And so we reach the end of another year, and the end of a decade! The perfect excuse, if any were needed, for a little reflection to wrap up 2019, and look forward to the ’20s (Charleston, anyone?). Thank you for following all our writing journeys over the past twelve months. There have, as always, been plenty of ups and downs, and we’ve enjoyed sharing it with you all. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and a happy New writing Year.
Hazel, Catherine, Carmel, Tric, Clare, and Casey
Catherine’s Year in Review
When Hazel first floated the idea of the IP Diaries, I thought, ‘Great! People will finally understand that what counts as glamour in this full-time writer life is putting on a bra because you’re expecting the postman’. Three weeks in, a framed print that said ‘Something wonderful is going to happen’ suddenly fell off my wall at 1:02am (it was the only one up there with blu-tac, but sshh) and less than 48 hours later everything went bloody bananas.
Before the year was out, I would see The Liar’s Girl nominated for the Edgar award for Best Novel and Rewind nominated for Irish Crime Novel of the Year. I went to New York in April for the Edgars ceremony, in June for BookExpo America (where I saw my book covers on massive street signs) and in September to live out my dream of staying in the city and writing for a month. The first writer I ever met in real life was Mike McCormack, author of Solar Bones and Irish literary treasure, when he came to my school when I was 16; in May I did an event with him at the Irish Embassy in San Francisco as part of our trip to the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley, California, funded by Culture Ireland. I taught plotting at a retreat in Lake Annecy, at West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry and in a living room in a Brooklyn brownstone. I was interviewed on the Ryan Tubridy Show, accepted onto Screen Training Ireland’s First Draft and Beyond screenwriting programme and signed books at the world famous Mysterious Bookshop in New York. The Liar’s Girl was chosen as one of the Guardian’s 50 best thrillers by women since 1945, Rewind was my first UK hardback and it debuted at no. 2 on the Irish Original Fiction chart. As I type this, I’m sitting overlooking the bay of one of my favourite places in the world, Villefranche-sur-Mer, just outside of Nice; I’m here for a month working on the second draft of my next book, The Nothing Man, which I am ridiculously excited about. And I’ve just remembered that until now I’d left out this: I signed a 6-book deal with my American publishers for a figure that, when I saw it on the screen of my phone in an email, made my heart skip a beat and then made my dad (momentarily) stop worrying that I don’t have a proper job.
How can I pick a top 3 out of all that? I can’t. But all of these amazing things had one thing in common. During all these experiences there would come a moment where I would have to take a breath, to try to take it in, and I would think, ‘How in the hell did I get here?!’ And the next thought would be the answer: because of stories I made up. That’s what this is all about and so, that’s my highlight of 2019: it’s chock-full of highlights purely because of stories I made up. Holding that in my heart makes looking at the blank virtual page a hell of a lot easier – and so much more exciting.
What I learned in 2019: everything can change in an instant – for the better! So stay positive, keep writing and keep a bottle of bubbly in the fridge just in case.
Something/someone that inspired us: my trip to the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley, California (kindly funded by Culture Ireland) was like being plugged into the mains. I met so many writers, writing in different genres, forms, etc., and got so much out of listening to them talk about their writing, that I came home electrified with ideas, eager to get back to my desk.
My writing goal for 2020: start and finish Book 5, tentatively titled As Told To.
Hazel’s Year in Review
2019 was a strange year for me, as it was the first year since being published that it didn’t start with a new deal for a new book already in place. As any writer knows, that’s a strange feeling, and makes for some sleepless nights! But it was a decision I’d taken, to give myself the time and space to write my next book. It was a year of ‘what ifs’ and leaps of faith on both a personal and professional level and I’m so happy to be ending it in a beautiful new home, with an incredibly exciting new book deal, a new editor, and new energy for what feels like Act Two of my writing career. Hazel 2.0, if you will!
As always, the year came with plenty of surprises, including the honour of THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER being shortlisted for the prestigious HWA Gold Crown award, and LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS hitting the USA Today bestsellers list! My mid-summer US-book tour with Heather for our second co-written novel, MEET ME IN MONACO, was an absolute whirlwind. Fifteen events in six states over twelve days takes a lot out of a gal, but we had the most amazing time meeting readers and booksellers and I’m so grateful to have had the experience. I will truly never forget it! I made wonderful new writing friends at the HNS North American conference in Washington, an event which proved to me, yet again, that getting away from the writing desk is as important as being at it. Foreign rights deals came in for countries I haven’t been published in before, including France, Italy and Sweden, and I had a real ‘full circle’ moment when I spoke at an International Women’s Day event at the law firm I left ten years ago. To sit beside Marian Keyes, Emilie Pine, and Sinead Gleeson, and talk about my writing career was a huge personal milestone, and felt like a fitting way to celebrate a decade of writing. I ended the year cheering Catherine on at the Irish Book Awards, and racing towards a deadline. Talking of which …
What I learned in 2019: That it is never too early to order a Bloody Mary on a flight, that good friends and passionate readers feed my soul, and that ten years and eight books in, I’m only just getting going.
Something/someone that inspired me: My Grandma Daisy. She celebrated her 100th birthday in November, and got a card from the queen. What a woman!
My writing goal for 2020: Sprayed edges and William Morris style end papers! My new historical novel will be published in the USA/Canada/UK/Ireland/Australia/New Zealand/South Africa in late summer/early autumn, and after that, who knows! A tantalizing historical trilogy is making eyes at me at the moment. Watch this space …
Carmel’s year in review
This time last year, I made a decision to put myself higher on my list of priorities. I learned how to say ‘no’ the odd time and stepped back from the many commitments I’d taken on that no longer sparked joy! As a result, 2019 has been a much healthier year for me. Other than writing, The Inspiration Project and my regular TV guest slot on Virgin Media’s Elaine show, I’ve kept quite a low profile. But I’ve also been quietly productive! I finished my eight novel! My Pear Shaped Life will be published in April 2020. To help with my edits, I donned my method author hat again and took the same road trip that my characters do! I drove through the prairies of Kansas, the snowcapped Rockies in Colorado, the red rock of Utah, to the glittering lights of Las Vegas. Last week I attended a brand meeting in Harper Collins and when they shared their plans for publication, I nearly burst with excitement! Cover and blurb will be shared with you all before Christmas. And an LA movie agent is now representing My Pear Shaped Life too. Say all the novenas reader. We might get that red carpet moment yet! I’ve started work on book 9 and am happy to share that I’ve accepted an offer for two new books. I can’t say any more on this yet until it’s announced formally. Watch this space! A Thousand Roads Home became an Irish Times Bestseller and it also spent over five months as an Amazon No 1 Bestseller too. Oh, and my editor shared last week that I’ve now sold a quarter of a million eBooks. That’ll do pig. That’ll do.
What I learned in 2019: I’ve taken some time to work on a passion project recently. Only a handful of people know about this secret book and that may never change! But you know what? Writing for pleasure with all deadline pressures removed feels so good! It reminds me of how I felt back in the mid ’00s when I wrote Beyond Grace’s Rainbow. I had no notions of getting published at the time, I just had a story in my head that I had to write. By focussing on something that excites me, I feel re-energised. A pretty powerful lesson in that. One I’m going to remember for 2020.
Something/someone that inspired us: My inspiration comes from Hazel and Catherine. It’s rare a day goes by that we don’t check in with each other. And having a front-row seat in the HG and CRH theatre gives me bucket loads of inspiration! Both are crazy talented, with so much authenticity and decency in their bones, it genuinely inspires and uplifts me all at once.
My writing goal for 2020: Finish Book 9 which has the working title, What If I? And keep working on my passion project.
If my 2019 Inspiration Diaries were a novel, they would feature a hopeful beginning, a twisty suspense-filled middle and a final act that sees the heroine finally get her happy ending. While I feared that might never happen, I’m delighted to tell you…I have an agent!!
The last few weeks have been a pinch-me finale to my search. Sophie Hicks of The Sophie Hicks Agency in London emailed me early one Sunday and a few days later we spoke on the phone. It’s very surreal when that call finally comes and I didn’t want to get my hopes up but within minutes, she told me how much she loved my book and wanted to represent me. She gets my story, my characters and crucially, she gets me. Together we have big plans for my novel, and I can’t wait to see what next year might bring.
If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s the power of patience. The publishing world spins on its own axis, incomparable to any other industry. The wait is excruciating but its worth it. You just have to keep going. To stay in the game. So rather than choose different highlights throughout 2019, all of mine have culminated into one dazzling firework in the December sky. And over the course of one conversation, my life has changed. For I have a champion now. Someone to go into the publishing fray on my behalf. And she’s amazing at it. I feel very lucky.
I’m also blessed to have the support of Carmel, Hazel, Catherine, Casey and Tric. In particular, Tric has inspired me this year with her bravery and heart in writing her memoir. To write fiction is one thing, to write the story of your life is another entirely and I’m in awe of her courage. I can’t wait to read it! So roll on 2020! We’re here waiting for you. You better watch out!
At 2019 draws to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on the year gone by and set out some writing goals for 2020. I want to return to writing poetry, maybe getting some published again. Poetry helps me reach layers that other writing doesn’t, and I find when I write poetically it’s easier to tap into the senses and a deeper sense of self. I also want to complete the psychological thriller I’m currently working on and write the third in my police procedural series set in Dublin. I have also booked a writing retreat in April and one May/June. These retreats are not only to write, but to reconnect with important members of my writing tribe, those who inspire and support me. You know who you
During the year, I learned that patience really is a virtue, networking is important, it really is all about the writing and most importantly, keep believing and keep writing. Some of the highlights were my Agent’s summer party in London in July and heading to the An Post Irish Book Awards in November.
If I was to pick someone who inspires me then it would have to be, without question, my husband. His unwavering support and faith in my abilities is second to none. After a tough year personally, he never fails to be my scaffolding, holding me together. He stores the positives, safe and secure, to bring them up when the negatives and doubts rear their ugly heads. I will be raising a glass to a lot of things this year. 2019 has been a progressive and rewarding one. Cheers.
2019 is drawing to a close and what a rollercoaster it has been. It will forever be the year I lost my lovely Mum, but I like to imagine that all that was good since then has been overseen by her from a distance. Since Mum passed there have been many who took me by the hand and guided me through the difficult days, weeks and months of early grief. Without them there would have been no writing. Yet there was writing, and it led to my getting an agent, Faith O Grady, which was without doubt my greatest writing highlight of 2019.
In this month’s diary I’ve been asked to share who has inspired me, what I have learned this year and my writing goals for 2020. In my writing life so many have inspired me. If, however I were to name one I must cheat and name two; John McCahill, my dad who had a most magical way with words and Agnes, my mum, who had courage beyond measure. On days when writing my memoir has been less than easy I have needed a plentiful supply of inspiration from both.
There is much that I have learned this year, most especially that writing doesn’t just happen. It takes effort, time and patience and the ability to ignore the voice within, which mocks and scorns my writing goals and ambitions. My writing goal for 2020 is simple, to type ‘the end’ on my memoir and hopefully see it on the shelves. This time last year I could never have imagined I would have an agent and the possibility of being
published. Now, 2020 lies before us, an unwritten book of 366 days of blank pages. Let’s all dare to dream what story those pages will tell this time next year.