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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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!

June, Part Two: Whooaah, we’re halfway there …

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There’s nothing quite like hitting the middle of the year for taking stock. More intriguing insights and searing honesty this month as our writers share their pains and gains …

Casey King

What a Difference a Year Makes.

I mentioned Listowel Writers’ Week in previous blogs, so I ventured there again, and it did not disappoint. I got a sinus infection and as good as lost my voice but hell if that was going to stop me enjoying it. From talking mindfulness with photographer Ger Holland and Bressie, to talking all things bananas with Jane Casey (don’t ask!!), it was a wonderful week and a credit to the Chairperson Catherine Moylan and all the volunteers.

I discovered a new author too, Marianne Power and her novel Help Me! My friend is a huge fan and was dying to meet her and meet her we did. We had such a lovely chat. I could not put this book down. I stopped at chapter 16 because I didn’t want it to end and then picked it up again and was glued. I did Liz Nugent’s brilliant masterclass, I managed to meet Andrea Mara to toast her wonderful agent news, and Mary Bradford and I caught up every night to debrief on each day’s adventures. To put this into context, and touching back on a previous post about choices, last year I went to this festival alone, stayed on my own and booked workshops on my own. What a difference a year makes because I was busy catching up with fabulous friends I’d made last year, including heading to John B. Keane’s for a drink and the gang of us nearly taking over one of the restaurants on Friday night.

This month I did an online police procedural talk with Sharon Thompson’s Indulge in Writing. I also had the honour of consulting on two crime novels which are due out later this year and they are absolute crackers, folks. Let’s just say your crime reading is sorted for the year. In relation to all things publishing, there is positive momentum, nerves and butterflies, and I will share all when I can.

Casey King @letstalkcrime is represented by Kate Nash of Kate Nash Literary Agency

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Clare Daly

Hi, my name is Clare and I’m a catastrophiser. Got a situation that needs a good injection of doom? I’m your girl. Last week my car overheated in city centre traffic, smoke billowing from under the bonnet. Late for a meeting, I pulled into the nearest car park and left it there, convinced that when I returned the south side of the city would be an inferno, with lives lost and irreplaceable buildings all destroyed by my crappy Zafira. In the meeting my mind wandered to the heat from the too-hot-to-touch bonnet, the cloud of condensation that swept my windscreen and the Japanese tourists who ran by it, in case it might explode. Yep, I would be responsible for the Great Fire of Dublin 2019.

I told the guy operating the valet cleaning service, if only to explain that that smell was coming from my car and he just shrugged. It’ll be fine, he said. And it was. I returned, heart thumping to find it sitting there, cool as you like. No fire. No catastrophe. Just a tow to the nearest garage and a bill for a new water pipe.

When I started writing, my lifelong catastrophising finally made sense. I was looking at scenarios, endings to stories. Granted they were a bit grim, but it was my imagination at work and I now had a channel for that, where it came in handy. I wasn’t a disaster. I was a writer! Some days, like last week, I wish I could just switch it off. Especially when it comes to waiting for news on the submission front. I remind myself I’m in a good position, where agents are reading my full manuscript – and my Date With An Agent last month with Simon Trewin ended with a request to send it to him (high five) – but as the weeks pass, I have to work very hard to hold back the doom. The voice that says – just give me the bad news so I can get over it – and it physically hurts me to hope. To build myself up. To tell myself that no news is in fact good news. That the wait is good. That the mental limbo is worth it. That it won’t end in catastrophe.

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Tric Kearney

Why do I write? I’m not sure, only to say I can’t not. While ‘in the zone,’ I become fully immersed, time ceases to exist, and my return to the reality is only brought about by my realising I’m cold, as the heating has gone off, or I’m starving, as it’s long past lunch. This moving from the real world to the one I’m writing of has always been a joy, however, such is not the case with my memoir.

Mine is not a story filled with nostalgia but rather one of abuse, loss and recovery. What would encourage me to sit down daily and go back there? Take today for example. I’ve structured my book as a series of short stories, each one telling of an event or moment in time. So, today do I continue with the story of my going to the guards, having never told a soul at the time, including my husband? Or write how I prepared myself for court, despite struggling to recover memories deeply hidden? Will I share my shame and embarrassment at being the subject of intense publicity as I hid in plain sight with only a few close friends knowing those on the news were speaking of me? Or do I write of the good times, finding love, and the many glorious days I’ve lived since? And even as I wonder, a part of me shouts who cares? Yes, that annoying voice within is as loud as ever. However, today I didn’t entertain it. I set myself a goal of one hour writing and, as night follows day the words found their way, and with each one a part of me rejoiced.

I know I can do this and I will. But you know what? Writing the story of you is a lot harder than you might imagine.

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Don’t forget that we are now open for bookings for our next Inspiration Project event. Head to our bookings page for more information, and to secure your place!

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June, Part One: What if, WTF, and wonderful lives.

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Apparently, we’re already halfway through 2019, and if that doesn’t inspire you to crack on with those writing goals you scribbled down in a drunken frenzy on New Year’s Eve, then we give up! This month, we’re all about author goals, and never quite knowing what’s around the corner …

Catherine

Last month I left you in New York, where I was preparing to fly to the opposite coast for the second half of The Author’s Trip of (American) Dreams. I think the only word I can use to describe my time in California is magic. First stop was a breakfast event at the Irish Consulate in San Francisco alongside Mike McCormack, which was particularly special to me because (a) the first and only other time I met Mike was 21 years ago (!); he was the first writer I ever met in real life when he came to my school to talk to my Transition Year class about his career, and (b) it has always been my secret wish to get invited to an embassy or consulate. Check! Then it was on to Berkeley for the Bay Area Book Festival, where I teamed up with Mike and Emilie Pine for the ‘Writing Irish’ panel, a trio of Scandi Noir authors for ‘Criminally Good Writing’ and a whole host of writers for Noir at the Bar. I think the best moment though was when I randomly shared a car back to the airport with an editor at a New York publishing house who, we found out about half way there, had edited the book that was the subject of my final year project in college. I’m STILL not over that coincidence!

There was some good news to welcome me home. I got an invite to speak about plotting at a writing retreat in Lake Annecy, France, this July – YES PLEASE – and then I got word that Rewind is going to be published in hardback. This is A Very Big Deal to me and I may lose it completely when I see one in the flesh. The first two were published in what’s called trade paperback in the UK, which is the size of a hardback but with a soft cover, so this is like getting a promotion. Elsewhere, Rewind’s pub date approaches and the machinery behind the scenes is ramping up: we’ve been collecting blurbs or endorsements (those quotes you see on the covers of books: ‘The best book I’ve ever read’ – Ms Famous Author) and approving final cover designs. I’m getting excited about the book being out in the world – not long to go now!

I’m writing this in the Aer Lingus lounge at T2 in Dublin Airport – because I’m off to NYC again. This time it’s for a librarian conference called the LJ Day of Dialog, where I’ll be sitting on a panel of thriller authors that includes Karin Slaughter (!!!), and BookExpo America, a massive publishing trade show, where I’ll be signing copies of Rewind and wondering how the hell I got here and what I did to deserve it. The only fly in this ointment is that the first draft of Book 4 is due on September 1st – GULP – so I really need to get some work done on this trip. I’ll let you know how that goes next month!

Carmel

Last month I shared with you all that I was deep in my editing cave with my eight novel, Finding Greta Gale. Well, the month of May was STILL pretty much consumed with this book. Catherine said to me that I needed to open a vein and while I didn’t literally bleed all over my words, there’s no doubt that I gave it my ALL. I was emotionally vulnerable, which is always a scary writing experience. It feels a little like when I jumped from an aeroplane – with a parachute don’t worry -and while I was terrified as I freefalled, I never felt more liberated.

One of the main themes in this book is around negative body image which is something I’ve struggled with throughout my life. Greta’s story is not my story of course – it’s fiction, but we do share many of the same demons. I suspect and hope that many of my readers will find a connection to Greta too. And maybe by the end of the novel, we might have slain one or two of those demons.

I posed the question last month ‘How do I know when my book is finished?’ Well, without the editorial guidance of both my editor/publisher and my agent, this story would have missed so many incredible moments that were hidden, waiting to be teased out. So I’m repeating – because it’s worth saying twice – that you should never forget that as writers we are too close to our work to be objective. You know what to do.

It wasn’t all edits thought – I did step out mid-May for a special lunch with Catherine and Hazel. If you’ve attended our IP days in the past, (if not, go on, book!) you will have heard us talk about the importance of tribe. Chose wisely writers! A good tribe will be your loudest cheerleaders when you succeed AND when things go a bit pants. I hit the tribe jackpot with my two. Fact!

After our fun lunch, Hazel and I attended the annual Harper Collins Big Book Bonanza, held in The Lighthouse Theatre in Smithfield. It’s a chance for our publisher to go all boasty, mcboasty and tell the world about the new books that their authors have coming out that year. And a chance for us authors to catch up with our publisher, book retailers, media and book influencers, over a glass or two of bubbly.

And last, certainly not least and absolutely nothing to do with writing, but still the biggest and most important of all of the news … we adopted a rescue dog. If you want to see pictures of George Bailey, head to Instagram/Facebook @happymrsh!

It really is a wonderful life.

Hazel

May was a curious concoction of bookish things for me, which all reminded me how far I’ve come in my writing career, and how far I still want to go. Particularly exciting moments included seeing the cover of the French edition of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter – my first French translation (Ooo la laa!), being contacted by my Swedish translator for the Swedish edition of the book, and seeing Meet Me in Monaco featured in lots of ‘Best Books of Summer’ round-ups over in the USA. These are not things I ever expected to be part of my writing life when I was quietly working on The Girl Who Came Home at the kitchen table in 2011! I never take these ‘pinch me’ moments for granted, and they always catch me by surprise.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter was also just released in paperback in the UK and Ireland. It’s another stage in the book’s life-cycle, and although I finished writing the book in early 2018, it’s still just as exciting to see it reach new readers, and to remember why I fell in love with my subject matter in the first place.

Of course, me and Carmel have been glued to Instagram following Catherine’s epic American adventures, Part Two. We could not be prouder of her, or more thrilled for all the incredible success she’s seeing for her hard work. We’ve also both added plenty of WANTS to our author bucket lists: rooftop parties in NYC, huge signs outside BookExpo, tickets to Hamilton … the list goes on! And that’s what I love about this job. It is constantly changing and evolving. One week is never quite like the next. A month can bring a huge surprise. A year can be seismic. Which is exactly why we wanted to write these diaries, to capture the quiet moments of writing and hoping and staring at the walls, and the public moments of celebration and cocktails and notions all over the place!

To anyone out there who is struggling and doubting and wondering if it is worth continuing, we all say YES! We can’t promise rooftop cocktail parties, but we can’t not promise them either! Who knows what might happen, or what’s just around the corner? So ignore the WTFs and focus on the ‘what ifs’. It’s that which keeps us going as much as the coffee!

May, Part Two: Finding the right words

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*taps mic* Did you hear the news that we have a date for our next INSPIRATION PROJECT event?!  Come and join us this September at the stunning LexIcon Library in Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin. For full details, and to book your place, see https://theinspirationproject.ie/

This month, our three intrepid writers share the ups and downs of writing – and life. There is also talk of underwear and armour. Underarmour? Probably best if you just read on!

Clare Daly

As a writer, you get used to rejection. It’s the default position and you wait for it, every time you send a piece of your work out. The expectation of good news doesn’t really come into play. It’s a coping mechanism, I suppose. Brace yourself, secure your armour and fight on. And it is a battle. Against yourself to steel your emotions, stay the course and keep going.

So when the prospect of good news arrives, you’re on uncertain ground. In order to enjoy the moment, you must remove the armour and be vulnerable again, exposed like a twitching nerve as you wait for news. The closer you get to your dream, the more at risk you are of getting hurt. That’s the nature of the beast unfortunately.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had some lovely developments. Firstly, I won a place on the International Literature Festival’s Date With An Agent. In what was a lovely surprise, I’ll be meeting Simon Trewin on May 25th to chat about my supernatural crime thriller The Nothing After. It’s such a big opportunity and I’m ecstatic to have gotten a place.

More good news arrived. Having sent out submissions in March to three top agents, two of them requested the full manuscript. I can count on one hand – okay, one finger – the number of requests I had for a full when my first book was on submission. To have two, this early out of the gates, is unnerving but brilliant news. My mind see-saws between the what-ifs. What if they like it? What if this is the break I’ve been waiting for? What if it isn’t?

I’m trying to keep busy while I wait for news. I’d like to say I’m writing furiously but the progress there is slow at best. Salvation has come in the form of John Connolly’s A Book of Bones and I’m now happily lost in Charlie Parker’s world and that is always a wonderful place to be.

So for now, the armour is off and I feel like Ser Brienne of Tarth, not knowing what to do with myself when I’m not swinging a sword. I’m trying not to get my hopes up, they may each reject it, but this is the closest I’ve come. Has the battle come to an end, or is it just a lovely respite?

Casey King

A good writing buddy can offer as much support as a decent pair of tuck-you-in, hoist-you-up undergarments. I’m not saying my writing colleagues are like my knickers that I want to sit on them, nor do I want them to hug my bottom, they hold me in and keep me going when I need them. Just like a good bra, they’re close to my heart and underwired to perk me up when my mood is sagging. There have been stumbles, bumps, speed ramps as well as celebrations, cheers and smiles. What you need is someone there for all of it because in this mad writing world you quickly realise how little control you have. You enter a short story or poetry competition, submit your manuscript to an agent or publisher, what happens after that is in someone else’s hands.

However, you can retain control over how you spend your time and who you build your support network with. I made a few wise (and a few bonkers) choices since I started writing – I’ll focus on the wise ones. The year I was selected for a bursary to John Hewitt Summer School in Armagh – it was my choice to enter, someone else’s choice to pick me. I chose to go to Anam Cara in Beara – a fantastic week. I joined Indulgeinwriting. In January 2018 I headed to Wexford for the inaugural Inspiration Project. It was a weekend where something quite unexplained happened, the drive, faith and reassurance I got for my writing was amazing. I’m still in touch with the crew I did this course with, as well as those I met at Anam Cara and in Armagh.

If you invest wisely in where you spend your time and who with, you’ll feel perked up, supported and ready for all that the writing world throws at you. Casey King @letstalkcrime is represented by Kate Nash of Kate Nash Literary Agency

Tric Kearney

Every morning we wake with plans for the day, the week and even the upcoming year. Yet sometimes life has other plans for us. So it was for me these past few weeks. Instead of sitting to write my pitch for ‘Date with an agent’ I was taking part in a concluding chapter, as we walked my Mum up her final path in life.

During those all too few precious weeks in late March, our world ceased to turn. As our time together grew shorter, the days lengthened as every second counted. We cherished final chats and when there were no more, we continued to care for my mum, cocooned in our childhood home, her favourite place in all the world.

A year ago, a single thought had spurred me to begin a memoir. What makes me, me I’d wondered? How was it, that after years of abuse and loss, I’d not only survived, but I was happy? As I began to write I’d hoped to stumble upon an answer. Surprisingly, in the first story a possible answer struck me, as I summed up a seismic encounter. “The voice I’d found that afternoon to finally shout, ’No more’ was not only my voice, but the voices of generations of strong, courageous women in my family, who continue to live through me with every beat of my heart. Their voices will never be silenced.”

How often I recalled those words during our last days with my mum as she mothered us to the end, insisting we not cry as she was looking forward to, ‘waltzing with Dad once more’ and worried how we’d be after she was gone. Now it’s all over. Time to return to the ever-spinning world minus the strongest, most resilient person I’ve ever known. The one who helped make me, me.

I have my final chapter. Now I must find the words to write it.

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

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

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Catherine

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

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

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

Hazel

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

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

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

*definitely

Carmel

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

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

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

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

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

April, Part Two: Notions and Emotions

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Like ever-changeable April showers, our intrepid writers share their latest ups and downs on their quest for publication.

Clare Daly @claredalyauthor

Submit. Defeat. Repeat.

The rejection for my third book came at the end of March, two weeks after meeting the agent in London. It read, “I like the idea and plot, and think it has legs. However, it did not quite resonate for me. This is an entirely visceral response and I am confident you will find the perfect agent for you.” If a knock back can be called encouraging or responsible for keeping the fire lit, then this is the form it takes. I’ve had enough to know a good one when I see it. No response is the worst, closely followed by a one-line form rejection. It’s generally noted that if a writer is getting any more than that in the way of feedback, then they’re on the right track. So, I’m going with that.

I’ve sent it out to a few others (I’m taking a staggered approach), including an agent who really enjoyed my first book. I’ve also applied for Date With An Agent at the International Literature Festival in May. I didn’t get it last year (with the same book, ouch), but with a new revised draft, I’m having another go. And all the while and competing for my time, is my second book Heavy Lies The Crown – one who’s path will not know rejection as the others do, as I’ll directly self-publish it. It feels strangely liberating to know it will be spared that. I also have a gorgeous cover that I’m delighted with and will reveal as we get closer to release.

As the series begins to take shape, it was time to name it – a dark canopy under which multiple books in the series will reside. It therefore gives me great pleasure to announce The Hunger Chronicles. Our Destiny Is Blood’s working title was The Great Hunger, a two-fold reference to the Irish famine and vampires, so hunger has always been a touchstone for these characters and their fates. It’s not lost on me that it also relates to my own quest. I’m hungry for this – the dream – and the only way to achieve it is to Submit. Defeat. Repeat. That YES can’t be far away, can it?

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Casey King @letstalkcrime

Us Irish have a morbid fear of notions. I had to face this fear at the end of March when, after getting my Agent’s advice, and more from fellow writers in the know, I got some author pictures done. I was surprised at how nervous I felt, and how the closeness of the shots made me feel quite ‘out there’. Of course, being ‘out there’ is a necessary part of the process, but I have spent most of my career getting the job done, keeping my head down and powering on through shift-work and everything else that comes with being part of the emergency services. This is such a new experience for me. I really did enjoy it and a lot of that was down to the wonderful photography skills and experience of Ger Holland, and it was great craic – another thing us Irish love – and another step to enjoy on this amazing, bonkers journey.

So, London Book Fair 2019, the feedback from my Agent was fantastic, with expressions of interest in my novel and enquiries of further novels in the series. Very exciting. This leads me to some of the best advice I have received in my writing journey, and that is to keep writing. And I did, I kept going because, as you will hear time and time again, there is no such thing as an overnight success. It takes work, dedication and sticking with it. (Ahem, Inspiration Diaries Part 1 and Catherine’s FAB news). Because I have stuck with it, I was able to relay to my Agent that yes, I have a sequel in the pipeline and have a third outlined in the same series. Phew, less pressure, I hope!!! So, keep writing, keep improving, and most importantly, don’t give up.

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There is no entry from Tric Kearney this month due to a family bereavement. We all send our love and deepest condolences to Tric, and family.

April, Part One: In which one of us has HUGE NEWS!

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When we decided to start The Inspiration Diaries at the end of last year, it could have been virtual tumbleweed blowing across our screens with nothing much to tell you at all. And then a picture fell off Catherine’s wall, and now look! What all of us have learned in the years we’ve been writing is that a career as a writer has more ups and downs than a theme-park rollercoaster ride. We work hard and hope for the best, and when the best happens … pure magic!

Catherine

March has always featured heavily in my writing life, for some weird reason. I self-published Mousetrapped in March. I got The Call in March, when my agent rang to tell me that we’d got a deal for Distress SignalsThe Liar’s Girl came out last March. And this March… Well, we’ll get to that.

From the get-go, it was a busy month. On the first day of it I flew to Germany with a pink PowerPoint presentation to deliver a talk on crime writing to the Frankfurt Writers Conference. The following week I was down in Cork, taking part in The Business of Books, a Network Ireland event that was held in the lovely Vibes and Scribes bookshop on Lavitt’s Quay and I did a school visit to Coláiste na Toirbhirte in Bandon the following morning, where I got to tell a group of fifth years (age 16-17) what I wished someone had told me when I was their age. The next day – World Book Day in Ireland – I was interviewed on Cork’s 96FM about female crime writers and book clubs while sat in my parents’ bedroom. (They listened to it go out on air downstairs. The glamour!) Then it was off to London for a party my publisher always has on the eve of the London Book Fair and after all that I needed a lie down and we weren’t even half way through the month. But I had work to do: UK page proofs and USA copyedits on Rewind. (Page proofs is the stage after copyedits, which you check the typeset/final pages.) I also finally managed to finish the detailed synopsis I needed to do for Book 4 and was WELL PLEASED with meself when I finally figured out a good ending for it. Rewind proofs have now been printed and are, as I type this, winging their way to some of my fellow authors in the hope they’ll get time to read it, like it and provide what we call ‘blurbs’ which are those little endorsements you get to see on the cover of books that, everyone hopes, helps sell the book. This is a TERRIFYING time because it’s the first time anyone outside of my agency or publishing house will be reading the book. And that was it. Wasn’t it? I feel like I’m forgetting something…

JK! Obviously the big news for me this month was that I could FINALLY tell everyone: I’ve signed a major new US deal for 6 more books. For a week, this was plastered everywhere – on my blog, on Twitter, in the media – and by the week’s end, I had a double-page spread in the Echo alongside my brother (who stars in a movie called Beyond The Woods which was up for an award in the UK) and appeared on the Today show with Maura and Daithi, so I think enough’s been said about that. But I’m very, very happy and excited and what I really love about this moment is that this isn’t a story of overnight success, or a headline grabbing deal for a debut, but an example of hard work and hanging on in there. If you want to read more about that, I’ve written about it on my blog.

Finally, I’d just like to say: The Inspiration Diaries were Hazel’s idea and boy oh boy, am I glad she suggested we do them in 2019! In previous years it would’ve been mostly crying and Netflix.

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Hazel

Apart from spending most of March being incredibly proud of our Catherine’s phenomenal NEWS (in ALL CAPS!), it was a busy and strangely emotional month for me. On International Women’s Day, I returned to the law firm I left ten years ago, where I participated in an event with Marian Keyes, Emilie Pine and Sinead Gleeson. To be back in the boardroom where I used to have Very Important Meetings, and to sit beside Marian discussing my writing career, was a real full circle ‘pinch me’ moment. Marian then very kindly recommended Meet Me in Monaco in her St. Patrick’s Day ‘fillum’, and my cup completely runneth over!

March also meant DEADLINES, and I’m enormously relieved to have finished the manuscript for my next book (when I say ‘finished’, I mean ‘finished that draft’). It is now with my agent, and I’m in that agonising phase of writing called Waiting To Hear if she likes it/loves it/can immediately sell it for a bazillion dollars! A family skiing trip to Austria was the perfect wonderful distraction for a week, but now I’m back pressing F9 a thousand times a day. Fingers crossed for good news soon. I feel like a debut author again, biting my nails.

For the last week of March, I was Writer in Residence for The Book Club Girls, a large Facebook Book Club group who picked The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter as their book of the month. It was so lovely to chat with them each day about different aspects of researching and writing the book. And in Very European News which has nothing to do with Brexit, I signed contracts for French, Italian, German and Swedish rights for the book. Ooo la laa!

Finally, I visited a wonderful creative writing group at Drumshallon Forge Heritage Centre in Drogheda, and also spoke to the Transition Year students at Cross and Passion College in Kilcullen, and presented the 2019 Hazel Gaynor Creative Writing Awards to the three winners. So much talent. The future of Irish writing is very bright!

April is for sleeping, right?

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Carmel

March was all about the edits. Most writers I know would rather play a never-ending game of Jenga with Trump than tackle their edits. But I love this stage of the process. Once the shitty first draft is written, it’s all gravy for me. Unfortunately, things became complicated when both my kids caught Scarlet Fever, something I thought only existed in a Jane Austen novel! Alas, no. With half of the H house at home sick, the juggle struggle got real. I had no choice but to work when the kids were asleep or napping during the day. It was tricky, but I still handed in Finding Greta Gale on time. Why is it important that I tell you all of this? Because life has a habit of throwing curve balls at the most inopportune times. The trick is to not let those balls derail you from following your dream. Or as Jane Austen would say, get thine arse in a chair and scribe!

I’ve had a long editorial chat with both my editor and agent post edits. The good news is that they still love this book. Yay! The bad news is that the first third is still running too long and needs to be trimmed. Not so many Yays! But I also know that they are right and the book doesn’t feel ‘right’ yet. I’ll know when it gets there.

In other news, plans are afoot for the paperback release of A Thousand Roads Home later this year in the UK and Ireland. I’ll be visiting Harper Collins in London for a presentation to outline strategy and marketing plans next week. And I’ve also started work on two outlines for what will be Book 9 and 10! I need to tease them out to see if they are viable, novel-length stories. Then it’s time to share them with my agent to see if she likes them and can ultimately sell them! I know some writers hate the commercial side of books. But here’s another top tip my friends, if you want to pay the bills as well as following your creative dream, then it’s important to embrace that!

Right now it’s time to get myself ready for The Elaine Show. I’m back in the Virgin Media studios for more fun and games on the panel. Have a great month!