Paul Anthony Shortt – Debut Irish Crime Writer of ‘Locked Within’ tells us about his writing journey.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 12 years old. My first book idea came from visiting the Celtworld attraction down in Tramore. My second was for a book about a vampire hunter, a character which evolved in my imagination over the years, finally becoming the hero of Locked Within, Nathan Shepherd.
I admit I never thought the process would take me as long as it did. At the age of 14, I was convinced I’d be on bestseller lists by the age of 25, and rich by the time I hit 30. But I wasn’t ready. I know that now. If I’d been faced with the challenges of being a published author when I was 16, even 20, I wouldn’t have had the maturity and patience to see them through.
I trudged my way through school, never really finding my niche there, dealing with bullies and waiting for the day when I would go to college. That was where, I told myself, I’d become the man I was meant to be, and achieve my dreams. All the while, I came up with book ideas and, instead of getting on with writing, I daydreamed of what it would be like to write these stories.
True to my hopes, I did come into myself in college. I still had to deal with some cliques that I tried in vain to penetrate, but soon found my place, where I made lifelong friends and met my wife. Importantly for my writing, I met the people who would become my closest writing friends and my critique partners, without whom I’d never get anything written. These were also the years when I started to define the character of Nathan Shepherd, though at the time that wasn’t his name. Back then he was Nicholas St Claire, an author. The major elements of the setting hadn’t been developed properly. There was no Council of Chains, no Roland. But key themes like reincarnation and Nathan’s struggling relationship with his girlfriend Laura were present.
Years passed and I tried other story ideas. They never amounted to anything. I became a little lost after finishing college. I had no decent job, I couldn’t afford to marry my girlfriend, and we didn’t think we’d ever afford a house of our own. Something needed to change.
I’d become very engrossed in online gaming. I’d call it an addiction, looking back, a symptom of the depression I was suffering from. Jen and I had become friends with a couple in Manchester who we’d met online, and we figured we’d give moving to the UK a go. We left our jobs and headed off. We spent 5 months living in Manchester, but it didn’t work out, so we came home.
It seems strange to say, but once we drove off the ferry and saw the road signs in English and Irish, everything felt like it was going to be okay. We felt that our lives were going to get on track from that point on.
And they did. We both got new jobs quickly and found an apartment. We got married and had an amazing honeymoon in New York. The next year we bought our first house, and eventually decided to start a family. I got to work on the manuscript for Locked Within.
In January of 2011, a friend of mine pointed me to an open call for submissions to a small independent publisher called WiDo Publishing, based in Salt Lake City in Utah. I sent them the first three chapters of Locked Within. A month or so later, they asked for the full manuscript.
On April 11th that year, I got the e-mail with changed my life. I was told that WiDo wanted to publish my book as part of their 2012 lineup. I was overjoyed. I cried, sitting at my home computer, unable to believe that after so many years my dream was going to come true.
Just a few weeks ago, I launched the book to a successful event, which sold out of copies in less than twenty minutes. I’m now hoping to hear back on the sequel, which I recently re-wrote and submitted to my publisher.
It hasn’t been all roses. My wife and I lost our first son last year, which was the most painful thing we’ve ever had to experience. But we’re stronger for surviving it, and we were shown how much our friends and family love us.
Earlier this year we learned my wife was pregnant again. By the end of the year my wife will have given birth to twins. 2012 has been an incredible year, and I aim to continue my new life as an author and a father for many years to come.
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LOUISE PHILLIPS is the author of four bestselling psychological crime thrillers. Her debut novel RED RIBBONS, and her subsequent novels, THE DOLL’S HOUSE, LAST KISS and THE GAME CHANGER, were each nominated for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year. She won the award in 2013. Louise’s work has formed part of many literary anthologies, and she has won both the Jonathan Swift Award and the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform, along with being shortlisted for the Molly Keane Memorial Award, Bridport UK, and many others. In 2015, she was awarded a writing residency at Cill Rialaig Artist retreat and she was also a judge on the Irish panel for the EU Literary Award. In 2016, she was longlisted for the prestigious CWA Dagger in the Library Award, and her first two novels, RED RIBBONS and THE DOLL'S HOUSE, were published in the US. She has recently been awarded an Arts Bursary for Literature from the Arts Council of Ireland, and her latest novel, THE HIDING GAME, will be published on September 5th 2019. Louise Phillips is the crime writing mastermind behind writing.ie's Crime Scene blog.