My first novel, I Will Make You Pay, is a police procedural set in York featuring detective DI Ellen McClure. It was published in June by Joffe Publishers in London and is available on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle. I looked at the Amazon rankings this morning, and the Kindle edition of the book is at # 3 in the Hot New Releases List for Noir fiction on amazon.com and is also selling well in Amazon Canada, Australia and UK. I am still asking myself “How did this happen?”.
Ten years ago, in my early forties, I took up writing and started with a historical fiction novel. Looking back, perhaps I should have begun with a short story, but I was drawn to the bigger challenge. I think I wrote about 20,000 words before I ran out of steam. Around the same time, my marriage of some 20 years ended quite abruptly and my first foray into writing was over. My focus needed to be elsewhere and I gave up writing for the best part of a decade. I was busy with three teenage children and I needed to find a way of earning a living – and so I went back to college to get a Master’s degree in Psychotherapy.
I graduated four years later and set up my practice. Once that was up and running, I found I had some space and time and my interest once again turned to writing. Three or four years ago I took a weekend workshop with Louise Phillips in Crime Writing as part of the Dalkey Creates Festival and I was hooked. I joined a Thursday morning writing class led by Ferdia MacAnna (you might remember him as Rocky deValera). Each week we had to read what we had written since the last class which made me become much more disciplined due to the gentle peer pressure and fear of turning up with a blank page.
I started to write the crime novel that has just been published. The novel is set in York because I was travelling there quite a bit at the time and I grew to love the character of the people, the landscape and the history of the city of York itself. Plot comes easy to me but I found the actual writing intimidating. Most of the group were far better writers than I was, but the atmosphere was so supportive I kept going.
By October, I had written the first three chapters of I Will Make You Pay, and around that time one member of the group suggested we all enter the Irish Writer’s Centre Novel Fair 2018. In a spirit of camaraderie, I entered with the few chapters I had, and I genuinely thought no more of it. When I got a call in January telling me I had been selected as a finalist I could barely believe it.
This was a wonderful opportunity to get in front of so many agents and publishers. Then reality hit. I had only written about 10,000 words and in order to claim my place, I had nine days to submit a finished work of 50,000 words. Another member of my writing group, Martin Keating, had also been selected as a finalist. That in itself was incredible. But nine days to write 40,000 words? I worked it out at 4400 words a day! Was that even possible? Martin assured me it was. Each member of the group and Ferdia insisted I could do it. What did I have to lose in trying to finish the novel? Actually, I am self-employed and I needed to cancel most of my clients for the week so I lost a week’s income but it was worth it! I sat in my chair in the kitchen and wrote for ten hours a day with one focus – 50,000 words. The dog hair floated around the house in drifts. Laundry piled up in the utility room. My partner cooked all my meals and supplied me with endless cups of tea. It was the maddest week of my life but I did it: I got to the magic 50,000 and submitted my novel. I had time after the submission date to edit, not enough, but some.
The Novel Fair itself was frightening and exciting in equal measure. It involved a day of pitching the book to agents and publishers, speed dating style. Fifteen minutes to sell your novel to each. I got several requests to send on the first few chapters and thankfully these were in good shape. I then got requests for the full manuscript (which was not in the best shape) and the message which came back in all cases was “needs work”, which was totally accurate. One agent, Faith O’Grady worked with me and gave me invaluable suggestions for improving the book. I worked for several months editing and re-editing the novel. In the end she didn’t feel it was a good fit for her but I was grateful for her assistance and encouragement.
Over the next few months I wrote a short story for a book of crime stories that my writing group decided to self-publish. We called ourselves ‘the3 percenters’ because only three percent of people who start writing a book ever finish it. Ferdia MacAnna edited the book and Adrian White oversaw the overall production. I learned a lot from that process. Sins: New Irish Crime Stories came out in October 2018. Adrian Taheny was our group leader and the publication would never have happened without his huge efforts. We had a launch party in Dalkey with all our friends and family.
After Christmas I went to Kerry with my partner, Declan. It was nearly a year since the Novel Fair and I had almost forgotten about the novel. Declan urged me to send it out to a new round of publishers and I did. Within three weeks two publishers offered me a contract. I am convinced that one of the key elements was being selected as a finalist in the Novel Fair. It is something publishers really notice on a covering letter. I decided to sign with Joffe Publishing, a small indie publisher in London and I am very happy I did. I had read about Jasper Joffe in a two page feature in the Bookseller magazine. A few weeks later I found myself in a private club in Shoreditch in London, sitting around an open-air swimming pool on the top of a building, chatting to Jasper about books. We were surrounded by twenty-something hipsters sunning themselves on red striped sun loungers. I found Jasper to be such an interesting person. He is also an artist and has one of his paintings in the Saatchi Gallery in London. He has a hands on style, is always at the end of a phone and has a small but enthusiastic team who do incredible things with social media and marketing.
Of course, the first thing a publisher will ask if he likes your book is “When will you have the next book ready?”. I am now working on the second in the series of the DI Ellen McClure series.
(c) Caroline Bale
Author photograph (c) Adrian Taheny
About I Will Make You Pay:
Meet Detective Ellen McClure as she takes on a vicious killer who loves playing games.
He is watching Connie Taylor in the café. He has befriended the waitress over the previous months and gained her confidence. Her coarseness disgusts him and he muses to himself about pouring acid on her face. He is going to torture Connie that evening to get the final information he needs and then he will kill her.
Connie Taylor’s head is found on the doorstep of a house in upmarket Heworth Green in York.
DI Ellen McClure finds herself embroiled in a complicated murder investigation that pits her against colleagues and family. Her boss thinks that ex-prostitute Connie was killed by one of her former clients, but Ellen thinks there is more to it.
Vicky is on the run with her five-year-old daughter, Kallie. Her life is in danger.
ELLEN MUST FIND HER BEFORE HE DOES.
Desperate to save Vicky, Ellen drags her own young daughter, Zoe into the path of a deadly psychopath who will stop at nothing on his murderous rampage.
A RACE AGAINST TIME TO STOP A PSYCHOPATH ON A MISSION
AN ABSOLUTELY GRIPPING MYSTERY WITH A MASSIVE TWIST. Perfect for fans of Kimberley Chambers, Damien Boyd, Rachel Abbott, Patricia Gibney or Mark Billingham.
Order your copy online here.