Words are my currency. As editor of Woman’s Way magazine for the last nine years, I’m surrounded by sentences, headlines, puns (I love a pun) and the most important of all – cover lines. As a child in Belfast, all I wanted to do was write and be a writer. I was heavily influenced by Jessica Fletcher and Murder, She Wrote and was fond of writing wee books and This Is Your Life inspired pamphlets for my parents. At seven, being on This Is Your Life was my greatest ambition.
As time moved on, I wrote for the school yearbook and in university, some pieces for the college publications. Still I wrote bits and pieces on the side, showing them to no one, hoping that I’d someday have enough gumption to do something about the big childhood dream.
It was when I started in Woman’s Way that I really thought about writing a book. I had written what I believed to be some funny pieces for a website, and the feedback had been positive, so maybe there was something there. I had written two shorter pieces for Poolbeg’s charity books, All I Want for Christmas and If I Was A Child Again, and loved the process, so it was time to cop on and start writing.
I wrote a book that I can only describe as woeful. Even I couldn’t see anything good about it. It was far too self centred and overly emotional. I must have been heavily involved in some romantic TV show at the time, or it was a remnant of my adoration for Dawson’s Creek – that’s my defence and I’m sticking to it. I told all my friends and my parents that I was writing, I was more vocal about it than I should have been and the result was disappointing. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t that bad but I’m glad it’s never been made public.
I ignored writing for a while and when friends and my parents asked how it was all going, I could tell them that it wasn’t going. It had stopped.
As part of my work in Woman’s Way I look after the books pages, interviewing authors and reviewing new releases. It’s bliss and the more I got involved and developed the pages, the more I thought, ‘Maybe this shouldn’t be a pipe dream.’ So I returned to my woeful book and there was one character who stuck out. A character I couldn’t forget about. One Saturday in a hairdressers in Belfast, I had forgotten my book (yes, I’m all chat in a hairdressers) so I began planning a book that had that character within it. It came together fine, it sounded in theory like a decent enough plot – all I had to do is write it.
Learning my lesson and telling no one, I began writing. I’d like to say I got up early every morning and worked on it before going to the office. I didn’t. I worked on a 500-word a day routine; if I wanted to do more all the better, but I wasn’t allowed to move until I had my word count. At weekends I would go hell for leather, usually in my parents’ living room, being vague about what I was doing.
The ending was Let’s Talk About Six. It was always going to be called that and the number of people who have said, ‘You know, that’s like sex’ surprises me. Yes, it’s meant to sound like that. It is – I hope – funny. Set in Dublin, it focuses on six characters and their relationships, some good, some bad. There’s a sex shop, a sex magician and an awful lot of biscuits and I love it.
Writing took about nine months. I initially gave myself six months to write it but then through work and life it was a little longer. But that was okay; after nine months I had a book, a ridiculously long 130,000 words. It was then I cautiously told some friends and my parents that a book existed.
It needed to be cut considerably. Thankfully as a career I cut words so it was easier than I expected. Still though, I cut about 20,000 words and though some of it hurt me, Six was a better book for it.
I gave the book to a friend to read and feedback was good, very good in fact. That gave me some encouragement but even after that, it needed some work. I revised and revised and revised, making it more current, more cultural references that would keep it in readers’ minds. I thought about every tip every author has given me and our readers in Woman’s Way over the years and perfected it as much as I could.
It was late June 2017 when I saw a tweet about a new epublishing company, Manatee Books, that was looking for manuscripts. Normally I like to think about things before acting and I knew nothing about epublishing but I was in work (sorry work!) and I had the newest version saved in my personal email. In ten minutes, I had a synopsis written and the first 20 pages were emailed. Less than a week later, Lisa Hall from Manatee emailed asking for the complete manuscript. I sent it the day before we had the biggest magazine event for Woman’s Way. Six days later Lisa emailed to say Manatee wanted to give me a contract.
The last few months have been a whirl of activity. Six has been further edited, reduced in areas and increased in areas but definitely improved. It’s a very unnerving experience to watch something you’ve written become read by others, it’s an entirely different feeling to having a magazine published every week. But I’ve loved it; from looking at a book cover with my name, to signing a contract to talking about books two, it’s been magical. I don’t have an agent but I have a book deal and I know my seven-year-old self would be very proud.
(c) Áine Toner
About Let’s Talk About Six:
Love and relationships are tough in 21st century Dublin, as six characters, bound by circumstance are about to find out…
Beth – in love with boyfriend Adam, Beth thinks life coupled up is great – sex on tap, and no worries about regularly shaving your legs…but when Adam no longer seems interested and an unexpected web history shows he might be looking for something else, Beth starts thinking of revenge.
Adam – Adam loves Beth. Very much. But there’s something he’s hiding from her – something’s been wrong for quite a while and he’s scared to face up to the truth. Thankfully, he has support from his other woman…but how long can Adam keep his secret?
Declan – forty-something, shy, and ruled by his militant mother, Declan owns sex shop Firm to the Touch. Desperate for a romantic love affair, all he wants is for his dream woman to notice him…OK, so they have nothing in common, but opposites attract, right?
Lily – a woman who does things her own way, Lily leaves a trail of broken-hearted men whenever she goes. Only now, Kristian is on the scene, and Lily wants him – for good. With a reputation for making bad life decisions and being a fickle seductress, can Lily change her ways and get her man?
Johnny – the ultimate ladies man, Johnny leaves notches on every bed post, so when one night stand Kate falls pregnant with his baby, his whole world turns upside down. Now it seems, Johnny feels more for Kate than just lust…but will he get the opportunity to show everyone that a (saucy) leopard can change their spots?
Kate – a paediatric nurse who can’t remember the last time she had a five-minute shower, permanently tired Kate is juggling work, being a mammy to Matthew, and now the attentions of gorgeous doctor, PJ O’Malley. But is a serious relationship really what she wants…and is PJ O’Malley really The One?
Just because you’re a grown up doesn’t mean you always make the right decisions…
‘Quite simply, this is the freshest, zingiest and most hysterically funny debut I think I’ve ever read.’ – Claudia Carroll, author of Meet Me in Manhattan
‘This book is witty and a little bit naughty. Not for the faint hearted, it contains laugh out loud dry humour and is definitely for readers with a twinkle in their eye!’ – Emma Hannigan, author of The Wedding Promise
Order your copy online here.