My Path to Publication: Broken Falls by Derek Flynn
There’s an old writing maxim that you should always save or jot down any interesting articles or stories that you see. This was certainly true in my case. A news article that I read many years ago became the basis for my debut novel, Broken Falls, which will be launched in Waterford as part of Waterford Writer’s Weekend.
The article in question was innocuous enough. It was about a town in Nova Scotia that boasts the largest percentage of Irish speakers outside the Gaeltacht in Ireland. For some reason, I found this fascinating. And almost immediately, my writer brain kicked into gear.
What would it be like, I wondered, if an American cop was to visit this town, perhaps investigating a murder? What would he make of these people and their strange tongue? Right then, I had the basis for my story – a stranger in a strange land.
When I sat down to write it, however, I immediately encountered my first problem. I couldn’t have the people in my story actually speaking Irish. Firstly, I only have a cúpla focal myself, and secondly, it would appeal to a niche market, to say the least.
So I started to look elsewhere for my strange land. I found it – not too far from Nova Scotia – on the East coast of Newfoundland, in an area called the Irish Loop. Here were nestled small communities of people descended from the Irish fisherman who left southern Ireland in search of the cod-rich waters off the Newfoundland coast. It was said they still had the Irish brogue.
I visited Newfoundland shortly before I started my book and found that this was indeed the case. In one village in particular, I encountered people who had never left Newfoundland, but who had a stronger Waterford accent than me. This town would become my fictional “Broken Falls”.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be chosen to take part in a mentorship programme run by the Waterford County Arts Office. I was paired with a published writer – poet and author, Grace Wells – and over the course of a year we met for monthly sessions where she gave me suggestions and advice on my work-in-progress, Broken Falls. I finished the book that year, but I felt it wasn’t quite there yet, so I put it away in a drawer and moved onto other things.
Then, in 2015, I started a Masters in Creative Writing in Trinity College, Dublin. A major part of the course were writing critique classes that took place every week, where our work was read and critiqued by our tutor and our fellow students. I decided to take the Broken Falls manuscript out of the bottom drawer, dust it down, and begin work on it again.
It was a good decision.
The advice, guidance, and constructive criticism I received from my tutors and classmates meant that by year’s end, I had a hugely improved manuscript in my hands. (This should hardly come as a surprise given that – besides my wonderful classmates – my tutors were Gerald Dawe, Deirdre Madden, Chris Binchy, and Declan Hughes!)
I continued to work on the book – incorporating the suggestions and advice from my Creative Writing class – until I felt it was ready. I was about to start sending it out to agents, when fate intervened. I received an email from the Waterford County Arts Office informing me that there was grant available for people who had taken part in their mentorship programme and who wanted to take their work further.
I submitted a proposal about publishing Broken Falls and was lucky enough to be accepted. The Arts Office would part-fund the publication of my novel.
The next few months involved a lot of work: commissioning a cover; editing the manuscript to within an inch of its life; and figuring out how the self-publishing industry works. And the work is just beginning. I have an exciting few months (and maybe years) ahead of me as I finally launch my “Stranger in a Strange Land” story out into the world.
I haven’t given up on the “traditional” publishing route. I’ll most likely still be sending out future novels to agents and publishers. But, for now, I’m looking forward to seeing where this little adventure takes me.
(c) Derek Flynn
About Broken Falls:
Broken Falls follows Wyoming cop, John Ryan, who receives a package of letters from a recently deceased priest addressed to John’s late father. Unravelling the story behind the letters leads John to the remote fishing village of Broken Falls, Newfoundland, a place filled with strange and colourful characters, whose secrets are as old as the village itself. As he attempts to find out what it was the dead priest did – and how he died – John must confront his own past and the secrets that his father tried so hard to hide.
Order your copy online here.