The Inspiration Diaries

Welcome to The Inspiration Diaries, a monthly blog from six writers – three published, and three on the way to being published. After running three Inspiration Project events we’ve been continually impressed by the level of talent, hard work and determination. We’ve also been thrilled to see attendees make great progress with their writing and we wanted to capture that journey through this new blog.

Throughout 2019, Hazel, Catherine and Carmel (the Inspiration Project founders) will share monthly updates about their own writing year. Three former Inspiration Project attendees – Casey King, Clare Daly and Tric Kearney – will do the same. Six writers. Twelve months. What could possibly go wrong?!

We hope you enjoy following our progress – the ups and the downs – and that our collective writing experiences inspire and motive you, and remind you that you’re not in this alone. If nothing else, we hope it makes you smile!

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February, Part Two: Stepping Stones.

IMG_0736Hugely inspiring stuff this month from our three writers. We are cheering you on all the way, ladies.

Casey King (@Letstalkcrime) – Don’t Look Back in Anger

Imagine asking someone who’s laying in their hospital bed: ‘What good are you now that your injuries are such that you can’t perform your job properly?’ You’d think – among other things – What a wagon or (insert relevant expletive). This was said to me. Not by a stranger, not by a friend, but by me to me. How destructive was that? Very, I can tell you.

With over a decade under my belt as an active, productive and ambitious member of the Irish Police Force, I suddenly found myself injured in the line of duty. As the physical injuries healed slowly, but surely – still not fully – that little voice, questioning my worth, remained. I needed help! It arrived in the form of a writing workshop in my local library. This workshop got me out of bed, out of my head, into the car, and among people. To others it looked like a little thing but to me this was huge. I met fellow writers and was encouraged to use the library to explore other abilities I had buried for years, and so began my writing apprenticeship.

It would have been easy to listen to that destructive voice, to believe it telling me my abilities and skills at the time of life altering injuries had an impact on my current worth to society, and I did listen, for a while. I won’t pretend it was easy to find myself again, it was damn hard, but so worth it. Be kind to yourself when you’re under pressure. If you hear that little voice telling you ‘you’re not good enough’ or ‘who do you think you’re fooling having these dreams and goals’, then STOP! If you wouldn’t say it to someone else, then do not say it to yourself.

Casey King is represented by Kate Nash of Kate Nash Literary Agency.

Clare Daly @claredalyauthor

A few months ago, I would have said I was done with writing pursuits that involve travel, money and worry. In particular my annual pilgrimage to the London Book Fair for an agent 1:2:1. Twice I’ve been and twice I’ve lucked out. The second time I went back because I felt I had something to prove to myself – that I was in this for the long game and however discouraged I’d been at the suggestion that I ‘write something else’, I would go back again. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but the chance to meet with an agent actively looking for crime and ghost stories this year is too tempting for me to pass up.

And so next month, I’m off again to London for the day. The meeting itself is ten minutes. Yes, I am crazy. I’ll be pitching the new draft of my supernatural detective novel, The Nothing After. Set in New York, it tells the story of a detective who must solve a series of supernatural murders with the help of his fourteen-year-old brother who’s dead.

After London I’ll start submitting elsewhere and see how it goes. The manuscript is with a few trusted readers, so I’ll have their feedback too before I go. I’ve also booked the ‘Beat The Slushpile’ course at the Irish Writer’s Centre with Sallyanne Sweeney later this month. I attended the course back in 2016, but I’m going back to see where my self-publishing now sits within my query letter. Sometimes it sits awkwardly with me (damn you inner critic), so I’m keen to put it across in the right way.

Finishing this draft of The Nothing After means I’m now full steam into re-writes on Heavy Lies The Crown for its October release. I miss my vampires when I’m not writing them, so it’s lovely to pick up where we left off.

For me, this year is all about perspective. One that lets the giddy joy of daydreaming back in and sees the rejections along the way as stepping stones towards achieving those dreams. Wish me luck!

Tric Kearney @mythoughtsonapage

So, we’re into February and I’m sure you’re agog wondering how I’ve been getting on? Well, firstly let me remind you what I’m doing. I’ve ditched the story of fiction I was writing, to write the one I need to write; my own story. But what exactly is my story and what parts of it should I write? That’s taken me time to figure out and in truth I’m not completely there.

If only I’d had an easy life with a measure of madness thrown in? Then I could write a hilarious memoir which people would lavish with praise, recounting the funniest stories to their friends and insisting it’s a book they must read. Unfortunately, that was not my life. Mine is a story of abuse by my swimming coach, George Gibney, and the loss of my dad. Of injustice in the Irish courts and heartache. Not much to laugh at there! Yet, that’s not the full story.

As a person, I laugh loudly more often than most and I’m living a happy ever after. So, what has made me, me? Were the seeds of survival sown in my carefree childhood? What does the isolation of abuse feel like? How is it possible to laugh again after the monster that is Motor Neurone Disease robs you of your father? How do you cope when your abuser walks free? Is it possible to love and be loved after abuse? Can you ever trust anyone with your child?

Through a series of short stories, I hope to bring you into my world as I lived it, and in so doing answer these and other questions. Each story will tell its own tale and collectively they’ll tell my story. For too long others have spoken on my behalf. Now, one word at a time I will be the one to tell my story.

February, Part One: Signs and edits and road trips, oh my!

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What a difference a month makes! Here at The Inspiration Project we are already celebrating a fantastic start to 2019 with the exciting news of Catherine Ryan Howard’s The Liar’s Girl being shortlisted for Best Novel in the 2019 Edgar Awards! The Edgars are the biggest global awards for crime writers so this is huge news for Catherine who is already packing her case to attend the ceremony in New York in April (more on this from Catherine below).

Our first Inspiration Project event of 2019 was a great success with another group of passionate writers now ready to tackle their plotting, characters and edits with new energy and focus. We have exciting plans for the year ahead so don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear of our next event and other Inspiration Project developments. For now, over to … us!

Catherine – @cathryanhoward

Despite my being full of the joys of life at the start of January, the truth is it wasn’t long before my motivation and energy started to wane. I had caught the plague, the days were dark and short, and my editor gave me the news that Rewind, AKA Thriller Number 3 Due For Publication In September, needed another draft. (Or a half-draft, more specifically – the ending needed work.) Having got some distance from the book over the Christmas break, I totally agreed with her – but this meant that I had to set the Exciting Shiny New Idea, AKA Thriller Number 4, aside for the time being. Edits can be all-consuming, because you’re doing them in a short space of time to a deadline. So the deeper into January I got, the more it felt like I’d never lived a life where I wasn’t spending hours a day editing, editing, editing. I started to feel about meh. I have [counts them] 12 different frames hanging above my desk and at precisely 1:44am on Sunday 20th, one of them fell off: a framed print that says ‘Something wonderful is about to happen.’ I was about 70% wine at the time but I decided that THIS WAS A SIGN.

Three days later I got a text message from my friend in the States, Erin, telling me that The Liar’s Girl had been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for Best Novel. I don’t have the space to explain how much this means to me (but I’ve written about it on my personal blog on www.catherineryanhoward.com if you want to know) but it is HUGE. It is, by a country mile, the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my writing life and maybe my real life as well. There is no bigger award in crime fiction. Stephen King won it in 2015 for Mr Mercedes and Michael Crichton, author of my favourite novel of all time (and anyone who’s ever heard me talk about writing probably doesn’t need telling what that is) won it under a pseudonym back in the 70s. And to think that little me and little The Liar’s Girl are now one of six on the shortlist for the same award… I just can’t believe it, literally. The ceremony is in New York in April and I’m going – yay! The real question is: how can I possibly concentrate on my edits NOW?!

Hazel – @HazelGaynor

January was a complete blur! Copyedits for MEET ME IN MONACO arrived on the 9th and I hardly looked up until the manuscript was returned on 23rd. Combing through the details and subtle inconsistencies of 96,000 words was never going to be easy, but this book is co-written book, and my co-author – Heather Webb – lives in America, so it became a finely-tuned operation of military precision. Aka a nightmare!

At times we both fell a little out of love with our book (and possibly each other!) as our words became a tangle of tracked changes and comment bubbles. It was overwhelming and exhausting, but we persevered because we knew we were making our book better. New writers often tell me they dislike edits because they feel it is somehow spoiling or lessening their book, that editors stamp all over your ideas and point out your mistakes. No! No! No! Editing is about collaborating, looking at the book objectively, shaping and developing what you have to make it so much more.

Honestly, every book I’ve written (Meet Me in Monaco is my seventh) surprises me by how much it changes and improves through the editing process. Writing a novel is a humbling and exhilarating process that will break you and put you back together again many times over. With MEET ME IN MONACO, Heather and I have gone from the thrill of a pre-Christmas cover reveal on Entertainment Weekly to wondering why we ever started to write a book about Grace Kelly in the first place! (This, by the way, is all perfectly normal).

People often ask, ‘how do you know when it’s done?’ My answer is: if you’re able to walk (rather than crawl) away from the desk to a full fridge and a tidy home, you’re not done yet. And when it is? That’s when you invite the next idea in, and start the whole crazy process again. That’s where I am at the start of February. Game on!

Carmel 

Sometimes deadlines occur at the most inconvenient of times. As in mid-January! Argh! This meant that I had no choice but to work throughout the holidays. But I had something special looming that kept me going. More on this in a bit! 

All the H’s cheered me on as I reached ‘The End’ – a moment that never gets old. It’s one of those magical moments in the life of an author.

My agent was the first to dub me a ‘method author,’ a nickname earned because I like to immerse myself into my characters lives, all in the name of research! My preference is to do this after I’ve finished the first submitted draft before I start developmental edits – or chasing the lovely as I like to call it. This way, I bring fully formed characters with me, experiencing things through their eyes.  

My character Greta goes on a road trip that takes her from Kansas City, across six states, ending up in Las Vegas. You’ve guessed it, with Mr H by my side, we retraced her fictional journey. It was an incredible experience, from the prairies of Kansas, the snowcapped Rockies in Colorado, the red rock of Utah, to the glittering lights of Vegas. The experiences of this week will transform Finding Greta Gale when I begin chasing the lovely!

As I don’t have beta readers, waiting for the verdict from my publisher and agent is nerve-wracking. It doesn’t get any easier with each new book, I promise you! But thankfully, I can share that they love it! In fact, bold statements have been made, they both believe Greta’s story is something special.

In other news, we held our first IP event in Cork, (yay!), I gave a talk to a group of clever, well clued in young adults in Ard Na Mara school, Tramore and I was a guest author at a Listowel Writers Week literary evening in Tralee. A great start to the year. February, let’s be having you! 

January, Part Two: New beginnings

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For Part Two of our January updates we are so delighted to introduce our three former Inspiration Project attendees – Casey King, Clare Daly and Tric Kearney – who will share monthly musings on their writing year. We have three words to say to these ladies: GO, GO, GO!

Casey King (@letstalkcrime) – Parking My Dreams

It is close to the date, my self-imposed deadline to call a halt to my writing pursuits in the face of rejections. I wasn’t firing my laptop out of the window – though there were many times this did seem like a logical option – nor was I abandoning all writing ventures, no, I was going to complete the project I was working on then shelve my ambitions for the time being, and, as such, park my dreams. It had the effect of clearing my mind.

I went to events and festivals, not with expectation, but with a clearer picture of what I wanted to achieve, and I set about clearing the rubble. Despite my deadline, I continued to submit, changing my query letter somewhat, remaining professional, but I refined and focused my points. I began to get requests for more, one agent looking to see the whole thing within two hours of reading the first three chapters and synopsis. As well as having a play longlisted, I won an opportunity to pitch to an agent at Wexford Literary Festival. Bag of nerves wouldn’t begin to describe my demeanour. I’d held my passion and belief in my book, and while surrounded by the most wonderful well-wishers, hugs and support, I pitched and it went great.

Then I received another two requests for full manuscripts, including follow up email correspondence with one agent and an invitation to meet another while she was in Ireland. Just before Christmas, I accepted an offer of agent representation, close to one year after travelling to Wexford to attend the inaugural Inspiration Project. It did no harm to take a step back, but I’m so glad I did not park my dreams.

Casey King is represented by Kate Nash of Kate Nash Literary Agency.

Tric Kearney (@trickearney)

Firstly, let me into introduce myself, my name is Tric Kearney … and I’m a writer. There you go, that’s my first time publicly describing myself as such. For a long time I’ve struggled to justify that title. Over and over I’ve asked myself, is a writer someone who writes, or someone who is a published author? I’ve decided, a writer is someone who takes their writing seriously, and this year I intend to do just that.

Currently, I write a weekly column in the Irish Examiner newspaper called ‘It’s My Life’, but I want more. My New Year writing resolutions were to call myself a writer (job done) and by the end of 2019 have finished my book and hopefully found it a home.

This time last year I attended the Inspiration Project weekend. I was floundering, drowning in a sea of doubt and deafened by the voices in my head, laughing at my writing ‘notions’ and criticising everything I wrote. That weekend put an end to my doubts and gave me the courage to stand up to those voices and write on. I’d an idea for a book and by the time the weekend was over I was determined to get it written.

And I nearly did. I wrote over 40,000 words and entered a chapter to be critiqued by an agent. The feedback was very encouraging. However, the words stopped. Another book was calling me. A less than easy write. A voice from my past whispered the idea and it was not easily silenced.

Write what you know they say. Well this was a story I knew well. My story. A tale of abuse, loss, love and healing, the writing of which I’d like to share with you here over the next few months and hopefully in time we’ll celebrate together as I type ‘The End’.

Clare Daly (@claredalyauthor)

Let’s start with a few numbers. Books on release: 1; Books in progress: 2 (2nd drafts) Agent: 0; Rejections: Plenty, thank you very much.

I approached 2019 with a big NO to making plans and setting out writing goals. In 2018 I was laser-focused and well, nothing of great repute happened, other than attending The Inspiration Project which basically has kept me in the game. Maybe my goals were too ambitious – to self-publish the second book in my historical fantasy series and find an agent for my third novel, but then 2018 beat ten bells out of me and it just didn’t happen. But the thing is my goals are still the same and if I want to make them happen, I’m going to need a plan. I released my debut Our Destiny Is Blood in October 2017, so I’m eyeballing this October for its sequel Heavy Lies The Crown.

If I’m honest I’m not sure had I written a standalone novel I would self-publish again, but I began something with these characters and I’m not ready to give up on them. The self-publishing came about from being told by agents that the book and its characters (there be vampires!) weren’t on trend, so doing it myself was my best bet. It wasn’t a disaster. It’s selling, I’ve had some nice publicity opportunities, and readers even like it, but I find it a lonely ship to steer and an expensive one (it costs very little to put a book together on Amazon, but to meet professional standards and then be visible, costs plenty). Going again does require another leap of faith.

But then if I hadn’t taken the chances I have, I wouldn’t be three books deep and thinking of my fourth. So lots of work to do this year. My heroine Evelyn is heading to Victorian London, so we have quite the bags to pack and though writing is a lonely pursuit, I get to share the journey with Catherine, Hazel, Carmel and you! So come on 2019, *rolls up sleeves* let’s just get this done, shall we?

January, Part One: The Coffee Diaries

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Welcome to a new year, and our new monthly blog, The Inspiration Diaries, where we’ll share the ups and downs of six writers over the course of 2019. Part One each month will feature three published writers (the Inspiration Project founders). Part Two will feature three writers who attended an Inspiration Project event and are now chasing publication and snapping at our heels! Six writers. Twelve months. What could possibly go wrong?!

We hope you enjoy following our progress and that our collective writing experiences inspire and motive you, and remind you that you’re not in this alone. If nothing else, we hope it makes you smile! First up, it’s January, which means big plans and coffee feature very highly …

Catherine (@cathryanhoward)

For the first time in a while, I didn’t have a deadline looming over at Christmas because I handed in my second draft of Book 3 on Friday 14 December. (At 4.59pm. The deadline was that day, so 5pm.) It’s called Rewind and it’s due to be published in September. I wasn’t planning on writing anything until I got back to my desk on the 7th of this month, but I actually ended up starting the synopsis for Book 4, which is what my editor needs next. I’ve already given her a short pitch and she loves the idea, but I need to prove I have a plot to go with it (!!) before I can run off and start writing.

The German translation of The Liar’s Girl (Ich Bringe die der Nacht, ‘I Bring You The Night’) was published on the 1st, the print edition of that will follow on the 22nd and the UK/Ireland paperback of The Liar’s Girl came out on the 3rd. (Just as I’m writing this update I got an email from my editor showing a lovely display of it in Heathrow Airport!) I also signed Norwegian contracts for The Liar’s Girl; foreign translation deals are always a lovely and exciting surprise. I’m expecting my line edits back on Rewind any minute, which is where my editor will have gone through the whole manuscript marking notes as she goes, and I’ll have to get them back ASAP.

I’ve cracked the spine on a new Best Self Journal, which is sort of like an intensive 13-week planner, which I find great for making progress on projects. I’ve committed to writing at least one new blog post on CatherineRyanHoward.com each month this year, so ideally I’ll draft a couple this month and hopefully manage to send out a newsletter as well. This may be wishful thinking, because we also have our first Inspiration Project in Cork on the 26th. A busy month! SEND COFFEE.

Carmel (@happymrsh)

Happy New Year! Mine was a happy one, deep in my writing cave working on my eighth novel – Finding Greta Gale. The deadline is 11th Jan. (Fork!) So other than taking a few days off, I’ve been at my desk chasing the lovely. This book will most likely hit the bookshelves in Ireland in the autumn. Once my editor in Harper reads this draft, I’ll start edits throughout January &  February. To help with edits, I’m off on a big research trip next weekend. I’m driving from Kansas to Las Vegas on the same epic road trip my central characters undertake! I always go method in research and this is the ultimate method authoring!  Follow me on Instagram if you want to see what I get up to.

In other news, the Harper Collins art team have been working hard on the UK & Ireland paperback cover for A Thousand Roads Home, which comes out in June. It’s very different from my previous covers, I’m excited to share it with my readers! I was chuffed to make the top ten in the annual Eason’s readers poll for favourite books in 2018. It’s always extra special when it’s a readers vote.  Speaking of readers, did you know about the Carmel Harrington Reading Room – a private group on Facebook. We’ve started a reading challenge for 2019, which kicks off with a book in January that has a movie/tv tie-in. I’ve chosen Bird, but will hopefully get to You and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society too. If you want to join the group for bookish chat & competitions and of course this reading challenge, the link can be found: Facebook.

Aside from all that fun, I’m already thinking about possible ideas for book 9, which will be pitched to my agent early this year. I’m out of contract once I hand Finding Greta Gale in. (Fork!) And so the cycle will begin all over again. I need to do a newsletter, blog posts, our Inspiration Project event in Cork, several author events … so in summary: SEND ME COFFEE TOO!

Hazel (@hazelgaynor)

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.” This quote from T.S. Eliot sums up perfectly how I feel about 2019.

2018 was a great year for me professionally, but it wasn’t perfect (what year is?), so I’m very ready to embrace a new year with all its possibilities, fresh starts and bold intentions. Of course I really just want everyone to be healthy and happy this year, but I also really want a movie deal and a hardback with sprayed edges and posters on the underground, so I hope 2019 (and Reese Witherspoon) are listening! All aboard the Hopes and Dreams Express, my friends!

As I do every year, I’m approaching 2019 full of new hope and writing aspirations, and the usual combination of excitement and dread. Early January means diving into copy edits for my summer release, MEET ME IN MONACO – my seventh novel and the second I’ve co-written with Heather Webb. After that, I’m really looking forward to our next Inspiration Project event in Cork on 26th (come and join us!), and then it’s back to the desk to tackle the ‘shitty first draft’ of my next historical novel, an ambitious project which is already challenging (aka terrifying) me in lots of ways – and I’m really excited about it! Early summer will see the UK paperback release of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, and in July I’ll be heading to the USA for a conference and book tour for Meet Me in Monaco. I also have loads of ideas buzzing around my head for new projects, so I might need a long lie down in August.

My word for 2019 is ‘soar’ (I have a painting of a kingfisher on my desk as inspiration, the reason for which will hopefully become clear later in the year). This year I want to write for the pure pleasure it brings, and try to worry less about things that are out of my control. 2019 is about stretching my writing wings, and being brave. The rest, as they say, will hopefully follow. In the meantime, SEND ALL THE COFFEE!