Catherine Murphy on what to do—and what not to—as a debut author
New Year is ripe for new beginnings. For some writers, not just a new book, but the life-changing moment of sliding out of the writing shadows and into the beaming light of publication.
Years of hoping and dreaming, of writing and rewriting, editing and copy editing, talking cover art and marketing, and now it’s time. The book is out there for all to read.
All. To. Read.
The work is done. Hopefully the launch party went off without too many hitches – and sure, your cousin’s friend may never read the book, so what does it matter if you based that character’s entire personality on that one time in the woods, behind the tractor?
Before I tell you about three new books I can’t WAIT to see hit the shelves this season, there are a couple of tips I want to share with anyone else finding themselves celebrating their debut…
Don’t compare your book or your writing experience to anyone else’s
There will always be another book doing really really well – let’s call it BEING AWESOME, by Winnie Anchor.
You’ll know about it, because W. Anchor, literary writer and sometime actor, signed their agent around when you got yours, and their achingly enormous six figure publishing deal was splashed all over the press. Also, your Aunty Phyllis knows Winnie’s mum and Phyllis got an advance copy of BEING AWESOME and she says it really is very good, and you’d like it if you could stop grinding your teeth every time you see the cover.
And from now on, every list you check, every award granted, Winnie will be right up there, at the top.
And that’s fine.
You do you. You wrote a book and it’s being published, and that’s amazing. Everyone’s journey is different.
And sure, think of all the taxes Winnie will have to pay. Poor Winnie.
Someone is going to hate your book. There will be a bad review. Or no reviews. Or a one star rating. And meanwhile, there’s Winnie celebrating her TV deal over on the sofa at Ireland AM…
Rejection is part of creative life.
Unless a writer is incredibly brilliant / lucky / well-related, their debut will come on the back of a sea (a really giant, tempestuous sea) of rejection.
And sometimes, rejection sucks.
But when we set that aside, your book is out. Your debut. That’s really wonderful. And screw Winnie; they probably won’t get Ryan Reynolds to play the hero.
Pick an outfit
No one else cares what you wear, but it’s surprising how many writers are perfectly happy to share their souls in 90 000 words but cannot, under any circumstances, decide on a dress they don’t hate.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a frock, a suit, jeans and a shirt, or strides and a waistcoat. Pick your writing outfit and stick to it.
Choose something comfortable and relatively smart that represents you as a person as well as an author. Take a picture, sitting and standing, and ignore your brain when it reminds you at 3am about that red shirt you saw in Dunnes, that might be ok if you don’t move your arms, and would probably be an investment.
Choose your outfit like you choose your avatar on a video game. Have the shoes, the bag…
Whatever comes up, whether it’s a panel at a literary festival, or an interview with the local press, or a chat at the library book group, you will know what you’re going to wear, so now all you have to do is think of the two things you want to tell them about your book.
Pick the outfit, stick with it, and don’t freak out. It’s the book they want, you just have to be wearing SOMETHING.
And not that it matters but the red shirt looks terrible on Winnie.
So, setting Winnie aside, here are three new/debut books out soon…
Opening with one of the punchiest set ups I’ve read in ages, this book had me doing that thing where I read too fast because I’m desperate to know what happens, but then I have to force myself to slow down because the writing is so beautiful.
Bella has the perfect life. She has her husband, Jack, and her children.
It’s the classic situation where someone’s very existence looks so easy, until you step through the door…
So twisty, so dark, and so absolutely readable, I loved this book and I can tell you nothing about it because I don’t want to spoil the story.
Grave Expectations, by Alice Bell (Corvus Books) May 2023
Cork-based writer Alice Bell has a sure hit with Grave Expectations. A clever and brilliantly written nod to classic murder mystery, this is a sweary, extremely funny tale of a woman and her best friend who find themselves embroiled in a murder.
We have the old country house, and the old country family. It’s the perfect set up – the twist is, the woman’s best friend is dead. She has been for a really long time, and the woman trying to solve the murder is a clairvoyant. And it’s not easy trying to solve anything when the dead won’t shut up and leave you alone.
And lastly, please allow me to slide this one onto the table with a subtle, smooth sweep of my hand…
Out this month.
A murder mystery set in a fictional Dublin drag scene.
Just… you know… saying.
Because I’m sure as hell Winnie Anchor would tell you.