May, Part One: In which we all go on Excellent Adventures.

We certainly know how to pack a lot into a month! This time it’s all about reaping the rewards for successfully ignoring the urge to feck our laptops out of the window. Cheers to that! We also have EXCITING INSPIRATION PROJECT EVENT NEWS coming very soon. Watch this space, and make sure to sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear.

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Catherine

I don’t know quite where to begin this month, but let’s try here: 25 April 2016. On that day, a week before the official publication date of Distress Signals, I happened to walk into Dubray Books on Grafton Street and saw that they had it out already. It was the first time I’d seen it on any shelf in any store and I had a little moment. Now flash-forward exactly three years to 25 April 2019 and find me at the Edgar Awards in New York City, seeing the cover of The Liar’s Girl appear on a big screen next to the words ‘Best Novel’, alongside just five other titles (whittled down from 582 submissions. 582!) And while I didn’t win – congrats again, Walter Mosley – right now, that feels like a minor detail. In the past week, I’ve stayed at The Library Hotel (dream: CHECK!), finally met the team who publish my books in the States (who are LOVELY), dashed around NYC bookshops delivering proofs of Rewind, gone to the same party as Harlan Coben (but was too worried about coming off a bit Annie Wilkes to say anything to him) and walked miles around NYC in the spring sun. And approximately 814 other things, which you can see in my Instagram Stories highlight, accessible here if you’ve an account: https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/18058089205016040/. You can also watch the Best Novel Edgar presentation on YouTube at this link: https://youtu.be/Lie-M1fN0nk.

And in the morning (update: TODAY!), I’m heading to the opposite coast for the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley and an event at the Consulate General of Ireland in San Francisco. And I’m back in NYC in about a month’s time for BookExpo America. WHOSE LIFE IS THIS?! Having said (all) that, you can take the girl off her couch, but you can’t take the writer… Or, um, something. What I’m trying to say is that it’s my last night in New York, I’ve just eaten a burrito in bed and now I’m typing this with my laptop balanced on my knees while watching Set It Up – AGAIN – on Netflix. So.

And finally: a little note on not winning things. On Friday I got a slew of messages along the lines of ‘Oh NO! Gutted for you!’ etc. etc. Don’t be gutted. I am truly not disappointed. I’ve sat through three award ceremonies now where I came home empty handed and – I promise, I’m being honest here – I was not upset. I didn’t feel like I’d lost anything, only that I’d gained something amazing. Recognition. Validation. Writers I worship saying, ‘You can do this and you do it well.’ That’s what the nomination means to me, and no nomination means more to me than the Edgar for Best Novel. Especially considering that writing the first (and second, and probably third) drafts of The Liar’s Girl made me want to put my head through my computer screen. So it’s all good!

Hazel

One of my favourite parts of being a writer is announcing a new book. After many anxious months (sometimes years!), of pitching ideas, writing outlines and chapters, or writing the entire book on a wing and a prayer, that moment when you can finally tell the world that you have a new contract signed and a new book on the way is magical stuff. And so it was a few weeks ago for me and Heather when we announced our third co-written historical novel: ADVICE FOR LADY ADVENTURERS, pitched as ‘an historical coming-of-age tale, in the vein of Thelma & Louise’. Although the publication date of 2021 feels like the actual future, it will be on us before we know it, so this month is all about digging into research books, diving into the first draft, and getting the story down.

What I didn’t realise when I started writing, was how much book juggling would be required once I’d established a career. Which is why, as I write Books Seven and Eight, the question ‘how’s the book going’ leaves me a little stumped because the answer is ‘which one?’ While a new book deal was being announced, my book being published this summer – MEET ME IN MONACO – started to hit blogger and reviewer desks, and author blurbs (those lovely quotes you see on the front of books) began to arrive. Our first big publishing trade review from Publisher’s Weekly landed with a huge sigh of relief and lots of excitement. Waiting for early verdicts never gets any easier and when the thumbs up comes in, it’s definitely time to celebrate. I also just heard that Meet Me in Monaco was chosen by SheReads.com as a must-read historical fiction book of 2019, and PopSugar.com selected it in their Summer Beach Reads recommendations. Hooray! With the paperback of THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER being released in the UK at the end of May, I’m also stepping back to 2018 me, to promote a book I finished writing over a year ago. Confused? So am I!

Everything gets put on hold during school holidays, and while of course it’s always lovely to spend time together with the fam, I’m sure every writing parent feels that nagging urge to get back to the desk, which is where I am right now, diving back into my next solo novel which I am bursting to talk about, and hope to very soon.  In the meantime, I’m prepping for events in the USA this summer, starting with a trip to Washington, D.C in June to hook up with Heather and speak at the Historical Novel Society annual conference, and possibly* drink cocktails with other historical novelists. Cannot wait!

*definitely

Carmel

Editing shenanigans. Elaine Show shenanigans. Orlando shenanigans. All of the shenanigans! That’s basically been my April!

I submitted my second set of Finding Greta Gale edits before Easter. I thought I was pretty much done – I was pleased with the work I’d put into it. But guess what? I’m not there yet. I’ve had a long chat with my editor and her insightful input has opened up further plot threads that need to be explored. During our Inspiration Project events, Hazel, Catherine and I are often asked this question – how will I know when my book is finished? The truth of the matter is, sometimes you need editorial input to help you come to that decision. As writers, we are too close to our own work to be objective. So get help. There are incredible freelance editors available at the end of a google search. Check out writing.ie for lots of useful information.

In other news, I’m just home from two weeks in the sun with the H’s. We had an amazing time, honestly, it’s impossible to not smile in Orlando 24/7. Love it there! Fun fact alert! Some of you may know this, but for those that haven’t heard this story – I wrote the first draft of Beyond Grace’s Rainbow in Florida, back in 2004! I locked myself in a villa for 14 days and nights, writing around the clock. During the day I wrote by the pool, then at night, I moved my laptop to the queen-size bed. It was the longest time I’d ever been on my own but I loved it! I got lost in the words. Sometimes switching off white noise in our busy lives can be really productive. (This was back in my single days, before Mr H and the small H’s came along.) Anyhow … drum roll, please … at the end of that solo writing holiday, I came home with a suntan and 80,000 words! Now, this draft needed so much work, because it was the shittiest of first drafts. But to me it represented much more – it was a lifetime ambition to write a novel, realised. I wept when I got to the end.

So, this message is for all the aspiring writers who are struggling to get to the end of their first novels. I get how hard it is to commit to write every day. I’m sending you a supportive virtual hug. Feel it? Good. Cos’ now I’m shouting at you, GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY!

I wish someone had done the same to me years while I dithered for a decade about owning my truth – that I am a writer. Get your shitty first draft written and who knows where it will bring you. I have faith in YOU. Writing that first draft of Beyond Grace’s Rainbow was life-changing for me. It took another six years before I got the guts to actually look for an agent and publisher, but that’s a story for another day. Right, now it’s time for me to switch off the vacay mode … I’ve got a book to finish …

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