At the end of the first week of December 2019, something quite remarkable happened.
My book, Her Name Was Rose (a psychological thriller about a young woman whose life is thrown into turmoil after she witnesses the death of another woman), quite unexpectedly flew up the Kindle charts.
The book, was originally published in June 2018 and had performed well – it danced around the Kindle top 100 for a number of months, topped EBook charts in Australia, Canada and even made the USA Today Bestseller list.
But this was a new level of ‘great’. I watched, daring not to hope, as it climbed to number 17. Its highest ever position. I was dizzy with excitement.
But then it went to number 12, then 10, then nine, then five. At the time of writing this, it has spent just over a week in the top ten of the incredibly competitive Kindle charts – and has topped at least seven sub-category charts earning the coveted Amazon Bestseller Flag.
Whatever it does from this moment on (and there’s a chance, by the time you read this, it will have dropped off the chart), it has now exceeded all my expectations.
And it only took 18 months since publication.
Or, if we want to look at the big picture, it has only taken 14 years since I first decided I wanted to write a novel.
Or 13 years since I signed my first ever book contract.
Or 12 years since my first novel hit the Irish Times bestsellers list.
And just under four years since I considered stopping writing altogether.
But I can finally say, for the moment at least, I have a solid UK hit. (Which for many Irish writers, is the dream. Especially those of us who begin with Ireland only publishing contracts).
My writing journey has been, well, interesting to say the least. It has been marred with periods of extreme self-doubt. With Poolbeg Press, I wrote and published eight women’s fiction novels. All but one managed to make that Irish Times Top 10 and I was able to build a small, but perfectly formed, band of loyal readers. But what I could not do, despite the best efforts of my agent, my publisher and my own attempts at networking was to secure a deal outside of Ireland.
I have received so many ‘nearly but no’ rejections over the years that I have long felt that my position in this publishing world is and would always remain as ‘always the bridesmaid, and never the bride’.
In early 2016, that forced me to rethink my career. I was still working as a journalist. Raising two children. Writing a novel a year for minimal financial reward and feeling increasingly disheartened.
With a health crisis making me take stock of where I was I realised I faced two choices – the first being to walk away from a writing career which was now taking up too much of my emotional energy and focus instead on something new.
Or I could give this writing career everything I had – which would involve taking voluntary redundancy from my journalism career and see if, without as many distractions, I could secure that elusive UK deal finally.
In a move that is very, very unlike my usual over cautious approach I opted for the second option. (If you want to believe in something ‘bigger’ in the universe, I felt an unusual sense of courage, brought about by the loss my grandmother. I felt as if she was nudging me to take a risk.)
I most certainly wasn’t naïve enough to think that I didn’t have to up my game.
So I changed genre and I wrote, and wrote and wrote. Then I sent that book out on submission and, to distract myself from waiting for a response, I decided to write another book – a rom-com which initially I planned to self-publish as a means to hopefully generate a small income.
I put my heart, and soul, into writing. Dedicated hours to planning and plotting and read as much as I could about structure and characterisation.
I may have had eight books under my belt, but I had to approach my career as if I was just starting out.
And I’ve done that with every book since.
One year, and one week, after I signed my Voluntary Redundancy papers with the newspaper I had spent my entire adult life with I was offered a two book contract with Avon, HarperCollins. A deal which would see my books published in the UK for the first time.
This was huge, but I also felt the weight of great responsibility on my shoulders. I had to prove they were right to take a chance on me, and that I was good enough to warrant that UK contract.
Her Name Was Rose has, thankfully, done that. Since it was first released, I’ve published two more thrillers with Avon. That two book contract became a four book contract, which then became a six book contract. My fourth thriller, The Liar’s Daughter will be released in Ireland next month, with a UK release to follow.
And the book I wrote to distract myself while waiting for news on submissions? Well, that’s going to be published in May of 2020 – with a new, dynamic and incredibly exciting UK publishing house – Boldwood Books, under a pen name of Freya Kennedy.
What’s my message for anyone slogging it out trying to break through? Not everyone will get it right first time. Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. Not everyone gets the hit they dream of.
But persistence pays off. You may find yourself, 13 years after you started, finally looking at your book in the Amazon top ten and planning two new releases with two great UK publishing houses.
I don’t think I’ll ever feel secure in this profession, but I can say that I finally feel as if I’ve earned my seat at the table.
And that’s worth everything.
(c) Claire Allan
About Her Name is Rose:
Her name was Rose. You watched her die. And her death has created a vacancy.
When Emily lets a stranger step out in front of her, she never imagines that split second will change her life. But after Emily watches a car plough into the young mother – killing her instantly – she finds herself unable to move on.
And then she makes a decision she can never take back.
Because Rose had everything Emily had ever dreamed of. A beautiful, loving family, a great job and a stunning home. And now Rose’s husband misses his wife, and their son needs a mother. Why couldn’t Emily fill that space?
But as Emily is about to discover, no one’s life is perfect … and not everything is as it seems.
‘AMAZING. I read it in one go. I was totally hooked.’ MARIAN KEYES
‘A powerful and emotional psychological thriller that will keep you guessing and leave you breathless.’ C. L. TAYLOR, author of The Fear
Order your copy online here.