My publication journey
My second murder mystery novel Death Visits January will hit bookshops in just under two weeks. So I thought I’d write a little post to tell you the story of how this book came into being.
It wasn’t the first full-length novel I wrote.
Let me take you back EIGHT years ago.
In 2014, I set a New Year’s resolution to write a book, and over the course of the next 366 days, I did. Dark Green (originally Queen of the Land) is also a mystery set in Ireland. I shopped it around to publishers and agents but didn’t get anywhere, was busy with my day job in PR and getting married (I also dabbled in a fashion start up, as a beauty blogger and events host), so I forgot about it until 2018. I decided to self-publish on Amazon and did my first reading at my local literary festival’s LitCrawl event.
A reading in a funeral home, I served creme de menthe and got to read to a full house of people. This experience was transformational – I finally saw myself as an author, instead of a dabbler. It’s this change of perception about myself that was the outcome of self-publishing. I didn’t sell more than a few hundred copies or make much money – but it convinced me I maybe, could make it. This whole time I was visualising my books on shelves, but I never really felt it until that hot summer’s day in Kells.
Around this time I started to think about a new book. One that I would aim to get published. On maternity leave with my little girl, when she napped I started. It wasn’t long until the character of January Quail, beautiful, disorganised but very clever, emerged. I got into a novel-writing course with Curtis Brown Creative, a writing school associated with a London literary agent. Here I shared and polished my work with some amazing writers and tutors from across the world. My writing got better, and all those days slugging words on a page paid off.
I started submitting to agents. I even attended one open day with full-blown Scarlet Fever and a temperature of 40C (of course not something we would dream of doing now, lol). Drenched in sweat, I pitched January, and eventually signed with the wonderful Lina Langlee, who saw something in the sleuth January. She submitted the manuscript to lots of publishers, and a few months later, I got the call all aspiring writers dream of.
I had been offered a publishing deal.
These seminal days always start off pretty normal. I spent the day collecting daffodils in the garden with my toddler. We were expecting guests for a playdate that didn’t happen, so I was buttering a scone when I got Lina’s call. I had to sit on the floor as she told me Irish publisher Poolbeg wanted to publish the book. Contracts were on the way. My daughter was pretty bemused when mama spent the next twenty minutes dancing around the kitchen, my heart thumping with this unexpected joy of a wish granted.
I’d been thinking that it would never happen. Looking for jobs. About to give up on this seemingly self-indulgent dream of becoming an author. But it did.
We went through the edits and got the manuscript ready for publication. Then the world stopped. Bookshops along with everywhere else were shuttered. Authors due for publication were delayed. No book launches.
So what happened the book? It was released as an ebook, under the title Preserved. Scaled the Amazon charts for Irish crime. But when it came to paperback publishing, we felt that January needed a refresh – to stand at the centre of the proceedings. So we changed the name to Death Visits January with this beautiful new cover.
And now, two years later, despite supply chain madness, horrendous war, and a global paper shortage, I’m pretty relieved to see the beautiful books arrived at the publisher’s warehouse, ready for distribution to the shops for publication day of June 8th.
Covid turned the publishing world upside down, most of all for debut writers. It’s harder to compete against the algorithms of better-known names. In the middle of it all, I got talking to UK publisher Hodder Studios, part of Hachette. Twelve Motives for Murder was born, an audio-led project, think Serial meets Agatha Christie. So in this topsy turvy world of a pandemic debut author, Twelve Motives for Murder was published before this book, appearing in paperback format last October.
What am I working on now?
I’m currently editing the sequels to both Death Visits January (due for publication in 2023) Twelve Motives for Murder (Supper for Six, due 2023). The Arts Council of Ireland provided some funding for me to write a book inspired by the life of local author, Mary Lavin, which I’m also working on as part of my Masters in Creative Writing at Cambridge. I’ll also be launching a second collection of poetry (including NFTs) thanks to funding from Meath County Council Arts office about motherhood during the pandemic. I also write murder mystery games, teach creative writing and write a weekly column in the Sunday Independent.
How do I manage it all with small kids?
I’ve gone through several spells of burnout and intense anxiety, which I struggle to share online.
It’s impossible not to drop some balls when juggling so much, but some balls are plastic, and some are glass. When a plastic one falls, it will eventually come to rest where I can collect it again. I’ve been able to find childcare, my mystery business brought in income during the pandemic, my family are supportive and I’m otherwise healthy and able-bodied. It is a privilege to do this work and I’m very grateful.
When I’ve got my head screwed on, I like working in the early mornings and invest time and energy in good self-care like meditation and running.
You’ll find all the ways to support my work and purchase the book here:
PS – If you’ve read this far, I will pitch you to preorder Death Visits January! Preorder sales all count towards the first week of a book’s sales. Having lots of preorders is the best chance to try and make it into the charts, which in itself will introduce the title to new readers and boost sales. Plus if you place an order through my local bookshop, you’ll be supporting a small business AND all copies are signed and dedicated (just put the message in the checkout box).