March, Part One: Madness!

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I’m not quite sure how we’re already in March, but spring has allegedly sprung and lots of new green shoots and little buds of exciting things are blossoming among your Inspiration Diaries authors. Suffice to say, February might have been short, but a lot happened. Over to … us!

Catherine @cathryanhoward
The thing I love most about this job is how, at any moment, an email can land in your inbox, completely out of the blue, utterly unexpected, that completely changes your day, week, month – or maybe even career. Being a writer is like fly fishing. You are cold and wet and alone a lot of the time – look, just go with it, okay? – but you have lines in the water and you never know when, um, a big fish is going to tug on one of them and make all the coldness, wetness and aloneness totally worth it. (I believe ‘big fish’ is the technical term. Ahem.) Since The Liar’s Girl was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel at the end of January, Exciting News Emails have been hitting my inbox every other day.

Since last we figuratively spoke, I’ve been interviewed and photographed for a newspaper feature, and been on TV and radio. I’ve been invited to events in New York and an amazing book festival in California. Exciting things I can’t tell you about yet are happening behind the scenes. And I didn’t do anything! Lest I have to remind you: I was sitting on my couch surrounded by piles of laundry when the news came in. I think this is a great comfort – no matter how you feel today about your work-in-progress, your career, etc., in this world, tomorrow could be the beginning of something special. Just hang in there. Keep going. Don’t give up. And keep checking your Gmail…

In far less exciting, mundane, actual work news: REWIND has gone to the printers for Round 1: Bound Proofs. This is when they take the copyedited but not yet proofread text and make proof copies to go out to other authors, reviewers, etc. I will also get a copy of those pages in PDF that I’ll print out here and check for errors myself. The funniest thing copyedits turned up? At age 36.5, I discovered that Bonfire Night on June 23 isn’t an Irish thing, or even a Cork thing – it’s a Cork City thing. Who knew?! Now: onto Book 4…

After struggling through mid-term break (deadlines – what deadlines?), I was very relieved to return the proof pages for Meet Me in Monaco (the last chance to make changes or corrections – yikes!). I’m now at the other end of the process, finishing the first draft of my new book which I plan to send to my agent before I hit the slopes in Austria mid-month, because trying to ski, write and eat strudel at the same time is a skill I haven’t yet mastered! Plans are also coming together for the Meet Me in Monaco US book tour in July, and Heather and I have been quietly working on something behind the scenes – watch this space!

Being a writer isn’t just about sitting at the desk, but also about meeting other writers and being part of the publishing industry. I took my own advice recently and hopped over to London to hear Tracy Chevalier talk about Girl With a Pearl Earring on the 20th anniversary of the book’s publication. This book, and Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, sparked my love of historical fiction, so it was amazing to hear Tracy talk about her research and writing, and to wait for her to sign a copy of the book. Inspiration tank definitely topped up!

Next week, I’m celebrating International Women’s Day at an event at my former employer, with some incredible female Irish writers. It feels very fitting to return to the place where my corporate career ended ten years ago this month. I had no idea where my words would take me, and I’m so grateful I didn’t give up, despite many rejections, especially as I got the amazing news yesterday that The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter hit the USA Today bestsellers list at #33! Inspiration, if any were needed, to keep going, and keep working hard. That ‘yes’ is out there.

Carmel @happymrsh
I think February is a short month because just like Caesar and the Romans, we all want it to be March already! It’s been a month of two halves for me.

The first, a much needed time of recharging and planning,  which included midterm with the kids. (See January’s diary entry to understand why I needed this time off!) But while I wasn’t writing, I was working. I ticked off some jobs that had been neglected in the last quarter of 2018. I’m happy to report that my website has now been updated, a newsletter is written and I even did a little Kon Mari on the kid’s wardrobes. #Smug.

Planning came in the form of a long chat with my agent. We discussed plans for the future and that’s always energising. World domination still top of the agenda! If you know me you know that I always dream big. Having the right agent is vitally important for a writer. You need someone who is always in your corner, championing and challenging you. So when it comes to this decision, do your research, take your time and find the right fit for you and your career.

The second half of February has been about edits. Or chasing the lovely, as I like to call it. I’m determined to make this version of Finding Greta Gale the best it can possibly be. I’ve had incredibly insightful suggestions from both my editor and agent. They know my writing so well, they always push me in exactly the right way.

Did you know that I sometimes do video chats with book clubs? If geography isn’t in my favour, technology always comes to the rescue! I had a great chat with The Writers Circle – with members from the US to France. Use the contact form on my website for more information.

Lastly, for the first time in over twenty years, I went back to school! I attended a two-day screenwriting course in Dublin. My plan is to write a screenplay before the year-end. Who knows where that might bring me?

Now, it’s time to get back to Greta …

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

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

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

Catherine – @cathryanhoward

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

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

Hazel – @HazelGaynor

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

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

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

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

Carmel 

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

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

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

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

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

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

January, Part One: The Coffee Diaries

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

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

Catherine (@cathryanhoward)

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

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

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

Carmel (@happymrsh)

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

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

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

Hazel (@hazelgaynor)

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

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

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

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