When I wrote my first book, I had a very clear idea about what the finished product would look like and how my potential readers (what few of them I believed there were) would get hold of it.
Back then – when I knew almost nothing about the world of publishing – I figured that I had one book in me. When it was finished it would contain in or around three hundred pages and would have my name on the spine. Maybe it would have a pretty cover – misery-lit books often don’t, but I had asked my publishers to see if we could make it beautiful, if at all possible. My book would, of course, be available in book shops – mostly local ones, I reckoned, for who would want to read something I’d written if they didn’t know me from Adam? And it would sit on shelves in the homes of my friends and family.
Like Bilbo Baggins I would, in years to come, take my book down from the shelf to show my grandkids, and tell them how their Grandad had once been worthy of having a book published that contained some of his adventures.
And that was about it.
This would have been 2006/2007, and while you could get kindles and ebooks, they were very much in their infancy, so it never even occurred to me that my little volume would ever see the light of day in that medium. Similarly I was aware of audiobooks – had even listened to a few on cassette tape and CD, but such things were for classics by Douglas Adams or JK Rowling, usually read by luminaries like Stephen Fry.
Yet again, I never dreamed any words of mine would find their way into the earphones of potential consumers.
That was not for the likes of me.
And yet time has proven me wrong.
I sit in an unusual juncture in my publishing career. As I write this on a wet Thursday afternoon, my literary agent is in the middle of negotiating a series of new publishing contracts which will keep me busy for the next couple of years. And to my joy they cover all the different ways people engage with the written word at the moment.It feels very good to be riding a wave that has subsumed the book world. It is a vantage point that allows me to indulge the genres that excite me, and give my stories homes that suit them best.
I’m only able to talk about some of these upcoming projects in broad terms, but I’ll share a little about what is afoot.
The first one, though, I’m delighted to be able to discuss openly and in plain language, and that’s the one that is going to see the light of day first – in a couple of weeks, actually.
The Bad Place is the second in my Stories From the Margins series, and continues my non-fiction True Crime series with Audible. I’ll be teasing this book and doing some promotion for it over the next while, so you’ll be hearing plenty about it (don’t say I didn’t warn you!). Here’s the blurb:
The house was like something out of a Jane Austen novel, but the truth of what lay in the shadows was more terrifying than any fictional imagining.Shane Dunphy recalls the experience of his darkest nightmares: a young girl describing missing children as playthings at house parties, but no one was listening; a malevolent, threatening presence looming in the residence they called the Bad Place, and Shane was forced to flee.And now, 20 years later, a mother pleads with him to find her son who vanished at age five.Determined to redress his mistakes, Shane doggedly investigates and begins to uncover a vast international child-trafficking ring that goes to the very top of the establishment.And behind it all there’s the Dark Man, a hideous exile from humanity who has decided Shane needs to be taught a final lesson. Recounting cases of historical child disappearances, unsolved abductions, collusion with the Catholic church and its culture of secrets, lies and cover up, Shane Dunphy builds a picture of a complex web of organised criminality.And, in a powerful story of personal redemption, Shane attempts to confront his demons and bring the notorious ringleader to justice.
Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
As with the first in the series, Bleak Alley, I narrate and perform accompanying music and songs, and I have to say, I’m really proud and excited. This one goes a bit deeper and is more personal than Bleak Alley, and it a very worthy continuation of my non-fiction writing.
I’ll share some snippets in the coming days, so keep an eye out.
Book 3 in the series is already complete (it’s called Ceremony For the Dead) and will be out early in 2021. I’m genuinely enjoying developing these titles. A project like this is something I’ve wanted to do for a while: to take a solid step into the audio world. I’ve done lots of radio work, and the radio documentaries I made were loads of fun and always involved amazing adventures, going places, meeting people and doing things I never would have done otherwise.
I suppose I was also looking for a vehicle to get my music out there, and my editors and producers at Audible have been remarkably encouraging when it came to discussing the soundscapes I envisioned for my stories.
I’m currently tossing about ideas for a podcast series, too. If any of you have ideas about that, I’d love to hear them, by the way. Audio has never been bigger. We Irish love radio, of course – we always have – and the long commutes people make for all kinds of reasons mean there is a real hunger out there for more and more good story-telling.
So I’m hoping Stories From the Margins has at least as long a life as my Wednesday’s Child series. I’ve got lots more to tell, and if you’re ready to listen, I’m happy to share.
I have to be a bit more circumspect about the other two deals that are currently being finalized.
The first is a traditional one, where the end product will be an actual physical book, with paper pages and a cardboard cover. Just like that first book I published, it will nestle on the shelves in book stores and will be bought over the counter (it’ll be available on kindle and ebook too, but what I’m describing is what’s known as a traditional publishing deal).
This book will be a crime novel – my first stand-alone, in fact. My publishers like the idea for it so much, they’re looking for a second after this one, which is rather gratifying The idea for the story was developed during Lockdown (it stems from a conversation I had with my publisher during a trip to Tayto Park, of all places!) and it is a twisty, turny, suspenseful and fascinating piece of psychological mind-fuckery (that’s her description of it, not mine!). I’ve just finished plotting, and I can’t wait to begin work on the writing proper. I know I’m going to have huge fun with the characters and situations in this one. It’s completely different from anything I’ve ever done, and should be a challenge. But aren’t challenges the things that make life worthwhile?
The final deal is for an ebook only release (at first, anyway). I can tell you that it has the working title The Dark Archive, and it is the first in a series of horror/crime novels featuring a new group of characters. The action is set between the UK and Ireland. It features a pair of cultural anthropologists who find themselves drawn into weird and fascinating cases through their research, but the narrative is rooted very much in the world we all live in – no spooky castles or ruined monasteries, these characters live in housing estates and go to shopping centres and work in colleges and office blocks – I’m determined to find the darkness and shadow in the familiar and the everyday.
What also excites me about the project is that it combines fact and fiction – each novel will be based on cases where there are real, eye-witness accounts and anecdotal evidence to support the idea that supernatural things may be occurring all around us. The characters will refer to these cases in their conversations, and I’ll even include an appendix at the end of each book to point to places you can go to research the “real” stories for yourself (those inverted commas are for the skeptics among you, the believers can ignore them).
Ebook only releases are hugely popular, and there are quite a number of sites where you can, at the click of a mouse or the tap of a smartphone screen, download a novel in a matter of seconds. The people I’m currently talking to about The Dark Archive don’t usually ply the horror trade, but they have been very kind about the characters I’ve created and the story I’m hoping to tell. And the popularity and success of my ghost story, The Boy They Tried to Hide, hasn’t hurt.
The reality is that genre fiction has found its home in various corners of the internet, and as I said in an earlier post, I’m happy to accept that I am a genre writer. In fact, I more than accept it – I joyfully embrace it.
All of this is a my way of saying that there’s lots of goof stuff coming as 2020 winds towards its (rather welcome) conclusion, and 2021 awaits, full of (hopefully Covid-free) promise.
I’m looking forward to bringing you – and these stories – together in the days to come.