My eyes scan the luxurious Westin Hotel’s, Atrium Lounge in Dublin and land on the bearded guy in the corner, dressed in black. If it wasn’t for the fact that we’d already met, Stuart Neville would have appeared more rock star than author and my eyes would have moved on. I find later, that if he hadn’t caught the writing bug, that’s who he may have become. Although then he may have swapped his pot of tea for something a little stronger – in keeping with that rock image!
When we get talking about his life before writing he agrees that “it seems to be quite a common thread among writers that they’ll have done a lot of odd jobs over the years before they finally end up as writers. I worked in a music shop and I worked for a long time trying to break into writing music for film. I studied music in college” he tells me, “and then I did score one low budget feature.” He grins, “sort of a musical director – for want of a better word – on a short film with Ardhal O’Hanlon.” It appears that Stuart Neville’s hands have a claim to fame all of their own. In a scene where O’Hanlon has to play the guitar, it’s actually Neville’s hands that appear on screen!
Many readers have authors they admire and would relish an opportunity to chat to them about their craft. And every writer has a number of writers they feel the same way about. I was delighted to find that we were both fans of Stephen King who Neville actually met up with last year. “It was a bit of a thrill to meet him actually,” he says.
You can read the full interview on writing.ie by clicking here.
About Those We Left Behind
Those We Left Behind is the new DCI Serena Flanagan novel from the King of Irish Noir:
When 12-year-old Ciaran Devine confessed to murdering his foster father it sent shock waves through the nation.
DCI Serena Flanagan, then an ambitious Detective Sergeant, took Ciaran’s confession after days spent earning his trust. He hasn’t forgotten the kindness she showed him – in fact, she hasn’t left his thoughts in the seven years he’s been locked away.
Probation officer Paula Cunningham, now tasked with helping Ciaran re-enter society, suspects there was more to this case than the police uncovered. Ciaran’s confession saved his brother Thomas from a far lengthier sentence, and Cunningham can see the unnatural hold Thomas still has over his vulnerable younger brother.
When she brings her fears to DCI Flanagan, fresh back at work after treatment for breast cancer, the years of lies begin to unravel, setting a deadly chain of events in motion.
Those We Left Behind is in bookshops now, or pick up your copy online here.
From The Front Row:
at The Launch of Freedom’s Child
One of 2015’s Hottest Books
At 6pm last Thursday, Dubray Books, in Dublin’s cosmopolitan Grafton Street, became a world filled with crime. But not the usual kind – this was a room buzzing with goodwill and anticipation as published and yet unpublished crime writers, crime readers and friends and family of Jax Miller (Áine O’Domhnaill) came together to celebrate her Dublin launch of Freedom’s Child.
Stacks of her orange and black debut novel are quickly snapped up, like prized possessions, as staff replenish them while topping up glasses of wine and prosecco. The cover is a haunting affair showing a lone figure walking towards you with the tag line:
All She Wants Back Is Her Daughter
Two powerful quotes are emblazoned across:
‘Original, compelling and seriously recommended’
‘A terrific read from a powerful new voice’
There are shouts, hugs and cameras flashes as introductions are made between old friends and new, until suddenly an eerie silence encases the room and all eyes turn.
Jax Miller has arrived!
Read the full article here on
The crowd hushes as Miller reads the prologue from Freedom’s Child.
“My name is Freedom Oliver and I killed my daughter …”
Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller
‘A terrific read from a powerful new voice.’
‘Original, compelling and seriously recommended.’
A heart-stopping debut thriller about a woman named Freedom, who will stop at nothing to save the daughter she only knew for two minutes and seventeen seconds.
Call me what you will: a murderer, a cop killer, a fugitive, a drunk…
There’s a lot people don’t know about Freedom Oliver. They know she works at the local bar. They know she likes a drink or two.
What they don’t know is that Freedom is not her real name. That she has spent the last eighteen years living under Witness Protection, after being arrested for her husband’s murder. They don’t know that she put her two children up for adoption, a decision that haunts her every day.
Then Freedom’s daughter goes missing, and everything changes. Determined to find her, Freedom slips her handlers and heads to Kentucky where her kids were raised. No longer protected by the government, she is tracked by her husband’s sadistic family, who are thirsty for revenge. But as she gets closer to the truth, Freedom faces an even more dangerous threat.
She just doesn’t know it yet.
Check out the Killer Reads TEASER TRAILER here.
A poignant love story . . .
Published in My Weekly, July 2014
My eyes grow tired, as they focus on the black and white images of ghosts from my past.
The thin, rectangle stuck to the wall bears no resemblance to the bulky, square box I remember, taking pride-of-place in the front room. Two knobs protruded; one to turn the set on; the other to switch from one channel to the other. A set of rabbit’s ears perched patiently on top; like a halved orange, placed flat side down and pierced with a pair of steel knitting needles. My older brother Joe, convinced us that Martians were tracking us through them, whenever we tuned in the TV.
Joe is long-dead, but not before he headed to the United States of America and made his fortune. He sent home money to support the rest of the family, during those lean years, and every Christmas a box would arrive full of wonderful presents. It was usually beautiful, coloured silk scarves for my mother and three older sisters and a new hat for father, but he would always send something exciting for Jimmy and me. The most memorable present, was a set of gliders, made from coloured paper with a brass tip at the nose. Jimmy was the oldest, so he had first choice. He chose the blue glider, so I had the red one. Every child at school wanted to be our friend that winter, as we tested out our aeronautical skills against each other. The airplanes would swoop and glide through the air as we ran along whooping with delight.
I lift my head and look out into the garden. The sky is blue, the sun fighting to appear and there is a hint of a rainbow. It would have been the perfect day to fly. I feel my forefinger and thumb twitch, itching to hold the glider between them, bending the wings just the right degree to ensure that mine would fly the farthest. I look down at the gnarled hands in my lap as I wonder where my life has disappeared to.
I hear soft-soled footsteps and a man appears with a tray. He places it on the table in front of me. It smells good.
“Here you are Dan, chicken soup, your favourite.”
He places a napkin into my shirt collar and spoons soup into my mouth. It tastes as good as it looks, warm and creamy with a little white pepper.
“I’ll do it myself,” I say. He does not seem to hear me. No-one ever seems to. I try to take the spoon from him, but my hand shakes and he pushes it down, gently but firmly.
“Let me help you, Dan. Would you like some bread, you can dip it into the end of the bowl?”
I nod and hold a piece of dry bread, ready to mop up every last drop.
“It’s Wednesday today Dan, Grace will be in to visit you later. We better get you spruced up and looking nice for her.”
I nod my head. I don’t know who Grace is; but it will be nice to have a visitor. He combs my hair, tugging it to the side and holds up a small mirror. An old, grey-haired man with blue eyes smiles back at me. As I move closer to the mirror, he does too, and I can see that he is in need of a shave. It is just a light stubble but I always prefer a close shave myself. I rub a hand across my chin. The man in the soft-soled shoes laughs.
“I’m not a fan of those electric shavers either, Dan,” he looks at his watch, “we’ve just enough time to give you a proper shave before she comes.” He places a hand on my shoulder, “I’ll be back, in just a minute.” He picks up the tray and I can hear his light footsteps as they fade down the hall.
The rainbow has become hazier and there is a light rain on the window pane, maybe not the best day for paper gliders, after all. It reminds me of the day my glider caught in Mrs Kennedy’s tree. As I climbed higher and higher into the leaves, she came out her front door, stood below, with her arms folded and threatened to tell mother.
But when I jumped down, trying to hide the tears in my eyes as I looked at my battered glider, she took it from me and beckoned me to follow her. She fixed the glider, gluing it back together so well, that it looked like new. When I returned to Jimmy and the others, they told me to throw away the shortbread biscuit she had given me, in case she was trying to fatten me up, like the witch in ‘Hansel and Gretel’. But it tasted so good, that I ate it anyway.
I hear two sets of soft-soled shoes approach and the man returns with a young nurse. He places a stainless steel bowl, half-filled with water, on the table. A drop splashes onto a silver picture frame. My eyes follow it as it rolls down the middle of the photo, dividing it in half. I squint and bend closer. It is a middle-aged couple. They are smiling into the camera. The man is tall with grey hair and blue eyes. The woman has chestnut brown hair, the same colour as her eyes.
The nurse picks up the photo and wipes the drop of water away, placing it back down in the exact same place. The glass is smeared and it is harder to make out the faces.
“We’ll have you looking your best for Grace,” says the nurse.
Grace must be important. They obviously want to impress her.
The rain is heavy now. The sky has turned slate grey and the trees are bending in the wind.
I feel something light and fluffy on my face. The man has a shaving brush in his hand. It has white bristles and a white square handle with black at the base. It reminds me of my father’s. Jimmy and I loved to watch him as he shaved with such precision. He would rinse his brush in warm water and shake out the residue, sometimes flicking it at us. We would run, screaming from the room, with laughter. We would always return to watch, as he rubbed the brush round the creamy white soap in the black tub, before painting the lower half of his face. Sometimes, he let us try it too.
I can still smell the clean, fresh scent. Then he would open his stainless steel razor and bend close to the mirror. We would hold our breath, entranced, as he ran the razor down his face, leaving lines like railway tracks, before rinsing the blade and continuing on. When he was finished he would cup water in his huge hands and rinse his face before towelling dry. Then, he would pour a drop of Old Spice after shave into one hand, rub his hands together and pat them over his face. Most times he would pour, just the tiniest drop, into our waiting hands and we would do the same.
“There you go, Dan, much better,” said the man, “oh, nearly forgot, just one last thing before I go!” He rubs his hands gently over my face. I inhale Old Spice. The man holds up the mirror again, “looking good, Dan.” I see the same face looking back. But this time he is clean shaven and his eyes are now a watery blue.
The credits roll up the TV screen; Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. But I cannot recall the name of the film. They made so many films together; maybe it was . . . I turn my head, hearing the clip, clip sound of high heels coming closer. It is a brisk walk, like someone with a purpose.
They slow and a woman appears in the doorway, taking a pair of worn black leather gloves from her tiny hands as she enters. She has grey hair, cut into a neat bob. A blue coat clings to her thin frame, but it is the beautiful silk scarf tucked into her collar that catches my attention. It reminds me of the scarf Joe sent to mother. The same year Jimmy and—
“Hello Daniel,” she says as she bends and kisses me on the mouth!
She squeezes my shoulders gently and looks into my eyes, “you look well today. And don’t you smell nice, Old Spice,” she says huskily, as she breathes in deeply and rubs the back of her fingers across my cheek.
Standing up straight, she gives a dry cough and shrugs off her coat. It smells damp. She drapes it over the back of the chair, places her umbrella on the floor at her feet and sits down. She rummages in her leather handbag and takes out a bulging, brown paper bag.
She pokes through its contents, extracts a cellophane wrapper and like a magician performing a magic trick, she pulls both ends to release a white iced caramel into my outstretched hand.
I gaze at it, turn it from side-to-side and examine it closely. I hold it close to my nose and sniff. It smells good. I feel my mouth water. I look up to see her watching me. My tongue darts out and licks the hard, sweet icing.
“Put it in your mouth, sweetheart” she says, as she plucks it from my hand and drops it into my open mouth.
She has a melodic voice. I wonder if she sings. It soothes me to listen to her. But I do not understand why she tells me stories of people I do not know.
As I suck, I feel it melt; toffee, sticky and chewy oozes out and I resist the urge to chew. Instead, I let it sit on my tongue until there is nearly nothing left. Only then do I chew, using my tongue to prise the remains from my teeth.
“This is nice, Daniel, nearly like old times; the pink for me and the white for you.”
I hold my hand out and wait for another.
I notice her pink lipstick matches the splashes of pink in her scarf. She has beautiful brown eyes, but they look tired and there are dark shadows beneath them. She looks vaguely familiar. I feel I may have seen her somewhere before.
The man returns with a plastic beaker, a mug of tea and a plate of shortbread biscuits.
“Well, doesn’t he look nice today, Grace,” he says, “all ready for your visit today.”
So this is Grace.
“Make sure you drink that tea. It’ll help keep you warm on the journey home,” he gestures towards the brown paper bag, “and if that’s empty, I’ll bin it for you.”
It is no longer bulging.
“You’re very kind, Brian,” says Grace, squeezing the last of the wrappers inside and passing it to him. “How’s Daniel doing?” she nods her head in my direction. I wonder why she does not ask me.
“He’s having a good day, today. Watched one of his Bogart movie’s earlier, didn’t you Dan, you know the one—“
A porter comes into the ward waving a brass bell. The clanging sound announces the end of visiting time.
Grace stands up and puts on her damp coat, tucking her scarf around her neck before fastening the buttons.
“Goodbye Daniel,” she whispers, as she kisses me on the mouth again, “I miss you.”
She wipes a tear from her eye. I admire the light dancing from the diamond in her ring.
I remember Grace now. I knew I had seen her before.
I look up to catch her stare at me, her head to one side. I smile.
She is the woman in the silver picture frame, standing beside the grey-haired man with the blue eyes . . .
Check out the latest short story and poetry competition listings below, no excuses – get writing!
the Bridport Prize – Short Story
Deadline: 31 May 2015
Written Word: Short stories up to 5,000 words
Entry: £9 per story
The Sean O Faolain Short Story Competition
Deadline: 31 July 2015
Written Word: Short stories up to 3,000 words
Entry: €15 or £15 per story
Over the years, I’ve read and enjoyed all of Alex Barclay’s books. Darkhouse, up until now, would have topped my all-time favourite books. As an avid reader, that’s high praise indeed – but that was before I read Killing Ways. Don’t worry – I guarantee no spoilers – but if you enjoy your crime fiction gritty with plenty of twists and turns then look no further. Engrossed in the story and the characters, about half-way in I had my first of many “oh, my God” moments, as the tension, along with my blood pressure, ratcheted up.
Sitting on the Luas I nearly missed my stop and couldn’t wait to dive between the pages again on my return journey; half of me wanted to race through the pages to the end while the other half wanted to savour every moment.
It was reminiscent of reading childhood books where I became so engrossed in the story that my real world virtually dissolved. The characters were alive and I felt as if I knew them as intimately as close friends and family; my mind already worrying about their future, long after that final page. Barclay is, most definitely, at the top of her game!
About Killing Ways
In the game of vengeance, he holds a killer hand.
In her most shocking case yet, FBI Special Agent Ren Bryce takes on a depraved serial killer fuelled by a warped sense of justice.
A master of evasion, each life he takes ramps up Ren’s obsession with finding him. Then one victim changes everything and brings Ren face to face with a detective whose life was destroyed by the same pursuit.
Together, can they defeat this monster?
Or will he take them both down?
Dreaming of writing a bestseller?
Five leading agents are looking for you!
They are looking for 75 top quality authors to pitch their work to 5 leading literary agents keen to sign new talent on 16th May 2015.
Submissions to the event will be assessed by Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin and a team of consultants from The Inkwell Group. Experienced literary scouts Inkwell have assisted award winning and bestselling authors to publication and will be reading every application, matching the selected authors to agents including:
- Simon Trewin, Partner and Head of Literary at WME
- Sallyanne Sweeney of Mulcahy Associates
- Clare Wallace, Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film agency
- Julia Churchill, AM Heath
- Paul Feldstein, Feldstein Literary Agency
Don’t forget the closing date for submissions is midnight, Friday, 27th March.
Full details available here – and don’t forget to drop back
and share your news . . .
Ger Holland Photography Exhibition
Now there’s an exhibition not to be missed!
Ger Holland – a young freelance photographer based in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown – has her very first Photography Exhibition in dlr LexIcon running 4 March until 30 April.
I’ve been friends with Ger since we met some years ago in the Irish Writers Centre and although she’s a great writer, she’s an absolutely brilliant photographer with an eye for detail that transforms each shot into a unique and priceless piece of work. Ger has managed to capture shots of celebrity chefs, actors, musicians and writers and most recently has specialised in event photography where she has covered numerous literary gatherings including book launches, signings and festivals.
Ger has been photographing authors who have participated in the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival and also the dlr Library Voices series since 2012.
This exhibition provides an opportunity to highlight the vitality, energy and perception of her portraits.
Date: Wednesday, 4 March – Thursday, 30 April
Venue: dlr LexIcon, Haigh Terrace, Moran Park, Dún Laoghaire
You can catch a flavour of Ger’s work from her website http://www.gerhollandphotography.com and check out what others have to say:
” A joy to work with, Ger exceeds expectations at every shoot, blending seamlessly with guests, unobtrusively getting the shots required. I have used her on countless occasions to supply shots of everything from big busy events with high profile guests, to individual portraits. I cannot recommend her highly enough!”
Vanessa O’ Loughlin, Writing.ie
“It’s always a pleasure to see Ger Holland at my book events because I know that she’ll produce lovely work, and do it unobtrusively and sensitively. She’s a star.”
John Connolly, Writer
“In a relatively short space of time Ger Holland has become synonymous with event photography in the country’s capital. I absolutely look forward to witnessing the many exciting endeavors of this shooting star into the future.”
Louise Phillips, Writer
I was delighted to have Interned featured on KFM Artyfacts, hosted by Brenda Drumm, on 6 August 2014. You can listen to the Podcast here.
Interned was also chosen for inclusion in Original Writing from Ireland’s Own, Anthology, 2012. You can read it below:
Eighty year old, Jim, received a call from his older sister Monica, asking if he could repair the old piano in the parlour of their family home. It was there, hidden inside, that he discovered the bundle of letters. He opened twined knots to release a dozen, off-white faded and torn envelopes. Each with a two pence stamp pasted in the top right corner, the address beautifully penned in fading black ink.
Each was written by his father, John and sent to his mother during the war for Irish Independence, dating from 1921 to 1923, while he was interned in Ballykinler Prison Camp, in County Down. Their formal air spoke of different times, each signed off with “best of love to all at home, from your loving son, John,” with references to Father and addressed to Dear Mother.
“Rounded up and taken” along with many others to Wellington Barracks on 1 December 1920, John had scribbled notes, on scraps of paper, telling his mother that he was okay. He expected to be released soon, as he had “never mixed up in any party” and asked if she could bring a collar and handkerchief for his release. Mother had spoken to a Lieutenant at the Barracks who promised to see what could be done. A meeting with O’Neill & Collins Solicitors in North Brunswick Street had been arranged for 11 December 1920. In October 1921 letters from John were arriving – now from Ballykinlar Prison Camp.
Ballykinlar Camp Orchestra (circa 1921).
The men pictured were detainees in Ballykinlar Prison Camp in Co Down during the war for Irish independence where Martin Walton (far right) formed and taught the camp orchestra.
They rose at 7.30am, eventually retiring at 9.00pm when they would make Bovril, then rosary and bed at 9.45pm. Papers delivered to the camp could be bought for two bob. Camp rules allowed prisoners to post no more than two letters per week, of no more than two pages in length and both to be sent in the same envelope. Most letters were written on Sunday and were four pages long.
Parcels from home would be shared around. No eggs, but supplies of butter, tealeaves, fruit cake, cigarettes and strings – apparently one of his fellow interns was Martin Walton who formed and taught the camp orchestra to play the violin. He was yet to found the famous Walton’s Music Shop and the Walton’s music programme which always finished with the words: “If you feel like singing, do sing an Irish song”. Other internees included Peadar Kearney, co-author of the National Anthem and Sean Lemass who, in 1959, would succeed Eamonn De Valera as Taoiseach.
John requested a kit-bag from home so, that like the four chaps he shared with, he could use it to store his clothes neatly. He frequently requested pencils and colours. Among the letters were sketches he had made from Hut 29. Barbed wire covered the windows outside. Blankets and sheets piled neatly on low wooden cots. Small shelves set high on walls – milk and Liptons tea sitting atop one; a small selection of papers and books lay flat on another, beneath a chess set. Pegs were set into the wall and held coats and hats. Other sketches showed a row of rust coloured huts running down the camp, a dark mountain looming in the background, echoing the atmosphere. Another showed “The Altar, Ballykinlar”. Music notes for “Show a leg” appeared on another page along with a pattern for a suit jacket on the back. The last showed a hut with two crosses, one on either side of the door. The words “Where Sloan and Tormey Died,” written beneath, dated Jan. 17th 1921.
Sports Day arranged for March, 17th, 1921 – St Patrick’s Day – had not been a success due to the weather. “I hope the weather is better in old Dublin, it is wild here, but dry and the sand would cut the eyes out of your head. Talk about the sands of the desert,” he’d written. They had, however, enjoyed a concert that night.
On August, 7th, 1921 he mentions rumours that they may soon be returning home but that he will never forget 1st December 1920. “I think this will be a different Winter. I’ll not forget the 1st of Dec. 1920 in all my life. I don’t suppose any of you will at home. I have a good laugh at it by times, when I think of Father with the blanket round him. I don’t expect he will forget it in a hurry. Does he laugh over it? I don’t think so, but I will make him laugh over my times since, even though they are not all laughable ones I may tell you.”
In the final letter, John was looking forward to returning home and back to his job as a tailor/cutter with Messrs. Scotts.
He asked his mother to be sure that his blue suit would be ready for him to go “clicking.”
Have you ever read a book which moved you so profoundly that you felt, because of it, your own writing would never be the same again?
In the last year, I’ve been lucky enough to read two such books, yet both author and genre-wise they couldn’t have been further apart. The most recent was, Joseph, by John MacKenna, which has just been launched by RTE Radio’s Joe Duffy. MacKenna felt it was about time that Joseph of Nazareth had a voice, and so in this contemporary novel, Joseph – a small-time builder in a small-time town – is for once, the central character.
Beginning the novel, I was unsure of exactly what to expect; but what MacKenna delivered, as a writer at the top of his game, was life to such fully-formed and interesting characters that you felt as if you knew them intimately. When the pages drew to an end, I felt myself slowing down, in the hope of somehow holding onto them – even for just a little longer.
It appears, if the reviews are to be believed, that I’m not the only one who feels this way:
‘A consummately skilled author’ – The Guardian
‘MacKenna is one of our most accomplished writers’ – RTÉ Guide
‘A writer whose emotional success rarely falters’ – The Irish Times
And even Jeffrey Archer had something to say . . .
You can read the full interview on writing.ie by clicking here.
‘It’s been forty years, and memory is the most unreliable of companions, so I can only offer these recollections with the proviso that you take them as the only truth I can call to mind. They’re my truth…’
When his ‘young fellow’ becomes involved in political agitation, and his own marriage begins to fall apart, Joseph of Nazareth must find a way to nurture hope.
The tale of a small-time builder in a small-time town, and his relationship with the charismatic figure he had treated as a son, Joseph humanises an often-overlooked Biblical character, and renders his story one for all time.
Joseph is available in bookshops now, or pick up your copy online here.
I’ve heard it said that you should never meet your heroes as more often than not you’re likely to be disappointed. Thankfully, with Alex Barclay, that was most definitely not the case!
We first met some years back at an event in Easons, O’Connell Street, and our paths have crossed at numerous writing events since. In The Civic Theatre last year, as part of the Red Line Book Festival, I chaired ‘Ladykillers’ which gave me the unique opportunity to delve into the minds of Alex Barclay, Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips and former Boulder Coroner (and good friend of Barclay’s), Joanne Richardson. What I found most disconcerting was how angelic they all appear on the outside, while managing to conjure up the darkest of villains and crimes within the pages of their novels.
Barclay is the author of several bestselling thrillers. Her first novel, Darkhouse, was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller while third novel, Blood Runs Cold (the beginning of the Special Agent Ren Bryce series) won the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award at the Irish Book Awards. Harm’s Reach is her sixth adult novel and the fourth in the FBI Agent Ren Bryce series.
Interest in plots and characters (especially villains!) or Homeland or tips for new writers?
Then read the full interview on writing.ie by clicking here.
About Harm’s Reach
FBI Agent Ren Bryce finds herself entangled in two seemingly unrelated mysteries. But the past has a way of echoing down the years and finding its way into the present.
When Special Agent Ren Bryce discovers the body of a young woman in an abandoned car, solving the case becomes personal. But the more she uncovers about the victim’s last movements, the more questions are raised.
Why was Laura Flynn driving towards a ranch for troubled teens in the middle of Colorado when her employers thought she was hundreds of miles away? And what did she know about a case from fifty years ago, which her death dramatically reopens?
As Ren and cold case investigator Janine Hooks slowly weave the threads together, a picture emerges of a privileged family determined to hide some very dark secrets – whatever the cost.
I’m sure every writer would agree that the writing ego, of all professions, has to be one of the most delicate. They’re far too easily deflated, and let’s be honest, with the amount of rejections most of us receive when entering competitions or submitting to publications it’s a wonder that many of us are able to pick ourselves up and carry on. And although as a writer, the more you write the better you become – it appears that self-doubt never fully disappears!
I was shocked to hear so many great authors, with lists of acclaimed books to their credit, admit that there comes a stage in every novel (usually mid-way) where they feel like throwing in the towel. They doubt the current book will ever see the light of day and that even if it is published that it will be torn apart by the critics. But that’s the difference between professional and amateur writers – the professional perseveres regardless, pushing through the pain until they reach that elusive final page. Then, at least, they have the bones to work with – a manuscript they can edit and edit and edit – until it finally becomes the polished work which arrives in our local book shop.
While working on my debut novel the last few years, I’ve entered a number of competitions and submitted to a couple of publications. Sure, they may have taken me away from the novel, but in times of self-doubt, in among the rejections, there have been the highs of being long-listed or short-listed or winning or of having a poem or flash fiction or short story published. They’ve had me dancing around the kitchen, forcing my family to read whatever piece has brought success (that’s if they haven’t already been forced to read it before submission!?!). But more importantly, as two good friends and mentors are fond of saying, ‘success breeds success‘ (Eileen Casey) which helps to ‘keep your bum on the seat‘ (Valerie Sirr). And that’s what keeps you writing.
This week, having just returned from a wonderful trip to San Francisco and Vegas, I was jet-lagged like never before and began a week feeling drained and tired instead of rested and refreshed. But I couldn’t have pictured a better week. On the professional front, the contract in my new job was extended into next year, and on the writing front; my poem, Lavender Scented Memories, was aired by the lovely Brenda Drumm on KFM Radio. Then I received a beautiful, hand-written letter from Rosaleen Thomas (wife of Eamon MacThomais and mother of Shane MacThomais – the wonderful historians and writers) telling me how much she enjoyed one of my short stories which was recently published in My Weekly and wishing me well with my novel. The following day a letter arrived from the Jonathan Swift Awards to advise me that my short story has been short-listed, with the award ceremony taking place next Saturday.
Such an exceptional week really can keep you focused and driven and stuck to your seat, so that you can get words on the page! I’m currently attending the NUI Certificate in Creative Writing for Publication – part short story writing and part novel writing – so right after I upload this blog post I’m signing up to NaNoWriMo. I’ll then be committed, from 1 – 30 November, to writing 2,000 words per day to get my second novel well and truly on the way.
Wish me luck!