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

Sam Blake/Vanessa O'Loughlin and me

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

bookclubnovel

  • 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

irishpubbed

  • 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

tubs

  • 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

childrensenior

  • 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

popnonfict

  • 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)

bgacrime

  • 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.