

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

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

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

Netflix Helps You Write Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netflix Helps You Deal With Rejection

And finally, back to Project Runway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

So You Want To Publish A Novel

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.