Coming Soon: THE LIAR’S GIRL

So, news. My second thriller, The Liar’s Girl, will be out in the UK/Ireland and the USA in early 2018 and I’ll be revealing both covers on Instagram on Friday, so if you’re not already following me @cathryanhoward over there, start now!

(That’s also where I share what books I’m reading and sometimes what I thought of them too, if you’re into that kind of thing.)

To make things more interesting, I’ll be revealing each cover square by square. So you might see me post weird images like this:

But then when all 12 weird images have been posted, go look at my Instagram page (in grid view) and TA-DAA!

(That is, obviously, the UK/Ireland trade paperback cover of Distress Signals. I did a test with it.)

The covers will be revealed this Friday, 14th July:

  • From noon for the UK/Ireland cover
  • From 6pm for the USA cover (that’s 1pm Eastern and 10am Pacific – thanks Erin!) 

OOOH, THE ANTICIPATION.

(Mostly felt by me, because I can’t wait to hear what you think of these covers. They’re VERY different to each other but both amazing in their own ways.)

What else can I tell you about this novel? Well, not much because I like being an international woman of mystery. For now, anyway. But let’s just say:

  • It’s another standalone (it’s not a sequel to Distress Signals)
  • ‘Girl’ is in the title but hold your books-with-girl-in-the-title-think-piece horses: she actually IS a girl (or at least she was when the Bad Stuff started happening)
  • It’s set in Ireland
  • It’s set on dry land BUT…
  • … water does feature. (The featured image on this post = BIG CLUE.)

I am currently in the south of France slowly melting into a puddle of Irish Person Who’s Not Used To This Heat. Here’s a picture I took last night to depress you:

Next week, I’ll be heading for Harrogate, THE crime festival of the year, with the Writing.ie gang and between us – there’s four of us, I think – we will be tweeting every event LIKE MAD so do brace yourself for that. If you’re going to be AT Harrogate, do find us and say hi!

Don’t forget – there’s an easy way to stay up to date with my bookish news: my newsletter. Sign up here. I only send a handful a year so you don’t need to worry about inbox overload. Alternatively you can follow me on Twitter or “like” meh Facebook page thingy. (*whispers* Then there’ll be NO escape…. *evil cackle*)

But remember: if you want to see my new covers first, you better be on Instagram!

#DSBB: (Being) On Submission Syndrome

Welcome to the Distress Signals Blogging Bonanza! What’s that, you’re wondering? Well, you can either go and read this post or read the next sentence. In a nutshell: Distress Signals is out in paperback in the UK and Ireland on January 5 (today!) and hits the U.S.A. on February 2, and every day in between I’m going to blog as per the schedule below.

dsbb

A reminder in case you’ve forgotten since the last paragraph: Distress Signals is out in paperback now! If you’ve read it already, hunt down someone you know who likes thrillers and tell them that my rent is very, very high. (Or that you liked it, if you did. You know, whatever works.) If you have no idea what I’m talking about and you’re not quite done with your procrastination yet today, you can find out more about Distress Signals here.

As today is Thursday, it’s time for a replay, and today I’m replaying (Being) On Submission Syndrome. When your agent sends out your manuscript to editors at publishing houses, hoping at least one of them will come back to her and say, “We want this!”, that’s what being on submission is. I did not handle it well so it was just as well I was incredibly lucky to have over very quickly. Here we go…

[Originally published in June 2015]

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!

Enter for your chance to win a signed, hardcover edition of Distress Signals (the US edition) simply by leaving a comment on this or any #DSBB blog until February 2nd. One entry per post. Open globally. Good luck! 

Book One/Two Episode 4: 3 Months To Go (What?!)

Welcome to the fourth instalment of Book One/Two! (Do you need to catch up? Click here for all Book One/Two posts.) Yeah, so… It’s been a while. I know, I know. But it’s just a reflection of what’s been happening since the last instalment of this back in November: nothing much.

I have some exciting news… but I can’t tell you it yet. And I’ve been putting together some fun stuff to mark the launch of Distress Signals… but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. And I don’t really want to talk about Book 2 until the first draft is actually finished, which it still isn’t because of college, life, Making a Murderer, etc. so there isn’t much to say about that either.

So what has been going on that I can actually put in this blog post? Let’s see…

Book One: DISTRESS SIGNALS

PUBLICATION DATE: 5 May 2016

I got a bit of a shock a couple of weeks back when I started pencilling in a “Distress Signals countdown” in my new Happy Planner (my Erin Condren days are over – it’s all about the discs now) and realised that publication day is just – wait for it – eleven weeks away. It’s eleven weeks from this coming Thursday, to be exact. That might not sound that soon, but the week after that it’ll be just ten weeks away. TEN WEEKS. What?! Bearing in mind that when I got my book deal, the publication date was fourteen months away. I wasn’t even able to say ‘My book will be out in June.’ I had to say ‘next June. As in, next year.’ (As it was at the time. It’s May now.) Where has the time gone? How can it be so soon? If you do two diets at once, do you lose twice as much? Asking for a friend whose book launch is in eleven weeks.

FullSizeRender (1)

Last we heard proof copies had arrived at Corvus HQ and been sent out, specially wrapped, to a select few. Now, writers I respect and admire are reading the book, which is utterly terrifying – but exciting too. (And two of the lovely and talented First Ladies of Irish Crime, Liz Nugent and Sinead Crowley, have been kind enough to (a) read Distress Signals and (b) let me tell you what they thought of it. Modesty prevents me from pasting their blurbs in here, but you can find them on the book’s page if you’re interested.)

authors

Proper, final copies are about to go into production, which means I had to decide on things like a dedication, and I had to write my Acknowledgements. Acknowledgements are a tricky business, because you don’t want to offend anyone but at the same time, I believe they should be short and sweet and reserved for people who actually helped you write the book (or, in the case of your first published novel, helped you get to this point). With fiction, especially first person narratives (DS is mainly that), there’s also the issue of breaking the spell. The longer the list of thank-yous, the louder the writer seems to be shouting, ‘Hey, I know you’re feeling sad/angry/shocked about those guys, but don’t worry – I just made it all up!’ But… you want to thank everyone who needs thanking. It’s tricky to get the balance right.

booksellerDUO

Last week, Distress Signals popped up in The Bookseller‘s May fiction preview – with a cover image! ALL THE THRILLS. Especially since my cover scheme so perfectly matches theirs. I was also pleased they mentioned the cruise ship element in their succinct synopsis. In the wake of the “grip-lit” debate, I wrote about genres for Writing.ie. Can we make “cruise-lit” a thing? Pretty please?

trappedQUAD

Speaking of cruise ships, are you watching Trapped, the new Scandi noir that’s come to BBC4 on Saturday nights? (I love a bit of Scandi noir on the BBC on a Saturday night. It feels like getting back together with an old boyfriend who isn’t one of the ones that’s as good as dead to you now. I’ve missed it.) The oddities of maritime law – in certain circumstances, it essentially ensures that there’s no police at sea – plays a major role in Distress Signals, and it did too in the first episode of Trapped. Part of a dismembered body is found in the wake of a passenger ferry pulling into port in Iceland, but the Icelandic authorities have to apply for a court order before they can search the Danish ship.

IMG_7967

In other news, I can’t stop buying blue things. My latest acquisition are these lovely “flowers” from Bioflowers.ie. They’re made from things like wood-chip, denim and paper, and are incredibly Instagrammable. (Totally a word, I’m sure.)

Did you read my recent update on Goodreads giveaways? The experiment continues – a second one is now in progress for users with addresses in Ireland and the UK. You can enter the giveaway here.

Distress Signals is now available to pre-order in paperback and Kindle edition on Amazon.co.uk. You can also pre-order the print edition from The Book Depository, which offers free shipping worldwide with no minimum order. If you are a book blogger and you’d like to request a review copy, please email publicity@atlantic-books.co.uk.

IMG_7691

Book Two: AS YET UNTITLED

DELIVERY DATE: APRIL 2016 | PUBLICATION DATE: MAY 2017

How’s the second book going, you ask?

IT’S GOING, OKAY? IT’S GOING. STOP ASKING ME. JEEZ LOUISE.

It’s okay. It’s going okay. But it’s taking longer than I thought it would, and now I just want this first draft to be finished so I can move onto the fun bit: Post-It noting and rewriting. Because of college and the stacks of reading I have to do for it, my writing schedule currently involves a lot of early mornings. Life’s call-time of a weekday is currently between five and six am. One night last week I went to bed at half-past nine. Half-past nine, people. That’s, like, practically the afternoon. But I’m almost there. I just hope my coffee machine manages to stay the course because now would be the worst time for my Nespresso  to wear out its circuit board for a second time… (Touch wood. And by wood I mean the tin in which I keep my Arpeggio capsules.)

coffeegif

Now, STOP ASKING ME.

Not getting enough e-mails? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you them sporadically!

Book One/Two Episode 3: Proof Copies!

Welcome to the third installment of Book One/Two. (Do you need to catch up? Click here for all Book One/Two posts.) I’m writing this on Saturday 28th November and, boy, it’s been a bit of a week…

Monday night I saw U2 play their first gig in Dublin in more than six years, and someone very nice got us passes to the swanky Cedarwood Lounge so we got to pretend we were Somebody for an hour before the concert started. Wednesday night was what I like to think of as the Irish Publishing Christmas Party: the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards. Books, glamour and complimentary glasses of fizzy alcohol – I mean, what more could a girl want?

L-R: Vanessa O'Loughlin, me, Hazel Gaynor, Elizabeth Murray, Andrea Hayes.

L-R: Vanessa O’Loughlin, me, Hazel Gaynor, Elizabeth Murray, Andrea Hayes. Taken by Ger Holland Photography.

Then the following morning, while I was nursing one of the worst hangovers of recent memory, the doorbell went and outside was a DHL courier with ten proof copies of Distress Signals, hot off the press.

Add all this to trying to finish a first draft of Book 2 and having my first two essay assignments for uni due just as we break up for the Christmas holidays, and you find me in a mild state of panic with not much time to write blog posts. So this’ll be brief…

Book One: DISTRESS SIGNALS

PUBLICATION DATE: 5 May 2016

Earlier this month I flew to London to meet with the lovely team at Corvus to talk about our plans for world domination – um, sorry, I mean promoting Distress Signals come May. You’ll have a front-row seat to most of it as it’ll all be detailed here, but for now, two words: PROOF COPIES!

Proof copies, known across the pond as Advance Reader Copies or ARCs, are special preview copies made for booksellers, reviewers, etc. and other people who really need to get to read the book months before its publication date. The text inside is the version we had after the copyedits but before the proofreading – at least, the text inside of mine are, anyway – and this should be kept in mind. They’re called “uncorrected bound proofs” for a reason.

proof

I can’t even begin to tell you how weird it is to see words that you have been glaring at for years in 12 pt Book Antiqua on your computer screen now typeset in the pages of a very real book. I can’t stop staring at them.

And I have a VERY special prize to offer a lucky blog reader. Keep reading to find out more.

Book Two: AS YET UNTITLED

DELIVERY DATE: APRIL 2016

There’s not much to say about Book 2 at this point, because I don’t really feel that it even exists until I get to type THE END at the end of the Vomit Draft, and we haven’t reached that point yet. Until then, here is The Difficult Second Novel, in GIFs…

Stage 1: Excitement

excited1

A new idea! New characters! Writing I’ve already been paid for! LIVING THE DREAM! (Too much coffee already? Hell yeah!)

Stage 2: Honeymoon period

goodtyping

I so know what’s going to happen.

[writes the first 10,000 words in a day]

This is easy! I can do this! I love being a writer! I’m getting paid to do what I love!

More coffee? YES PLEASE.

Stage 3: First signs of trouble

ron

[sound of brakes screeching as I reach the end of the inciting incident and find myself staring down the barrel of Act II]

Hmm. No, it’s okay. Totally okay. I’m just having a slow day. They can’t all be winners. The important thing is that I stay at my desk.

And drink more coffee.

YEP.

Stage 4: Mild panic

panicsheldon

What if I can’t do this? What if I only had the one book in me? How did I do this before? I CAN’T REMEMBER.

Stage 5: WINE

schumerwine

Erm… that’s it, really.

Lots of it.

Be one of the very first to read DISTRESS SIGNALS!

Do you want to be one of the very first people to read Distress Signals? Are you short of a book-lover’s Christmas gift? Fancy something special for yourself off Santa come December 25? I have three bound proof copies, hot off the press, to give away! Each one will be personally inscribed to the winner or to a person nominated by the winner, and each one will come wrapped like in the picture below.

unnamed

How to enter:

Just in time for Christmas, the chance to WIN a proof copy of #DistressSignals 6 months before publication! It’ll come…

Posted by Catherine Ryan Howard on Monday, 30 November 2015

One winner will be chosen from blog comments, one from Twitter retweets and one from Facebook comments. You can enter on each platform to increase your chances if you like, but you can only enter on any individual platform once. If you win, I can’t guarantee delivery before Christmas as it will depend entirely on where in the world you live. The winners will be chosen at random on Friday 4th December. Good luck!

Not getting enough e-mails? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you them sporadically!

Book One/Two Episode 2: COVER REVEAL!

Welcome to the second installment of Book One/Two!

book12graphic

Do you need to catch up? This story started with me getting an agent and then getting a book deal. My post How Many Drafts Did You Do Of Your Book? is essentially a prologue, and you can read Episode 1: Full Steam Ahead if you click on that last pink bit.

Book One: DISTRESS SIGNALS

PUBLICATION DATE: 2 JUNE 2016 5 May 2016

Lots of exciting stuff to report on this month and I’m typing this at 6:30am after basically no sleep and I have to hurry up and get going because I’ve a lecture first thing so [gulps coffee] let’s DO THIS.

SOONER RATHER THAN LATER

Good news: Distress Signals is coming out sooner! It was scheduled for June, but as you may have noticed above, it is now set for publication on May 5th.

I will get excited about this once I get over the shock that this essentially means publication is… Oh my god: six months away. What?!

And also, figure out how to pass my end of year exams at university, which begin then. I am stockpiling the coffee starting now.

PAGE PROOFS

On Tuesday, the page proofs arrived. These are the actual inside pages of the book, exactly how they’ll look in the finished book. They get sent to me so I can check them for errors, changes that need making, etc. while, at the same time, a professional proofreader is going through them too.

page

It was really quite a surreal moment, looking at the title page. Have I done this? Has this actually happened? I’m starting to sound like a broken record on this but it really has not sunk in yet. But then, what will it feel like when it has? Can it possibly? Have I had too much coffee already? YES.

(‘Love is Blindness’ is a U2 song that I love. I listened to it approximately a million times while I was writing this book; it’s basically the soundtrack to it. The way it builds just kills me, and it’s a good parallel to the way your plot should build, I think. Listen to it here.)

WE HAVE A COVER!

Okay, you’ve scrolled down far enough. Here it is (drumroll, please): the cover of my debut thriller! What do you think?!

distressTPR

SNEAKY NEW WEBSITE

So you’ll notice that the cover is blue, and everything around here is pink, and when things don’t match I come out in hives. It’s fine on a blog post, but I just couldn’t live with it on a “Books” page. What I needed was a “Books” page on here I could make blue, while keeping everything else as it was.

If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I use WordPress.com, i.e. the free version, and I won’t hear a bad word said about it. I love it. But the ability to change individual colours and make other such tweaks are really limited – that’s the sacrifice you make for the fact that you don’t have to pay for it.  And yet, I really think if you use your imagination, you’ll find a way to do whatever you want…

This is my solution: I registered a new, free WordPress.com site consisting of just one page and chose the same theme that this one uses (Sela), only I chose different background/scheme colours. I use the custom menu feature, so on the new site I made a custom menu that exactly matches the menu of this one, i.e. has the same labels in the same order. I made all those labels point to this site, e.g. the “About” label points to the About page here via a custom link. Then I took the “Books” label from the menu on this site and made it point to the new, single-page site. Got all that? If not, just click on the “Books” option above/in the menu and you’ll see what I mean.

I did buy one thing: a custom domain. So my new sneaky website – that hides, essentially, inside this one – can also be found at DistressSignalsBook.com. Clever, eh? SMUG.

GOODREADS

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 07.05.28

I’ve put the book on Goodreads. Please dash over there immediately and add it to your To Read list and stick around: there’ll be plenty of opportunities both on there and here to get your mitts on an advance reading copy. Stay tuned…

Book Two: AS YET UNTITLED

DELIVERY DATE: APRIL 2016

Do we have to ruin all the fun with talk of how the Dreaded First Draft of Book 2 is going?

Let’s not.

(It’s going, okay? It’s going. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’ve been making charts. That’s something, isn’t it? Don’t answer that.)

So that’s all the news for now. Join me next month for the next installment of Book One/Two!

Not getting enough e-mails? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you one sporadically, every few months.

Book One/Two: Full Steam Ahead

Welcome to the first installment of Book One/Two!

book12graphic

Since I got a book deal, the most common question I’ve been asked is why the book isn’t coming out for a year. The next most common question is how in the name of the fudge I’m going to squeeze the writing of a whole book into the time between now and next April, when – as evidenced by this thesis of a blog post – it took me approximately five times that to write the one I’ve just finished. (Darling, let me tell you: we’re both dying to know the answer to that). So between now and next summer, I’m going to do a monthly series called Book One/Two, where I update you on Distress Signals‘ publishing progress and my attempts at doing this all over again. Consider this the prologue and this the first proper installment. If you want to get future installments by e-mail, look for the sign-up box in the sidebar and footer. 

Got all that? Good. LET’S DO THIS.

IMG_6227

Book One: DISTRESS SIGNALS

PUBLICATION DATE: 2 JUNE 2016

Getting a book deal is a really weird experience. There’s a huge burst of excitement (when you get the news), then nothing for ages (because you can’t tell anyone the news), then another huge burst of excitement (when you’re finally allowed to tell people the news) and then nothing for ages again (because publication is AGES away so no wheels are turning yet). That’s why I didn’t start this back in March, when I got the deal, or back in May when I was allowed to tell you about it. It’s really taken until now – September – to have anything to tell you about. But much like waiting for buses, after seeing nothing for ages, lots of things then come along at once…

PicMonkey Collage

A BOOK IS BORN

As I said, getting a book deal is a really weird experience, not least of all because at first, everything is happening by e-mail and phone. There’s nothing tangible, nothing you can hold in your hands, nothing that proves you aren’t dreaming the whole thing. The first time I did get something tangible was when I was given a copy of Atlantic’s trade catalogue, which was mostly exciting because Jesse Eisenberg was in it which helped convince my sister that this was A Big Deal.

I saw that catalogue in early April and at the start of this month, I happened to see the lovely Francesca at Atlantic tweet that the new catalogue was in. When I asked her whether or not I was in it, she tweeted a picture of the Distress Signals page for me. Complete with ISBNs and everything!

Distress Signals will be out in Ireland and the UK (and Australia and New Zealand) on June 2nd 2016, by which point I’m sure you’ll already be sick to the teeth of hearing about it. That’s the plan, anyway. The audio rights have also been sold, so we’ll have an audio version too. Which will be weird, I think. Imagine listening to someone else read your whole book aloud…? Bonkers.

headshotcollage1

FANCY AUTHOR HEADSHOT TIME

I got an e-mail from my agent to say that Corvus/Atlantic were looking for my Proper Author Photo. At the time, the one I was using was a selfie I’d taken in my bathroom which, thanks to my iPhone’s selfie camera thingy, was flipped around and so didn’t look like me at all. It was also, in terms of pixels, the size of a postage stamp.

I enlisted the help of Steve Langan at CityHeadshots.ie (who I cannot recommend highly enough), told him I wanted to avoid leather jackets and exposed brick walls and spent a pleasant but somewhat weird Sunday morning posing in various Dublin lanes. The results are above.

The Manuscript

So yeah, that’s all very exciting – but what about the actual book? Well, last we heard my third official draft – my first with my editor at Corvus/Atlantic – had been sent off to the copyeditor. I got the copyedits back yesterday and went through all the corrections/suggestions on screen. The book has already been through a lot so it was mostly grammatical corrections and consistencies – things like e-mail/email, capitalizing brand names, etc. The copyedit has now been approved by my editor and is winging its way off to the typesetters.

The next time I see it it’ll be in page proofs: mocked up pages of my actual book. I don’t know how I’ll react to that, seeing as all this hasn’t really sunk in yet.

But if I need some bringing back down to earth, I only have to think about:

IMG_6226

Book Two: AS YET UNTITLED

DELIVERY DATE: APRIL 2016

Yes, you read that right: I have to deliver Book 2 by the end of April 2016.

The book I haven’t written a word of yet.

Yes, really.

*eye twitches in new anxiety-induced nervous tick*

But I’m not panicking. I was, for a while back there, but I’m okay now. Because I know I can do it. Moreover, I have to do it so whether or not I think I can is irrelevant.

Here’s the thing: it actually did not take me that long to write Distress Signals. Yes, I thought about it for about two years before I actually sat down and wrote a proper draft, but the actual writing-down-words bit was done in just a few months. So I know I have enough time to actually think up and write down 100,000 words. What concerns me is that I don’t have the incubation period that I had with the first book. I don’t have the luxury of it. But maybe, in some weird way, it’ll be a good thing. More exhilarating. More dynamic.

(That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.)

Where am I right now with Book 2? I have a plot outline – the most important bit for me – and between now and Christmas, I’ll chuck up a Vomit Draft. Then over Christmas that draft will go to my agent and my agent’s in-house editor for feedback, notes, etc. Come January, I’ll sit down and write another, proper draft, and that’s the one that’ll go to my editor at Corvus/Atlantic in April.

(Right before I knuckle down to study for my university exams in May, which are right before the launch of Distress Signals in June… Oh dear god.)

Simples!

*eye twitches again*

So that’s all the news for now. Join me next month for the next installment of Book One/Two when we’ll hopefully have… drum roll, please… A COVER! 

Not getting enough e-mails? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you one sporadically, every few months.

How Many Drafts Did You Do Of Your Book?

“How many drafts did you do of your book?”

In between getting a book deal and being able to tell people I got a book deal, I went to an event at Dun Laoghaire’s Mountains to Sea festival where an audience member asked Paula Hawkins, superstar author of The Girl on the Train, this very question. On hearing it, I rolled my eyes and groaned about it to my company for the evening (who rolled her eyes at my groaning), even though it wasn’t that long ago that I sat in the audience at writerly events and asked the very same thing of published authors myself.

Why the eye-rolling? Because I don’t believe the guy who asked wanted to know how many drafts Hawkins had done of her book. What he really wanted to know was how many drafts of his book he’d have to do – minimum – before his publication dreams came true, before his debut hit 2 million copies sold in the space of a few months (selling at a rate of one every 18 seconds, apparently), became the “recommended” book in the Audible sponsor message on Serial and started being tweeted and Instagrammed about by the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Mindy Kahling.

What he really should’ve asked was “How many drafts did you have to do of your book?”

I know this because that’s what I wanted to know when I asked – or silently hoped someone else would ask – questions like  “How many drafts did you do of your book?” (See also: “Was your book finished when you submitted to an agent?” and “Do publishers make offers on partials?” and “How many words do you write a day?”) In his memoir We Can’t All Be Astronauts, Tim Clare despairs when a pair of friends emerge from a day spent at the London Book Fair with a deal for an idea they sketched out on a single sheet of A4 paper. We’ve all heard of ten-way auctions culminating in six-figure deals for three chapters and an outline, and I know of at least one publishing story that actually involves scribbles on a cocktail napkin. Sometimes the folklore of publishing edges very close to fabled Hollywood pitches, like the one where James Cameron says “Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic” to studio execs and gets a green light on the spot.

As a writer whose ratio of writing a novel to daydreaming about having a novel published was about 1:10, these stories were music to my ears. I collected them. Fixated on them. Turned to them for encouragement. Because I wanted the spoils, but I wasn’t prepared to do the hard work first. Not if I didn’t absolutely have to.

But boy, is it hard work. Distress Signals is almost ready for copy-editing and it’s taken a lot of work to get to this point. Here is a very long blog post to tell you just how much.

Beginnings (Autumn 2012-Spring 2013)

So you have an idea for a novel…

I don’t actually know how many times I wrote the start of the book that at this stage was called Dark Waters. Four or five times, at least. When I say “the start” I mean the opening chapters; I think the furthest I ever got was 10,000 words. I was trying to figure out how to write the book. Who would be the narrator? At what point would the story start? I have a folder on my computer full of these fragments, and very little of them – almost none of them, I’d say – made it into the final version. But I wouldn’t have got to the final version if I didn’t mess around with these aborted beginnings so much first.

securedownload-8

Vomit Draft (Summer 2013)

The next major step in the process was a discovery draft. At least, that’s the professional-sounding name for it. In reality, it’s a vomit draft. You sit down and upchuck everything you know about the novel, filling in ideas for the bits you don’t know in between. By the time I sat down to do this, I’d spent the best part of two years kicking the idea around inside my head.

This was not a draft for anyone else’s eyes but mine, because it wasn’t a readable book. If I knew what was going to happen in a chapter, I simply wrote a summary of a sentence or two and then moved onto the next. The idea was to figure out what I didn’t know, so I skipped over the scenes I already had set in my mind. At the end of this I had about 50,000 words – but what I really had was the skeleton of the novel, the framework on which I’d build the book itself.

plan

First Draft 1.0 (AUTUMN 2013 – SPRING 2014)

By spring of last year I was up to about 30,000 words of my first, proper, readable-by-other-people draft and, egged on by writing friends (Sheena and Hazel, I’m looking at you), I submitted the first three chapters and a synopsis to an agent. Now in my heart I knew that neither I nor the book was ready to be doing this, but at the same time I needed to do it, because I needed to take the plunge. I was trying to scale a mountain of fear and for months – years – I’d been standing at the base of it, looking up, paralyzed. I wasn’t ready to leave the world where I might possibly get everything I wanted and move to the land of reality checks just yet.

I got a rejection, which was devastating, but it was a very detailed and generous one that pointed out what I now realized was a glaring flaw in my main character’s story, a development that just didn’t ring true. I scrapped most of what I’d written and went back to the start again.

You may wonder about the logic of taking one person’s subjective opinion and changing your entire book because of it. Well, I knew she was right. I simply knew it. It caught in my gut. I knew the best thing to do was to change that element of the book.

First Draft 2.0 (Summer 2014)

So I re-started my first proper draft and this time got up to around about 50,000 words. Then I stalled. Not because I didn’t know what was to come next, but because life got in the way. I’d applied to go back to university as a mature student and in May, I found out I’d got in. This meant packing up my apartment in Cork, moving back in with my parents for a couple of months while I house-hunted in Dublin (a full-time job in itself) and then, hopefully, moving myself to Dublin once I found a place. Writing fell by the wayside.

In an effort to kick myself up the arse, I submitted to another agent. My thinking was once I pressed “SEND” I’d be gripped by a fear that she’d come back and request the full manuscript I didn’t yet have, and would therefore get it finished immediately. But of course that’s not what happened – life was still in the way, fear or no fear – and when she did request the full manuscript  nearly three months later, I still didn’t have it.

Imagine getting that e-mail.

I decided to pull the old “Sorry, I Was on Hols” trick, which was plausible considering that we were now into August. I cancelled everything and spent three weeks in a caffeine-fuelled haze, finishing the last 30,000 or so words of the book. Thankfully I was working from a detailed outline so I knew exactly what to write, but still, it was tough going. After a few days of re-reading, re-jigging and revising, I sent it off to the agent…

… who swiftly rejected it. But this time I didn’t listen to the criticisms that came with the (very nice) e-mail. Why? Because they didn’t catch in my gut. They didn’t stick. I didn’t think she was right. I thought that this was simply a case of this novel not being for her.

When I read over the novel again – this was a month after I’d finished it by now – I remember thinking, “Hmm. This is actually okay!” So now I still didn’t have an agent, but I did have a finished book I was happy with.

This being the first time in the process I had a full manuscript I felt confident about, I decided to go all in on the agent thing and do a simultaneous submission to my ultimate agent wish list. Two of them offered representation and at the very end of October I signed with Jane Gregory – who I almost hadn’t bothered submitting to, because I thought the odds were so fantastical.

photo 2-7

Second Draft (Winter 2015)

Gregory and Company can spend up to two years working with a debut author before their novel goes out to publishers, so I knew that now the real work would start. It was time to do a re-write of the Novel Formerly Known as Dark Waters Now Known as Adrift with Stephanie, Jane’s in-house editor extraordinaire.

I think this was the most enjoyable part of the writing experience for me, because enough time had passed – we were into the New Year now – for me to be able to look at the novel afresh and, with Stephanie’s input, make it much better. There were no structural changes to do (plotting is my strong point, I think) but there was plenty to be done about my characterization (my weakest link). This was also an opportunity to layer in more complexity and to tighten all the nuts and bolts. I spent about 6-8 weeks on it, and then there was another week where I worked on the changes Stephanie suggested after I sent her back the draft, and then another couple of days for typos and addressing my favourite hobby, missing words. The manuscript grew to about 105,000 words in the process (up from 85,000).

Some writers don’t like being edited and although this will sound harsh, I’m not sure if those writers really know what writing is about. Being edited is absolutely wonderful. It’s like one-on-one tutoring in how to make your book better – and not just this book, but every future book you’ll ever write. A good editor doesn’t tell you what to do – they’ll just point you in the direction of where the potential problems lie. It’s up to you to figure out how to fix them. But amazing things happen along the way. New ideas. Better ideas. A better book, by far.

It was difficult time-wise because I was in university by now and re-writing when I should’ve been writing my last two essay assignments and starting to study for my exams, and the moment I finished it I spontaneously developed the world’s worst flu. You can read more about what happened next here.

Third Draft (Summer 2015)

Now for the scary bit: the first edit with Sara, my editor at Corvus (Atlantic). The novel was now called Distress Signals. When I first met her in London we talked about some of the things she thought needed reworking, and again, I agreed with them all. I knew she was right. But when the marked-up manuscript arrived in the door with lines through some of my favourite sections, my palms started to sweat.

It was soon obvious that the entire third quarter of the book needed to be rewritten. I’d given my readers a breather half-way through, much like the moment in a horror movie when the sun comes up after a horrific night of terror. But what I’d actually done is bring the narrative drive to a halt, to slow the pace to a crawl after spending 50,000 words working to crank it up. Elsewhere I needed to dump a few research dumps, and there was more work to be done on characterization.

But, again, I really enjoyed the process. Who wouldn’t enjoy making their book better? It’s like the first draft is the cupcakes and editing is the icing and decorating bit. It’s the fun bit. The hardest part is done. Now you get to make things look pretty. (This analogy doesn’t go the distance, does it? But you know what I mean.) By the end of it I was really, really proud of my book – and still in love with it, crucially.

If I can give you one piece of advice it’s to write a book you are madly in love with, because that love is going to need to last a long, loooooong time. It’s going to have to be stronger than your desire to start a bonfire when you’re reading it for the 53rd time.

Last week I heard that my editor loves the changes and the rewriting is over. We just have some line editing to do on the new sections and then Distress Signals will be off to the copyeditor.

That’s how many drafts I had to do of my book.

What next? Oh, just the little matter of doing this all over again with Book 2.

More coffee, please.

 * * * * *

Introducing… 

book12graphic

Since I got a book deal, the most common question I’ve been asked is why the book isn’t coming out for a year. The next most common question is how in the name of the fudge I’m going to squeeze the writing of a whole book into the time between now and next April, when – as evidenced by this thesis of a blog post – it took me approximately five times that to write the one I’ve just finished. (Darling, let me tell you: we’re both dying to know the answer to that). So between now and next summer, I’m going to do a monthly series called Book One/Two, where I update you on the publishing process and my attempts at doing this all over again. Consider this the prologue. I’ll hope you’ll stick around for the rest! 

UPDATE 17th August: Oh my, Freshly Pressed! Thank you so much, Freshly Pressed Elves. This is, somehow, the third time I’ve been FP’d. (Whaa…?) If you’d like to read the other two, they were Why, For Me, Print Will Never Be Extinct and Self-Publishing? Read This First.