Darkest Truth by Catherine Kirwan
It’s the 13th of June 2016. Monday evening. I’m on the sofa watching Ireland play Sweden in the Euros. Wes Hoolahan is in the starting line-up and Eamon Dunphy is ecstatic. My mobile rings. No Caller ID. I think about killing the call but something makes me answer. It doesn’t start well, a man with an English accent asking to speak to Catherine Kirwan.
‘That’s me,’ I say.
Before I can say anything else, English accent man is talking again.
‘I’m Luigi Bonomi from the Penguin Random House Daily Mail First Novel Competition. We wanted to check that you’re around for the next few weeks.’
I tell him that I’m going nowhere and ask why he’s phoning.
‘We’ll be short-listing soon so you can’t tell anyone yet,’ he says. ‘But you’re in the top ten of five thousand.’
The rest of the week passes in a blur.
I’d thought about writing for years and finally started on short stories in the Autumn of 2014. I wrote one that had a twist in the tale and gave it to a friend to read. She said ‘Once I realised what was happening, I felt my stomach lurch.’ It came to me that I wanted to make more readers’ stomachs lurch. And that I needed to write a crime novel. I began the book that became Darkest Truth in November 2014. At the start, all I knew was that the lead character was, like me, a solicitor who worked in Cork; that the plot involved a past crime that had gone unpunished; and that the story was somehow connected to the Cork Film Festival.
I finished the book because I enjoyed writing it, apart from the many periods of extreme pain and torture when nothing went right and, even then, there was the satisfaction of getting over or around the roadblocks in the end. I wrote at weekends having found out quickly that, though I had the time in the evenings, I needed to be at a distance from my day job to write. For that reason, Sundays were better writing days than Saturdays, Bank holidays weekends better still and Easter – four full days off – best of all. Mostly, I gave up socialising at weekends. If I wanted to go a play or a gig, I went during the week. During summer 2015 I paid for a useful session with an editor at West Cork Literary Festival. By Christmas, I’d reached the end of a first draft. Then in March 2016 I read about the novel competition on Paul McVeigh’s Facebook page (by the way, as well as this website, anyone interested in writing should follow Paul). The prize was £20,000 and a publishing contract. I never had any hope of winning but I’d come to a point where I had to know if it was worth persisting with the novel. For the same reason, I went to ‘Date with an Agent’ and got enough positive feedback to make me think it was worth getting a reader’s report from Inkwell. It was. And, all the time, I continued tinkering with the book.
Fast forward to a Saturday morning in late July 2016. I’m sitting up in bed, dying for the shops to open, so that I can go out and buy the Mail and get physical proof of what I know but can’t quite absorb. But there’s nothing in the Irish edition or online so I make a frantic phone-call to my friend Jane in Bath. After a run to the shop by Jane’s husband John, they send a photo of a page from the newspaper. It’s true: I’ve been shortlisted (Amy Lloyd wins with the excellent The Innocent Wife which goes on to become a ‘Richard and Judy Book Club’ pick in 2018). My prize is six hardback books and a bottle of champagne – not bad. Even better, Luigi (it turns out he’s a top literary agent) says he wants to read the full manuscript. And after he reads it, in September, he says he’d like to sign me as a client. Over winter I work on the book and in February 2017 it’s sent to publishers. In May, Selina Walker of Century Arrow, part of Penguin Random House says she wants to publish it. After that comes the editing process with my editor Sonny Marr and that’s as enjoyable and frustrating and ultimately rewarding as writing the book in the first place.
On the 10th January Darkest Truth will be in bookshops (on Kindle and Audible from New Year’s Day). And I still find it hard to believe that this is happening to me. But it is.
Since I began telling people about Darkest Truth, most of them have asked one of two questions (some have asked both). The answer to the first question (‘do you get to choose the cover?’) is no – but the publishers listened when I said that I wasn’t happy with the initial cover and changed it to the current image (which I love). In reply to the second question (‘when’s the launch?’) I tell them that, whenever it is, they’re invited, that everyone is.
What I don’t tell them is that the real launch happened with Luigi’s phone-call to me that Monday evening two and a half years ago, the evening Ireland didn’t beat Sweden and I didn’t win £20,000.
(c) Catherine Kirwan
Catherine Kirwan grew up on a farm in the parish of Fews, County Waterford. She studied law at UCC and lives in Cork where she works as a solicitor. Catherine was awarded a Frank O’Connor Mentorship Bursary by the Munster Literature Centre in 2018.
About Darkest Truth:
It only takes one person to break the silence.
When solicitor Finn Fitzpatrick is approached by a man to investigate the death of his daughter, her first instinct is to refuse. The father is grieving, and unable to accept that his daughter committed suicide. And yet something about the man’s story chimes with Finn. Why did a bright, confident, beautiful young girl suddenly drop out of school, isolating herself from everyone who cared about her? Could it be that the father’s suspicion is right and that his daughter was groomed and abused by the most famous film director in Ireland? If the story is true there are bound to be other victims. The more she investigates, the darker and more twisted the picture becomes. Soon Finn herself is in danger. Because these are powerful people she is trying to expose. And they are willing to do anything to protect their secrets.
Order your copy online here.