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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December: The ghosts of writing pasts, present, and future …

IMG-20191214-WA0000And 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

xxx

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 …

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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.

***

Clare

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!

***

Casey

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
are!

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.

***

Tric

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.

November: Remember, Remember … to write.

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Due to life being completely crazy, this month’s diaries come to you as a box set. We have been very busy! Enjoy!

Catherine

My dreamy month in New York passed by in a flash, but after some last minute scrambling, the first draft of THE NOTHING MAN (Book 4) has gone off to my editor – hooray! This is the best feeling, immediately followed by a plague of acute self-doubt. What if they hate it? They do hate it, don’t they? That’s why I haven’t heard back yet. They’re trying to figure out how to break the news to me that I’m fired… etc. etc.

I haven’t had much time to dwell on it though. To mark Halloween, the Sunday Business Post enlisted Liz Nugent, Pat McCabe, me, Aiden Gillen, Sean Moncrieff and Paul Howard to write a spooky story – Liz started it, then each of us added 300 words and passed it on. The result, Eyeless, was fascinating to read and when else am I going to be on a list with those names, eh?! I did a hugely fun event with Alex Barclay at Vibes and Scribes in Cork to mark Irish Book Week. My fellow Corkonians will understand what a huge deal it is for me to have an original short story in the Holly Bough this year, which has just hit the shelves. And as I type this, I’m in between my two events at Murder One, Dublin’s international crime writing festival. Plus the time has come to write a brief pitch for my next book, No. 5. This is why it drives me absolutely insane when people ask, ‘Are you finished?’ In this business, there is no finished. There is only finished this particular thing, now onto the next…

The exciting news this month is that Rewind is shortlisted for Crime Novel of the Year in the Irish Book Awards. The ceremony is on 20 November at the Convention Centre in Dublin and I can’t wait. No matter what happens, it’ll be a chance to reflect on a truly fantastic year and to celebrate with my writing buddies.

In the meantime, I’m off to France to work on Book 4: Draft 2. Yes, France. Feel free to hate me…

Carmel

I’ve been sitting here wracking my brains trying to work out what to share this month. What news do I have? Erm… thinking …. one second … nope… I’ve got nothing!

Reader take note – this is the reality of a writer’s life. Yes, there are book launches, festivals, book club talks and fancy publishing parties. But they tend to come at you a bit like buses … in threes! In the main most writers are at home, sitting at our desks writing. So other than a couple of appearances on the Elaine Show, October was all about words for me. Which was rather lovely. I can, however, live precariously through Hazel and Catherine who are both killing it with award nominations. I am so proud of them both, my winners every time.

I have completed the proof-reads for Book 8 and as I type this, proof copies are being printed. I suspect December will be an exciting month as my publisher plans to send advance copies to media and book reviewers. Cover, title and blurb will be shared soon too! I’m so ready for this book to go out into the book wild. I’ve worked on it for nearly two years. It’s time to let it go.

Work continues on book 9, of which I’m about a third of the way through. I always find the middle bit the hardest. My editor and agent signed off on the story when I pitched it a few months ago, but at the end of the first third, I had an AHA moment. Which basically changed the ending. I pitched this new idea to my agent and hurray – she loved it. I’ve been reworking this new twist into the first third. I’m in good shape to meet the deadline next April.

Next month I will do my best to share something a little more interesting, promise. At the very least, I’ll give you all the gossip on the Irish Book Awards. We’ve got our pompoms ready to cheerlead Catherine. I suspect a lot of tears and whooping if she wins. And gin!

Hazel

I moved house, planned my childrens’ birthday parties, carved some pumpkins, celebrated a wedding anniversary, celebrated my grandma’s 100th birthday (I know!), saw A-ha, cheered the announcement of my new book deal, hopped over to London to meet my editor and eat Shepherd’s Pie at The Ivy, and hopped back over to London for a lovely evening at the HWA Crown Awards. I didn’t win, but I sort of did, because it was such a lovely evening, and I was so proud to see The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter on the big screen and having its moment.

That was my month!

Sometimes the writing just has to be paused for, you know, life! I’m now chasing a terrifying deadline, and the Christmas ads are freaking me out. If anyone knows which packing box my hole punch is in, please let me know.

Casey King

Smock Alley in early November was the place to be for crime fans of fiction and non-fiction (not committing) and aspiring writers. While there is a Green Room, authors eagerly mingled with everyone, signing books, posing for pictures. I was part of the Event Team for the weekend and at one stage, Murder One was trending at number six on Saturday. The coffee was flowing, and the Tahini Banana cake was to die for. I took, and was included in, some great pictures over the weekend.

There was one particular photo I was reluctant to get in to. Carmel Harrington spoke of Imposter Syndrome on The Elaine Show during the week and boy did I have a surge of that on Friday night. The event to celebrate The Gutter Book Shop’s 10th Birthday went extremely well, chocolate cake and wine. The post-celebration de-brief was amazing. Then, the group decided to pose for ‘The Conspiracy of Writers’ picture. But wait, I wasn’t yet a published author like Paddy Hirsch, William Ryan, Lucy Foley, Alex Barclay and Liz Nugent. Yes, I am agented, with Kate Nash firing emails back and forth with interested parties, allowing me to continue to write. But what entitlement had I to pose among those I greatly admire? I hesitated, then without question, was plonked in the middle by
all five. I was glad I hadn’t voiced my doubts as I fear one, if not all, of those writers had the knowledge to slap the Imposter Syndrome out of me without leaving a mark. The incredible support and encouragement I received over the weekend was second to none. It’s a photo I will cherish. I was included in another with the gorgeous and talented Andrea Mara, taken by Noreen Maher of @hiberniaroots. I also ran into fellow Inspiration Diaries contributor Clare Daly. As writers we need weekends like these to soak up the atmosphere and to expel that Imposter Syndrome.

Clare Daly

It came at last. The email I was waiting for from an agent reading my full manuscript. Sadly, it wasn’t an offer, but it wasn’t exactly a rejection either. Not of my work. They thought my novel The Nothing After was ‘strong’ and saw ‘much to like and admire’ but felt that the market may lie across the water more so than here at home. Supernatural crime is niche and bigger in the US than in the UK and Ireland, they said. They wished me the very best of luck in finding a home for it and thanked me for the opportunity to read it.

It caught me on a week where I was run ragged with other things, so it’s not the end of the world. There is a home for my book out there. It’s just going to take time to find the right person to take it on. I had earmarked a few American agents on my hitlist, so the
plan is to tackle those next and get their perspective on it. I also sent polite nudges to other submissions I’m waiting on.

As it had been six months since I last looked at that draft, I decided to read it again and see what improvements can be made. There’s always room for more, so I’m tackling a revision too to make it the absolute best it can be. This puts the new book I’m writing (book 4), to one side but once this revision is done, I’ll get back to it. As it happens, there are no supernatural leanings in there, just what I hope is a good mystery. It’s also set in America, but I write the stories and characters that speak to me – whether it’s my 19th century vampires in Our Destiny Is Blood, or a modern detective haunted by his teenage brother in The Nothing After. For me it’s about people: good, bad, alive or dead, it doesn’t matter – each one is extraordinary in their own way and with a story desperate to be told.

Tric Kearney

Well, it’s been a very busy month, with so many plates spinning in the air I’m having to use a calendar and lists for the first time in my life. Thankfully, it’s all good, including the trip of a lifetime, with just yer man and myself, to visit a great friend of mine in Boston and then four nights in New York. I had never been to the ‘Big Apple’ before and loved its madness and mayhem. While away, I turned off social media and immersed myself in the break. However, I don’t think it’s possible to turn off the writer switch.

Waking at night, my thoughts often returned to my memoir, with stories I’ve yet to tell dancing about my head, while during the day I encountered many fascinating characters, or overheard nuggets of conversation, only begging to feature in a story some
day in the future. Since returning, I’ve settled back to writing and routine, accepting some days are more fruitful than others.

Initially, having got an agent, I was a little spooked, over thinking each word, wondering if what I was writing was good enough? Would she approve? Thankfully, it has worked the other way and I find myself a little more confident and even on occasions thinking it’s quite good in places. I’ve also set myself a deadline of when I will be finished it. I’m not yet willing to share that date, but I am determined to not go past it, although I can tell you, it’s not today or tomorrow, so don’t be getting too excited. With that deadline in mind I’d better get back to my writing and the hope that next month I’ll be even closer to the finish.

October, Part Two: In which there are no tricks, just hard work, and occasional treats!

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This month, our three determined writers are rediscovering the magic in their writing, banishing self doubt, and saying, ‘I’m a writer’ out loud.

Clare Daly

I have to admit I was a bit nervous heading to last month’s Inspiration Project event in Dun Laoghaire. I’d attended the same event last year and was worried that I’d give off stalker vibes or worse – sheer desperation to Hazel, Catherine and Carmel. Here’s yer one, back again! I knew the content was ground we’d already covered, but I really needed a shot in the arm of motivation and a chance to re-focus having decided to hang up the self-publishing. I need not have worried.

As Catherine talked about plotting and Carmel delved into characters, ideas around a story I’d just started to work on, fired up in my head. I realised too while listening to Hazel talk about editing, how I used to love it and that the forensic approach I’d taken last year had sucked all the joy out of it for me.

I left with immediate ways to improve my writing but one of the best takeaways of the day was the recommendation of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Flicking through it during a coffee break, I knew I had to read it. This isn’t a how-to-write book it’s a how-to-live book. We spend so much time in our own heads, the toll can be heavy and Big Magic was a revelation about what it means to choose a creative life. It also offers a wonderful idea. That inspiration chooses you. It wants you to succeed. It wouldn’t come to you to then work against you. It wants you to type The End. It’s such a positive book and one I can see myself reading again and again.

Even a rejection last week failed to dent my optimism. It was from a submission I only sent out the week before, but I was happy to get a speedy reply. It’s good to know that the multiple submissions I’m sending out are at least landing and not disappearing into the abyss. I also entered the Novel Fair at the Irish Writers Centre should my future agent be lurking there.

For now, it’s time to get this new story down and rather being in fear of it, work with the inspiration this time – that’s where the magic is.

Casey King

Never underestimate the power of networking. We headed to Dingle for the Food Festival – one to recommend for the bucket list. While checking out the programme in advance I felt like I needed a bit more education on cocktail making – although some of my friends would disagree – and so I signed up to a class. We got the last few places, on arrival we were told it was booked out, they’d be filming for Fáilte Ireland and if we were camera shy we had the option to not attend as there was a waiting list. She hadn’t the full-stop on her sentence when we said, ‘lead us to the cocktails.’

We selected a nice wide seat, then bunched up to make room for three more who’d arrived close to the starting time. We got chatting, I was asked what I do. I told them that I’m a writer and I write crime novels. They were quite excited at this prospect. The information exchange flowed. It turned out that each of the three people possessed information that I needed for my next phase of research for the book I’m currently working on – a stand-alone psychological thriller. We bonded over Porn Star Martinis, Old Fashions and Cosmopolitans. What followed was a bit of a pub crawl and a late-night, post cocktail, pepperoni pizza. I did inform them of my ‘day-job’ which caused a lot of slagging and more craic.

On a serious note we discussed mental health and our different experiences and various life journeys. Overall, it was an amazing night. So, never be afraid to bunch up and make room and never, ever be afraid to tell people you’re a writer. Say it, shout it, own it.

Casey King @letstalkcrime is represented by Kate Nash @KNLA

Tric Kearney

Phew, time for a distraction, or should I say, time to write another Inspiration Diaries entry. So, how is my memoir going? If I’d written this a couple of weeks ago I’d have been boasting about how I was on a roll and the words were flying onto the page. I’d written several stories and was, if I do say so myself, rather pleased with how they’d turned out. Then, I decided to take a week off writing, to briefly visit family in Dublin and try to catch up on the housework and other, not at all glamorous things, that I’d neglected while in my writing bubble. What a terrible decision that was! Within days I was plagued by insecurities and doubts. What was I doing writing a memoir? Who did I think I was?

Eventually, I realised the only way to battle those inner bullies was to get back into routine and return to writing. How is that working out for me since? In truth, it’s been difficult. I have largely banished the doubts, but the words have been letting me down. Knowing the story I wish to tell, and finding the words to tell it, are two very different things. I’ve spent the past week, writing thousands of words, deleting almost all of them and writing some more, yet still have no story to show for it. It’s hugely frustrating, but when I feel like giving up I remember the previous stories I finished and the buzz when I knew I’d found the right words.

Such is the reality of writing. Reading books it’s hard to imagine somebody might one day have struggled as they wrote them. However, I’ll keep trying and hoping that maybe tomorrow the words will jump onto the page and I’ll be one step closer to ‘the end.’

See you next month.

October, Part One: In which we wonder if deadlines can be prorogued?

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The Inspiration Project started with an idea to hold creative writing events to offer practical advice, honesty, and inspiration to aspiring writers. September saw our last event of 2019, at the gorgeous LexIcon library in Dun Laoghaire. We loved meeting our amazing writers, and can’t wait to see where they go from here! And now, what have we been up to in the last month …

Carmel

At the beginning of September, I spent a week at Tyrone Guthrie, writing for ten to twelve hours a day. When I said goodbye to my cottage in the idyllic woods, I left with 20,000 words. Good times. Since then the word count has slowed down. Damn distractions everywhere – the number one enemy for us writers. Bad times.

Last week we had decorators in. A genuine distraction if you like. But it’s quiet now. However, the worst kind of distractions are the ones that live inside my head. Saboteurs. Hecklers. Take this morning. I lost an hour staring at the biblical rain pelting down outside my writing room. Anything but write whispered the distraction.

I’m often asked where do I find the discipline to finish a new book each year. Well, the simple answer is this – I have to get out of my own way. Every day. While I love what I do, it’s also my full-time job. A lot of the time its hard work, a slog. So once I’ve finished this diary entry, I’m going to write a new scene, no excuses. And tomorrow, I’ll write another and so on, and so forth until I have 10,000 words added to my WIP.

Oh, and I’ve got gorgeous news to share! The US book subscription company, Once Upon a Book Box, revealed that their September pick was A Thousand Roads Home. Remember I signed thousands of bookplates last month? It was for them! This book club is HUGE and rather wonderful. Check out my Insta and Facebook feeds for more information and photographs from readers as they open their boxes and gifts. Speaking of readers, I’ve also done some fun book club chats this month, all via FaceTime. Isn’t technology wonderful?

Lastly, I have a title for my next book. I’ve also seen a preview of the cover art. I am so in LOVE with them! Both to be revealed soon. But for now, I can’t let the excitement of that distract me. I have a scene to write …

Hazel

September was another crazy busy month for me with the UK and Ireland paperback release of MEET ME IN MONACO, and publication in Italy, too! I also received the wonderful news that THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER was shortlisted for the Historical Writers’ Association (HWA) 2019 Gold Crown Award. This award recognises the best historical fiction published in the last year, so it’s a real honour to be shortlisted! In true Inspiration Project style, I found out through several very excited WhatsApp messages from Catherine and Carmel, who were watching the announcements live on Twitter while I hid behind the sofa! Wish me luck for the awards evening in London in November!

In other very exciting news, I finally got to announce my next historical novel, THE KINGFISHER PATROL. The book is set in Japanese-occupied China in WW2, and tells the story of a group of international school children and Girl Guides who face internment and separation from their parents, and the impossible choices their teachers must make to ensure their survival. The book was inspired by incredible true events, and while I often wondered what on earth I’d taken on while researching and writing the book over the last two years, I can’t wait to share it with everyone when it has been edited and whipped into shape!

Heather and I are also busy putting words down in the first draft of our next co-written novel. Heather is currently on book tour with her latest release, and I am in the middle of moving house, so time and head space are not our friends, but we do what we can, when we can, and slowly the words are adding up. Sometimes, that’s just how it has to be: grinding out the words between catching another flight, and packing boxes. The pretty stuff will come later.

Now, I’d better go and pack another box. Seriously, where did all this stuff come from?!

Catherine

Greetings from a beautiful sunny morning in New York, where I’ve come to write – yes, really – for a month. I’ve been here a few times before and twice earlier this year, on amazing trips with my publishers for, first, the Edgar awards in April and then BookExpo America in June. On both those occasions I had a packed schedule of commitments but I squeezed as much as I could into my free time, exploring all the things I’d long wanted to see in the city. There’s something really special about being in New York by yourself and just being able to wander around and do whatever you like, whenever you like, without maps or plans, and just see where the city takes you. A plan started forming in my head… For many years now I’ve been going to Nice in the south of France for a few weeks at a time in the off-season, when the tourists are gone and accommodation is cheap but the sun is still shining. Why not do the same in NYC? So here I am, in an apartment in the Financial District, surrounded by beautiful riverside walks, amazing city views and all the coffee, stationery stores and bookshops a girl could want. (Plus, my favourite American thing: half and half!)

Rewind has been out here since September 3 and has treated me to a couple of great moments here too: I got to go to the world famous Mysterious Bookshop to sign copies of it, which was amazing, and in a truly fantastic coincidence, the New York Post chose Rewind as one of their Best Books of the Week – and I found this out while in the plane on the way here! 38,002ft over Nova Scotia to be exact! I may have squealed.

The slight damper on all this is that I’m also racing to finish the first draft of Book 4, tentatively titled The Nothing Man, which will hopefully be out next year. It’s going really well – I LOVE this book, I’m even more excited about it than I was about Rewind, which was a lot – but I wish it was going just a little bit faster. Still, being behind on your word count in sunny New York is infinitely more fun than being behind on it in dreary Dublin…

September, Part Two: What do you mean there are no shortcuts?

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This month our writers are taking stock, pressing on, and accepting the realities of writing. Spoiler alert: it’s all about hard work, and accepting that there are no handy shortcuts to success. Sorry!

Casey King @Letstalkcrime

I attended a few author events recently and noticed that when the floor was opened to the audience a similar theme ran through the questions. People wanted to know that magic formula, that secret, that button to press, the software to use, what does it take to turn out that amazing book that will be snapped up? Here I come with a huge pin to burst that bubble … there ain’t no magic formula. It’s a bit like losing weight, there are no quick fixes only dedication and sticking to what works for you.

Writing software, like an ideal exercise class or DVD, is only as good as the one that makes you want to partake. There are no magic formulas, only grafting, and drafting, writing, rewriting, making what you think is the bees-knees, even better – I ran out of rhyming words, but you get the picture. Overnight successes are rare. Not giving up is the key. Celebrate others’ successes because one day it will be your turn and you’d like for them to raise that glass for you, as you did to them.

Book three in my crime series was giving me a pain in my ass, so I stepped back from it. The reality is life took over and I kind of had no choice. Once September hit, all the routines fell into place and when I sat back at my desk, I decided to write a different book three – a stand-alone. Who knows where this will take me because it started as a joke until a friend said to me: Why not? So, ten pages of notes and six thousand words later, book three is underway. I am grafting and drafting. That’s what it takes.

Clare Daly

I sent off another new submission this week. Hooray! One where you send a full manuscript from the outset. I’ve never come across this with literary agents before, but it hopefully cuts their slush pile down, as your work must be finished, which can only be a good thing. I’m still hanging on for answers elsewhere. I would have resigned myself to forgetting about it, or rather thinking that they had, but more apologies for the delay have been forthcoming so hopefully I’ll hear one way or the other very soon. Catching a glimmer of interest has made me realise that all I really want now is to be traditionally published. This is problematic, because my goal, certainly at the beginning of this year was to self-publish the second book in The Hunger Chronicles and while that’s been a slow burn in terms of productivity, I feel now that I need to hold back on it. My heart, while in my book, is not in self-publishing.

Maybe it’s a crisis of confidence, maybe I just don’t want to go it alone again, but I know now what path I want to be on. Immediately of course I feel guilty. I’ve already spent money on the cover design, broken a million promises to myself that I would stay the course, and told readers who were kind enough to ask, that another tale is on the way. Rest assured though; I’m not abandoning them. My hopes have just shifted. I want more for them than I alone can provide.

So, I’m not going to self-publish again. The decision scares me. There is no easy way to get your book out there. Self-publishing is hard. Traditional publishing is hard. Sticking with either path is difficult but trying to do both is just not for me. There’s another fear. Are The Hunger Chronicles my learning books? Destined to come back to me, as I spread my wings with another genre, or will they get the life outside of me that I hope for them? So much – too much – to think about in one breath. So, I’ve written myself a note and pinned it over my desk. JUST WRITE: The Publishing Will Take Care Of Itself.

Tric Kearney

Last time we met I was sharing my news that Faith O Grady, from the Lisa Richards Agency, had agreed to represent me and look for a home for my memoir. So many people sent congratulations my way and were genuinely happy on my behalf I was stunned, but thank you. I even got a little excited myself. However, once the prosecco disappeared, there was still the matter of finishing my book. I’d a deadline of mid-September to have some more work submitted.

So, I sat at my laptop and typed away, as usual, but something had changed. No one was interrupting. Where were my children who beat a steady path into my room to sit chatting beside me, ignoring my continuing to type, desperate not to lose my train of thought? Where were my friend’s texts to meet for coffee, or phone calls to catch up, during the only two hours I had free to write? Could it be, that after five years, my family and friends were taking my writing seriously? Indeed, they were. Not only is this my memoir, but they are also heavily invested in it. Daily, their enquiries as to how my writing is going are met with delight, if I tell them it went well, and encouragement after a day of difficult writing.

Recently, as I poured over old newspaper reports, relating to a time I’d rather forget, I realised how far I had come. Those reports held no power over me anymore. I wasn’t upset, only grateful, that I’d literally lived to tell the tale. Which reminds me… I have a deadline to tell that tale. So, until next time I hope all you writers keep writing, one word at a time, and hopefully, whether published or not, we will all get to tell our tales.

September, Part One: Season of mists, and bestsellers!

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Summer is over and autumn is here, and at IP HQ, we are celebrating the start of our favourite season with a pumpkin spice latte and a hat-trick of bestsellers! Carmel’s A Thousand Roads Home hit the Irish Times paperback fiction chart, Catherine’s Rewind hit the Irish Times original fiction chart, and Hazel’s Last Christmas in Paris hit the USA Today bestsellers chart – all in the same week! Surely there’s no better time to remind you that the three of us will be sharing our advice on plotting, writing, editing, and publishing your book at our final Inspiration Project event for the year. We have a few places still available on Saturday 14th September at the LexIcon, Dun Laoghaire. Come and join us, and pick our bestselling brains! Booking details at https://theinspirationproject.ie/ In the meantime, over to … us!

Catherine

This past month was officially The Fun Bit. After spending a year or more (mostly) chained to the desk, putting shoes on under your PJs and calling yourself ‘dressed’, hoping there’s no parcel deliveries today because you can’t even face the postman with Day Three Hair, publication day arrives like a bullet train and suddenly life is unrecognisable.

My wish for this time around was that I would celebrate and have fun, so the first thing I did was scratch ‘have a launch’ from my To Do list. They’re just too stressful – you spend most of the day hearing your phone ping with notifications from people who swore they were coming but now can’t, and you have to make a speech. Um, no. Instead, I went out for dinner with some of my bestest writing buddies and I honestly think it’s the best decision I ever made. It was a wonderful night – shout out to the staff in the Sidecar Bar and Wilde in the Westbury who truly went above and beyond, and even presented me with a little ice-cream and chocolate copy of Rewind! – and it felt like a real celebration. The last three standing were (of course!), Hazel, Carmel and me, and our last stop was the window of Dubray Books on Grafton Street where we stopped to take photos of us pointing at Rewind at approximately 3:00am.

After 48 hours to get over my hangover – I needed every one of those, good GOD – the promotion started with a visit to The Ryan Tubridy Show. I’d never been on it before and I was so nervous, just because I knew a LOT of people would be listening and that, if it went well, it would really help the book. Aside from the fact that for the first five minutes I sounded like I’d just had five espressos delivered intravenously into my blood stream, it went great – and Ryan loved the book, which was amazing. I also spoke to Pat Kenny on Newstalk and Gerry on LMFM, ran around the various Eason’s stores signing stock and had a VERY creepy radio ad playing on RTE Radio 1. Down in Cork, there were more bookshop visits, two radio interviews (including one I did sitting in my Dad’s car while it was parked outside Debenhams in Mahon Point – the glamour!) and a signing in Waterstones Patrick Street, the same shop I used to go into every Saturday and pick up another How To Write A Book Book.

And then, come Tuesday afternoon, better news than I could have hoped for: Rewind is no. 2 in the Original Fiction charts, the fourth bestselling book in the country overall. I’m shocked and grateful and giddy and delighted. In the last week, Hazel has been a USA Today bestseller and Carmel was No. 5 on the mass market charts, and now this – the IP 3 are killing it!

Hazel

After the madness of July’s US book tour, August was a month to decompress, enjoy the final weeks of the summer holidays, and prepare for autumn – my favourite season! Apart from filling in a gazillion forms as part of my application for Irish citizenship (wish me luck!), we are also in the process of moving house, so life is really throwing me plenty of opportunities to be a proper adult, and seriously interrupting my writing time.

I often say that writing is the most unpredictable job I’ve ever had, and this was proven again this month with the amazing news that LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS, the first book I co-wrote with Heather Webb, and which was published almost two years ago, hit the USA Today bestseller list, storming in at #99 of the top 150 books sold that week! Seriously, you just never know when a book is going to have its moment. We are now biting our nails to see if we stick around for a second week. I might break out the selection box if we do!

After MEET ME IN MONACO  was voted as  August book of the month by members of The Book Club Girls Facebook group, Heather and I were invited to be Writers in Residence for a week, which was great fun. We were also invited to do an Instagram takeover of the entire HarperCollins US account for a day. The responsibility was terrifying, and I’m not sure we ever want to do it again!

As I desperately try to clear the desk and get back to writing the first draft of the next Gaynor/Webb collaboration, and tackle structural edits on my next solo historical novel, this week also sees UK and Ireland publication of MEET ME IN MONACO, so I’ll be putting my 1950s sunglasses and headscarf back on, and channeling my inner Grace Kelly for a little while longer. This is why I can never answer the question, “How’s the book going?” The only possible answer is, “Which one?”

In a final piece of lovely back-to-school news, I was thrilled to hear that THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME and THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHER are being read by TY students in two secondary schools in Kildare.

2013 me, sobbing at the kitchen table, would never have believed a word of this blog post. For those of you reading this while sobbing at your kitchen table, I hope it gives you some encouragement to keep going. 

Carmel

You send your book out into the wild, hoping that readers will fall in love with it. And maybe, if you’re lucky, you hit the charts, which by the way shouldn’t matter as much as it does. I suppose for us writers, it’s a validation of sorts. Proof that we are doing something right. Wonderfully, A Thousand Roads Home has been a No.1 bestseller on AmazonUK for over fourteen weeks. And following its mass paperback release, it is now an Irish Times Bestseller too! Add this to Hazel and Catherine’s chart success, IP HQ is a little giddy right now. I do love it when a plan comes into action …

There’s some nice stuff happening for 1000Roads later this month in the US too, but you will have to wait until the next diary for that news. Hint: it involved me signing thousands of bookplates! And 1000Roads was also chosen as the book of the month for the UK book subscription box, My Book Moment. Hurray!

We are almost at the stage where we can share Book8 news: title, blurb, etc. But suffice to say, things are looking rosy for Greta! As you know, I finished copy edits at the beginning of the summer, but this book won’t hit bookshelves until March 2020. Remember that writers! The road to publication is a slow one. Much patience is needed.

I can’t get sidetracked by chart excitement or Greta plans for world domination, because I have a new book to write! And after a summer at home with the kids, I’m way behind on my target word count for What If, (Book 9). Only one thing for it, a week in Tyrone Guthrie! There’s magic in that place, I’ve always managed to do huge word counts there. I’ve set a target of 20,000 words. Yikes!

Last but not least, we have our last Inspiration Project event of the year on Sept 14th. In my ‘Writing Character’ session, I’m going to drill down hard on what makes a good character jump from the page, into the hearts of readers. I have lots to share that I think will help writers with their WIP’s. If you haven’t booked yet, quick, go! It’s going to be amazing, promise.

August, Part Two: Submission Accomplished!

IMG_9375Gorgeous posts from our three writers this month in which there is lots of ‘waiting to hear’, and some Very Good News. Perhaps more than any other, these three updates perfectly capture the emotional rollercoaster of the writing life. We hope you enjoy following their progress.

Casey King @letstalkcrime

I had a very exciting few weeks. As well as my agent’s summer party in London, I was Catherine’s guest for the research part of her (sold out!!) Crime Writing Workshop at Bantry Literary Festival. Catherine has always encouraged me to acknowledge my worth and bring to the fore the valuable police procedural knowledge that I have. Since then, I have received kind follow-up emails, further questions and enquiries re: consulting, as well as testimonials, should I wish to run a course, or give a talk on Applying Police Procedure to your Crime Writing at future events. Afterwards Catherine took me to a fabulous lunch where we brainstormed, talked all things crime, and had a proper catch- up.

Back to the reality of pursuing my dreams, I work full-time, as in fifty-eight hours, before my days off – or rest days as they’re known in the job. I am also a mammy and my husband is self-employed. Needless to say, I haven’t done a tap of writing in about eight weeks. Yes, it’s frustrating, my brain is busy with everything else. I began to worry that my writing mojo was slipping into the oblivion of daily life. Then, while out walking my dog – oh yeah, there is a dog to walk too on top of everything else – I found an injured butterfly. As I carried this little creature in my open palms, thinking about its delicate, yet important purpose, a lot of thoughts flooded to, and exploded in my head. For me, the butterfly is extremely significant, I may share why in a later post. It reminded me of something, in order to write you must feel, it gives your characters authenticity. So, for the first time in weeks I felt my writing, I remembered why I create, and I opened my laptop and wrote a flash fiction piece about the butterfly’s journey, and mine.

Clare Daly @claredalyauthor

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wish I had some good news for you. But sadly, another month has passed, and I am still none the wiser about my submissions. I did get an email in July from one agent’s office to apologise for the delay and to ask if the manuscript was still available which was very welcome, so it’s all still in play. However, in a bid to better my chances, I decided to send out a couple more. One agency I sent my first book to, opened their submissions for two weeks only so that was the push I needed to get active again.

On the writing front, it’s been a case of good week, bad week. It’s the summer holidays which means the kids are home, throwing any routine out the rainy window. On the positive front, I’ve developed a smaller plotline in my sequel to Our Destiny Is Blood that I’m enjoying getting stuck into. One that was but a glimmer in my first draft and I love how seeds can be sown without you even knowing it and how they can surprise you later. I’ve also found solace in literary events, and the recent Murder One Q&A with Adrian McKinty gave me the shot in the arm I needed to keep on the path. McKinty’s success story is already the stuff of legend. He’d given up. Forced through financial circumstance to quit the writing game, when a late-night phone call from a US agent changed his life. The book he pitched that night, kidnap thriller The Chain, would go on to become an international bestseller. It’s an incredible story (even better told in person) and makes you believe that amazing things do sometimes happen when you least expect it.

So, as the holidays draw to a close and the kids get back-to-school ready, so do I. I’ve booked my place on Refresher’s Week, the next Inspiration Project event on September 14th. A day for me. For my writing. To recharge the batteries and soak up all that brilliant motivation from Hazel, Carmel and Catherine. Can’t wait.

Tric Kearney @trickearney

As you left me last month, I’d put my heart and soul into an email and sent it off to two agents re my memoir. Before pressing ‘send’ on my query letter I perused it like a short story, every word double checked to ensure it had said all I wanted it to. The feeling after sending was a mix between relief that it was gone and that feeling of horror you get when you send a message to the wrong person and shout for it to come back.

One agent, Faith O Grady, from Lisa Richards Agency, replied and requested I send all that I had written so far. I did, after first spending some time tidying it up and panicking thinking I’d over sold its promise. Not too many days later I got an email. Was I ready to read what she’d said? Taking a deep breath, I quickly scanned it for the words, but… or unfortunately… Neither appeared. So, I read and reread it. Faith was interested and wondered if we could meet? I happily agreed.

I stayed with my brother in my family home the night before our meeting. A home with fresh memories of Mum, her cooking, her beautiful garden, her laughter, her hugs. How excited she and Dad would have been for me.  The next morning, alone with those memories, I cried for hours, so much so I feared Faith might suspect I’d conjunctivitis! Finally, wearing a special necklace and precious ring I sat beside Faith and did my best to convince her mine is a story others would like to read. And, as of last Friday she agreed to be my agent and do her best to find my memoir a home.

This year has been one of great sadness, but this was a welcome moment of joy. Such is life. Take it one day at a time, and if you’re writing, don’t give up.

August, Part One: In which July happened!

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International travel is all very well until you try to write a blog post with hideous jetlag, so let’s just get on with it before I fall asleep until September! Here’s what we got up to last month …

Hazel

I actually don’t know where to start with July – it feels like I lived a whole year in a month! What a crazy, amazing, emotional two weeks Heather and I had on our whirlwind American book tour for MEET ME IN MONACO. Over 15 events in 12 days, we covered thousands of miles by plane and car, and visited a total of six states. Among other things, we visited beautiful Indie bookstores who all made us feel so welcome, a golf & country club in Charleston, two huge mass book signings at the RWA conference in New York, a radio station in Soho NYC, and we finished up with a 1950s themed party with a book club in Westport, Massachusetts. Our schedule was on the bonkers side of manic, but we survived on iced coffee, dubious airport food, dry shampoo and hair curlers, cocktails, Cheeze-Its, laughter, and some essential down time at the beach (pro-tip).

As if all that wasn’t exciting enough, when I landed at Boston airport on day one of our tour, I found out that while I was mid-air at 30000ft, THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER had been longlisted for the very fancy 2019 HWA Gold Crown award which recognises the best historical fiction published in the last year! Then, midway through our tour, we heard that MEET ME IN MONACO was chosen by the New York Post as one of their books of the week. Of course we were very calm about this news! AND, I heard very exciting news this month that my next historical novel will be published in late 2020. I’ve been secretly writing the book for two years and CANNOT WAIT to tell you all about it as soon as the ink is dry on the contracts!

I’m now back home, and enjoying plenty of strong Irish tea with proper milk (what’s with the half and half and creamer stuff, America?!). Meet Me in Monaco releases in Ireland and the UK on 5th September, so I’ll be back then to do it all again. Send caffeine! In the meantime, there’s the small matter of two new books to get on with, another exciting secret project to get off the ground, and a looming house move. Send everything!

Catherine

Here’s how July should’ve gone: I should’ve missed it completely due to my being chained to my desk from dusk ‘til dawn, cranking out at least 2,000 words a day, only emerging now, pale and bleary-eyed and within a sip of a caffeine overdose, to tell you that. Instead I kicked off July by celebrating my birthday in London, seeing Harry Potter and The Cursed Child and staying in a hotel that used to be a courthouse where the staff wear prison garb and there’s a witness box and mugshots in the bar. Then there was some SECRET filming for something SECRET. (Oooh, the mystery!) The postman delivered the first hardcover copy of Rewind and I cried. I spent a week at West Cork Literary Festival, teaching a crime-writing workshop. While there I met Tana French for the first time and managed to be only about 60% Annie Wilkes, which I felt was a win.

I came home for 12 hours, 7 of which I spent asleep, then flew to Leeds for the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, where I was a table host at the murder mystery dinner. (Spoiler alert: we didn’t guess who’d done the murdering bit.) Then it was off to Geneva, from where I made my way to the absolutely stunning Lake Annecy to teach plotting to a lovely group of international writers who had gathered there for a writing retreat. Then I went to Nice, intending to write, but got distracted by the beach, glasses of rosè, and taking totally on-brand pictures of Meet Me in Monaco by a certain Hazel Gaynor, as well as obsessively following her adventures Stateside. Then when I got home I had Love Island to catch up on. I mean…  It’s been a month of beautiful sights, wonderful people and fantastic fun (and a toddler kicking the back of my chair for TWO AND A QUARTER HOURS on my final flight home, thanks Aer Lingus!) but my To Do list now has cobwebs on it.

The lovely Elizabeth Haynes, author Into The Darkest Corner, shared online that she’d managed to keep up her 2,000 word a day output even while at Harrogate. I replied that I hadn’t even managed to answer my emails. I’m really looking forward to filling my coffee mug, hunkering down and getting the word count up over the next few weeks. Oh wait. I have a book coming out, don’t I? Erm…

Carmel

While Hazel and Catherine have been on exciting rockstar style adventures around the globe, one of us IP’ers had to stay at home and keep an eye on things. So, this diary entry is going to seem very tame compared to my IP sisters. But the reality for writers is 90% sitting at your desk, with 10% rock star moments.

What have I been up to? Well, apart from perfecting my juggling routine as working mom and entertainer of two kids who are on school holidays, it’s been a quiet month. Copy edits were completed on Greta (aka book 8). Praise be! The story has evolved so much from the original concept I had almost two years ago. And I’m so proud of the final result. It’s all about the creative now – the right title, cover, blurb, tag line … My publisher, agent, marketer and I began brainstorming book titles four weeks ago … any minute now! Once we agree on a title, the art department will finish the cover, then proofs will be made and we’ll be another step closer to seeing the finished book on a bookshelf.

I’ve done a little more on What If (aka book 9), but in all honesty, I won’t get cracking on the shitty first draft of this until September. I did start work on a passion project! I make up stories for the kids all the time to pass the time while we are driving. And one about our rescue dog’s start in life grew legs, or rather four paws and a tail. So I started to write it down. Nate is already thinking movie and franchise deals – that boy knows how to dream – but I’m writing this one for me and my kids. It may never do anything other than entertain us as a family, but who knows?

In August, A Thousand Roads Home will be published in UK, Ireland, US and Australia in both mass paperback (small size) and audio. It’s held onto its orange bestseller tag for two months now on Amazon. My quirky fab four, Ruth, DJ, Tom and Bette Davis are doing me proud! Now, back to that juggling …

 

 

July, Part Two: On playing the long game.

IMG_7956We are well into the summer of ’19 now, and our three writers are staying cool, playing the long game, pressing ‘Send’, oh, and hanging out with Idris Elba. Just the usual month in the life of a writer then! Over to you, ladies!

Clare Daly

I talk a good talk about the ‘long game’, but when it comes to an agent showing interest in my work, the ‘short game’ shrink wraps me into a state of panic. As I sit here in week ten of agents are reading my full manuscript (I wish I wasn’t counting), I’ve had to take stock as the writing factory has essentially ceased trading and this is NOT GOOD.

Thanks to a Youtube video (this is what happens when I’m not writing) from Actualized.org, called Be Fucking Patient! I’ve had an epiphany or rather listened to one. The lack of patience over something not moving fast enough, leads to total self-sabotage. You become desperate for news and berate yourself for not working at a quick enough pace to make those dreams come true.

Part of the lesson is questioning why you are in such a rush. It’s been a tough few years for many reasons, mainly losing my mother to cancer in 2015, and to be honest I desperately need some good stuff to happen. But the truth is the world doesn’t see your work through the lens you do. It doesn’t carry that baggage. So you have to accept that no book deal or contract ever came anyone’s way because they’ve had a bad run. So how do you deal with that desperation?

You accept that you’re going to work for years to achieve your goal – as long as it takes. I’ve been writing seven years (not long compared to many). It may take another seven to get traditionally published, maybe more. Does that change things? No, of course not. In looking to the long game, it’s important to also look back. If someone had told me in 2012 where I’d be right now, I’d have seen it for the achievement it is and acknowledge what it’s taken me to get here, the challenges life has thrown at me and the fact that I’m still here writing.

And my panic lessens, and I go so far as to wish the agents as much time as they each need to reach a verdict on my detective novel. Because I’ll be fine.

This is the long game.

Casey King

I headed to London last week for my agent’s swanky party at the Royal Over-Seas League, to celebrate ten years in business. The beaming sun set the perfect backdrop for the garden party and Kate had organised an array of stars to attend, Idris Elba, Kit Harrington, Elton John, Jason Mamoa, Tom Hardy – in the form of life-sized cardboard cut-outs. I had many ‘pinch me’ moments and while it was certainly surreal, it was fantastic to meet fellow authors.

So, was it a good idea to wear heels to a garden party? No! I stepped onto the well-hydrated lawn, sank, then contributed to its irrigation while feeling like I was standing on a balance ball. But fear not, I brought flats. I snuck behind a bush to discretely change into them and throw a lick of polish on a toenail that had escaped some earlier varnishing. As I carefully organised myself, the speeches began, near the bush I was behind. Oops! I took a deep breath, stealthily returned, threw my heels behind Elton John, grabbed a glass of Prosecco for the toast, and was ready for action when my agent grabbed me to introduce me to relevant people who may have a hand in the future success of my novel.

Kate’s speech included talks on being good enough to believe you can achieve what you want to – which is true no matter what stage you’re at. Literary Agent Lina Langlee was there, Justin Nash, Robbie Guillory, along with Film and TV Rights Agent, Stephen Russell.

The stars didn’t get abandoned on the lawn either, as rumour has it that Idris Elba stowed away on an Aer Lingus flight to Cork and may have followed me home. He is currently lying low as, owing to partying and some turbulence, he got a little bent out of shape and needs to straighten up. Photos can be found at #KateNash10 or Sharon Dempsey’s blog DempseyMail.

Casey King @letstalkcrime

 

Tric Kearney

Anyone who’s suffered a major loss will know it is temporarily paralysing. However, sometimes someone comes along, at just the right time, to lift you back onto your feet. So it was for me this month, as I spoke with writer in residence Denyse Woods about my WIP memoir, at our library’s monthly writing workshop. She suggested I try to get an agent.

As I listened to her I couldn’t but think to myself, what notions. However, another part of me was reminded of a writer at Wexford Literary Festival who said, if you think you’ve written a good story, why would you not want someone to read it? With the fire in my belly stoked, I googled, ‘query letters.’

I’m sure there are some among you who remember what it was like to write an actual letter on pen and paper? To look at the blank page and begin by addressing it, hopeful a reply would come quickly to that very address. You may remember the butterflies you felt as you sealed the envelope and that moment of uncertainty as you held onto your letter, dangling it in the mouth of the letter-box, unsure whether you should let it drop.

As I typed and deleted my query letter many times I was reminded of those real letters, and while this was an email, the feelings of hope, mixed with a large dollop of uncertainty, were the same, as I pondered how best to word my request and hovered over the send button. In fact, if Denyse hadn’t so kindly offered to check it over, I might very well be currently still hesitating.

However, I did send it, and now I wait, hopeful that someone will believe, as I do, that mine is a story worth reading.

July, Part One: Eat. Pray. Write.

Welcome to July – month of strawberries and wasps, and trying to write on our laptops outside (hello screen glare). This month, we’re mostly hanging around in the USA, obsessively hitting the ‘refresh’ key, celebrating some magic moments, and, oh, yes, writing!

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Hazel

For me, June was about making connections: with readers around the world, with authors I admire, and with long-distance friends and work colleagues.

The month started with ‘La Legende de Grace Darling’ hitting bookshops in France (my first French translation – oo la laa!), while the UK edition of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter hit the overall top 100 Kindle bestsellers (a first for me in the UK!), and was also a #1 bestseller in several historical fiction sub-categories. I will never not be excited to see an orange bestseller flag!

The end of the June saw me pack my dry shampoo, industrial-strength concealer, and Berocca, and head to the USA for the Historical Novel Society conference, held at an enormous hotel/small indoors city in Maryland. There’s a special energy that happens when hundreds of like-minded people get together, and that was certainly the case with hundreds of historical novelists, and fans of historical fiction. I spoke on two panels – one about the ‘new woman’ in the early 20th century, and one about writing historical tragedy – and had the best fun ever at a mass book signing where I signed for a couple of hours while being serenaded by a violinist, and met readers who have followed my writing for years. Heather Webb and I also signed a huge stack of Last Christmas in Paris at the American Library Association conference in Washington D.C. I came home exhausted, and with a stinking head cold (damn you, air conditioning!), but it was all worth it.

The month ended perfectly with a night out with Carmel and Catherine, where we saw Elizabeth Gilbert in conversation with Anna Carey. I’ve loved Liz Gilbert since reading Eat Pray Love and discovering Big Magic many years ago, so it was a real fan-girl moment to hear her talk. What an amazing woman! Inspiration tank topped up, I’m ready to get back to the words. School holidays and two boys at home means a juggling act until September, but we can do this, right. Right? *anxious face*

Catherine

When I left you last month, I was in T2 at Dublin Airport, about to embark on my second trip to New York in as many months. Spoiler alert: it did not disappoint! I spoke about Rewind to 250 lovely librarians at the LJ Day of Dialog conference, alongside superstar authors Chris Pavone, Karin Slaughter and Riley Sager. Then it was off to the mindboggyingly (is that a word?) big Javits Centre for BookExpo America, where I signed proof copies of Rewind and looked totally not nonchalant at all when I discovered I had my own street signs for Rewind and The Liar’s Girl outside! It was an amazing week – many members of the Blackstone team were staying in the same hotel along with a group of us Blackstone authors, and it was a joy to get to hang out with them and get to know them. Blackstone threw an amazing rooftop party where not even thunder, lightning and a flash flood warning for NYC could dampen our good time. In a real pinch-me moment, we all got to go to see Hamilton on Broadway AND I finally saw the Space Shuttle Enterprise (if the name doesn’t sound familiar, that’s because it was the test vehicle, fun fact) at the USS Intrepid museum. I would’ve floated home if the stack of books I bought at The Strand and the proof copies I’d scored weren’t weighing me down…

Here, Rewind prep has begun in earnest. I had a meeting about publicity plans and, due to those plans, the book is now coming out earlier, on August 22. (It’s still September 3 in the States.) I’m really excited about this one and am looking forward to it being out in the world, but I can’t think too much about it at the minute: I have to deliver the first draft of Book 4 in September, which is 9 weeks away. Problem is, I’m travelling and/or festival-ing for 4 of those and I’ve never been good at writing on the road – but I’m going to have to get good at it. I’m also taking part in a screenwriting programme run by Screen Skills Ireland called First Draft and Beyond, where the goal is to have an outline and the first 30 pages of script for your project by – yes, you’ve guessed it – September.

Wish me luck. Send coffee.

Carmel

June was all about The Refresh readers. What’s that I hear you cry?

The Refresh is an author’s addiction hitting refresh on the Amazon Bestsellers Rankings (ABSR). This is found in the product description of a book and is updated hourly. I try to avoid falling down The Refresh rabbit hole, honestly, I do, but sometimes, when a book is doing well in the ABSR, it’s impossible to avoid!

I was part of a Twitter chat recently where much confusion about how ABSR’s work was in place. So here’s the low down – Amazon assigns the ABSR of a book based on how many sales or downloads it has had over a certain period of time as compared to all other books on the Amazon market. There are four rankings listed for each Book. The overall ranking in Kindle Store which includes all books, all categories, plus rankings in three different sub-categories which should reflect the genre/themes of your book.

Early June A Thousand Roads Home hit the #1 spot in several subcategories receiving an orange bestseller tag. Yay! But then things got really interesting when it made its way up the overall Kindle Chart to the Top 10, where it’s stayed for the past three weeks. This, readers, is the Holy Grail. Getting to #8 (highest I’ve gone so far) means that at that time, only 7 books on Amazon UK were selling better than A Thousand Roads Home. All of the yays! And you guessed it, all of The Refresh!

I continued my edits for Greta Gale in June, with copy edits just landed. They are quite light, as we’ve done so much work in the previous four versions. Hopefully, a title will be decided soon too! This month I start writing Book 9, which has a working title of What If I? I’ve written my plot outline, so now it’s time to get words down on paper. I use Scrivener for first drafts, setting a daily target of 1,500. Only 90,000 words to go …

Oh, on Wednesday I’m off to London for the annual Harper Collins Summer Party in the V&A. It’s always a highlight of my authorly shenanigans. Head to Instagram/Facebook/Twitter @happymrsh for photos and all the goss!