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My Slush Pile Story: The Midnight House by Amanda Geard

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The Midnight House by Amanda Geard

By Amanda Geard

An incredible thing just happened. Just now – I mean just now. I opened a box of books. And not simply any books …. my book! I wrote it, and now I’m flicking through the pages of the hardback, shiny and new, ready for the hands of readers. The Midnight House will decorate the displays in Dubray, wait in the windows of Waterstones, and spread across the shelves of Sneem (my local independent bookshop). It will appear on e-readers across the world, and will be listened to on the way to work. From May 12th, my book will no longer have anywhere to hide.

But it wasn’t always this way. A couple of years ago, I wasn’t a writer at all. I didn’t have even the sniff of the start of a manuscript, and I suppose – thinking back – I believed that authoring was something that other people did; that writers spent their days in Insta-worthy nooks of trendy cafes (#writing), pen in hand, a comforting cup of tea by their side. They’d be dreamers, they’d wear oversized woollen jumpers, they’d go to dinner parties where quotes from Proust and Joyce and Woolf poured out of their mouths as easily as wine flowed from the bottle.

In 2019, I saw a flier for Listowel Writers’ Week, hanging on the door of a pub in Kenmare (where I wasn’t discussing Proust). I fancied an outing, and I needed a trip to Aldi, so the next morning I threw some shopping bags in the car and drove out of South Kerry into the deep, deep north (of Kerry). I rolled into the hometown of John B. Keane without a notion of why I was there, and rolled out again six hours later with a tingle in my fingers.

I was going to write a novel.

In penning this article, I went back to the Listowel Writers’ Week social media pages to see what was said about the panel I attended that so inspired me, and I stumbled across a photo of the brilliant Patricia O’Reilly talking about her new novel, The First Rose of Tralee, this website’s founder, Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, just visible in the frame. I knew neither of them then; I knew no one. In the audience, I could just glimpse the back of my head; it was, I assure you, a head that had no idea that in the coming months a novel would pour from its mind.

Just moments after the photo was taken, a woman in the audience put up her hand to ask a question about her manuscript. Her manuscript. At the time, I did a double take. She looked quite normal, no sign of an oversized woollen jumper or an imminent departure for a high-brow party. As an accountant, apparently, she squeezed her writing in on weekends, snatches of time here and there. Her dream agent had given her encouragement after receiving her query, even though she was in the slush pile, and others had sent her form rejections. I wrote these three terms down to google later, but I already felt that if she could do it, then so could I. I admired her, and was inspired by her, though I’ll never know who she was.

That evening I pulled a dozen novels from my shelf. They were all dual timeline women’s fiction, with rich, complex plots and multiple POVs, full of mystery and intrigue, with characters that leapt from the page. These were the books I wanted to write, because they were the books I wanted to read. I used a whole box of colour-coded tabs, pulling apart the structure of my favourites, trying to understand how the timelines wove together, to analyse the form and tame the timeslip beast.

At the end of each novel, I noticed a name kept appearing in the acknowledgements, and so – thinking of the woman in Listowel and the encouragement she’d received from her ‘dream agent’ – I scrawled it in my notebook. #1 Rebecca Ritchie. I wrote the manuscript with her in mind, and by the start of the next year, I was the accountant that I’d seen in Listowel … I sent my query to the slush pile, and I was prepared to receive my form rejection, now that I knew what it was. But it never came, and Rebecca is my agent today.

This might make you roll your eyes, but let me assure you that rejections from publishers swiftly followed, and it was a huge learning curve until finally I got my turn. But something that I never forgot was that I set out on my writing journey with an agent in mind. Buy the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, follow your favourite authors on Twitter, read the acknowledgements at the end of novels you wished you’d written. When you know who the book is for, you will know how to write it. And even if you receive that dreaded form rejection, it’s no loss; you have your book, and that is what matters most.

(c) Amanda Geard

Twitter: @AmandaGeard

Instagram: @AmandaGeard

Facebook: @amandageardauthor

Website: www.amandageard.com

About The Midnight House:

The Midnight House by Amanda Geard

My Dearest T, Whatever you hear, do not believe it for a moment…

1940: In south-west Ireland, the young and beautiful Lady Charlotte Rathmore is pronounced dead after she mysteriously disappears by the lake of Blackwater Hall. In London, on the brink of the Blitz, Nancy Rathmore is grieving Charlotte’s death when a letter arrives containing a secret that she is sworn to keep – one that will change her life for ever.

2019: Decades later, Ellie Fitzgerald is forced to leave Dublin disgraced and heartbroken. Abandoning journalism, she returns to rural Kerry to weather out the storm. But, when she discovers a faded letter, tucked inside the pages of an old book, she finds herself drawn in by a long-buried secret. And as Ellie begins to unravel the mystery, it becomes clear that the letter might hold the key to more than just Charlotte’s disappearance.

An unforgettable and spellbinding story of secrets, war, love and sacrifice, perfect for readers of Kate Morton, Eve Chase and Louise Douglas.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Amanda Geard has lived all over the world, from a houseboat in London to a Norwegian Island, before settling in County Kerry in Ireland. Her writing has appeared in The Irish Times, The Journal, writing.ie, Nordic Reach and Vertical Magazine. Her debut novel, The Midnight House, published by Headline Review, is out now.

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