My Journey to Publication: The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney
Life can throw you some curve balls and you either drop them or catch them and run with them. My journey into writing was particularly curvaceous but rather than catching the ball, it hit me smack between the eyes. I’m one of those people who was always scribbling words on the backs of beer mats and napkins. I never had time to be serious about it, just dreamed that one day I’d have a book on a shelf in a bookstore. Perhaps if I rubbed a lamp and a genie gave me a wish? No, I didn’t exist in a fairy tale, it was something akin to a horror novel. That was back at the beginning.
When my husband, Aidan, died in May 2009 after a short battle with cancer, my life spun out of control. Grief and depression consumed me and if not for my children I’m sure I wouldn’t have survived the descent. But I clawed my way back into life by taking out my paint brushes and slapping paint on canvasses. I rediscovered my creativity and through time, I began to write.
I started writing The Missing Ones in 2010. Of course it wasn’t The Missing Ones back then. It was rambling words scrawled across pages and pages of notebooks. But I felt there was something underneath the indecipherable scribbles. I began to write on my laptop. When I had written about 30,000 words, I made a personal vow. I was going to have my book published. I wasn’t delusional, I knew that most of what I’d written wouldn’t convince a beta reader, let alone an agent, so I would need help.
I enrolled with the Irish Writer’s Centre and began the weekly trek from Mullingar to Dublin, attending writing classes. While I was participating in Conor Kostick’s ‘Finish your novel,’ course, I heard about a week long crime writing course (boot camp!) run by author, Arlene Hunt. Arlene’s enthusiasm and energy ignited my resolve. On the Friday afternoon, as Arlene waved us goodbye, she said, ‘I want to hear more of Lottie Parker.’
I believe writing courses truly benefit your writing. They help hone your writing skills, provide you with constructive feedback from tutors, authors and participants, and most of all you receive encouragement. I followed up with classes run by Louise Phillips and Carolann Copeland. I also made a lot of new friends.
Entering the ‘Date with an Agent’ competition was the first time I came face to face with a real live agent! I was astonished that my piece was one of sixty selected. The agent I met said she loved my writing and wanted to read the full manuscript. Well, it was panic station alert for me because the novel was unfinished. Unedited. A total mess, if I’m to be honest. But the competition gave me the drive to complete the book and send it off for a manuscript appraisal. I even began to work on book two in the series as I was full of confidence. But the reply I got, sent me into a tail spin.
When I read the appraisal, I cried. I was devastated. It needed a huge amount of work. When I calmed down and reflected on it, I realised I could make it much better. It took me a further year to rewrite and edit the novel. Many months spent procrastinating, consumed with self-doubt, caused me to be tempted to delete the darn thing on numerous occasions. But I persisted. It was hard work and funnily enough, I enjoyed the process. I didn’t give up! And now I realise that editing is a major part of writing.
I approached some people I’d met while on courses and asked would they mind reading the manuscript. I waited and lit the candles. The response was positive. I think it is important to ask people outside of your family circle to give an unbiased opinion on your work. You are too close to it, family to close to you. It is essential that you get external feedback. Comments at this stage can allow you see things otherwise missed. A final edit can do no harm.
In November 2015 I sent my novel off to Ger Nichol, Literary Agent at The Book Bureau. I told myself it could be months before I heard anything back so I kept working on book two. But within a couple of weeks, Ger emailed to say she was enjoying the story. I thought she must be mixing up my manuscript with someone else’s. She said she’d get back to me once she’d finished reading. Could I be that lucky? The first agent I’d sent it to, might want to sign me up? And that’s what happened. She provided me with suggestions, and once I reworked the manuscript, I signed with Ger in January 2016. And she began sending it out to the publishing world.
Rejection and success.
I received a number of rejections between January and May. Mainly positive rejections, if there is such a thing. The enthusiasm that had resurfaced on successfully getting an agent began to wane. Perhaps the novel was rubbish after all. Maybe Ger was wrong to sign me. Maybe my dream was just that. A dream. But then I got an email from Ger, saying Bookouture were interested. Bookouture were a relatively new London digital publishing company. The only thing I knew about digital publishing was the fact that I owned a Kindle. They asked if I had anything else written. They were interested in publishing a series featuring a strong female lead. Always have something in reserve. You never know when it will come in handy! That July I signed a contract with Bookouture for four books featuring Detective Lottie Parker.
What happened next?
The Missing Ones was published digitally by Bookouture in March 2017. To date it has sold over half a million copies worldwide. It reached number six in the US Amazon Kindle charts and number two in the UK. It is also a bestseller in Canada and Australia. It is available in print and audio format.
The Stolen Girls published in July and The Lost Child in October. I then signed a contract for a further three books last July.
Bookouture was acquired by Hachette UK during 2017, and their subsidiaries, Little Brown and Hachette Ireland will publish in paperback, The Missing Ones and The Stolen Girls in the UK and Ireland in 2018. Contracts have also been signed for foreign language books in Italy, France, Turkey, Poland, Hungary.
I am now writing and editing all the time. It Is not easy but I love it. Making your dreams come true won’t happen by making a wish. You have to work mighty hard at it. But for me, it has been a fascinating journey, so far.
(c) Patricia Gibney
About The Missing Ones:
When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how?
The trail leads Lottie to St Angela’s, a former children’s home, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal.
As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger?
Lottie is about to come face to face with a twisted soul who has a very warped idea of justice.
‘Thrilling and tense, with so many twists. A page-turning, unputdownable read.’ Renita D’Silva
Order your copy online here.