The Second Dirty Secret: There was a Crooked Man by Cat Hogan
George Orwell once said, ‘Writing a book is a horrible exhausting struggle – like a long bout with a painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing, if one were not driven on by some demon-whom one can neither resist nor understand.’
Dramatic, but he had a point.
Before my first novel, They All Fall Down had even hit the shelves, writing colleagues began to pull me to one side and hiss the words ‘Second Book Syndrome’ into my debutant ears. A dirty secret, whispered in fear and as if by some dark force, the bearer of this news were to speak any louder, SBS might just manifest itself physically in the form of say, a clown, or something equally malevolent.
‘What is this strange curse?’ I would ask to the back of their heads as they ran away into the fog shrouded in a dark cloak and an air of mystery. I was too busy trying to edit the first novel to worry about details such as my contractual obligation to write a second novel for my publisher. I had to finish the first one and do a good job. Eyebrows raised when I got the book deal in the first place – I said I was going to write a book and get a book deal. I kept my word and things happened quickly in the end. I was saved years of gut punching rejection and dusty manuscripts piling up under my bed- but that rapidity brought its own challenges. Two book deal – one book written. The pressure was on. The pleasure and anonymity of writing the first novel with no one to consider, or indeed be accountable to, was gone.
‘It’s the hardest book you’ll ever write,’ was said, over and over and over. The seed was planted and roadblock number two appeared. I had started writing a standalone novel- another tale of twisted minds and desperation but I wasn’t feeling the love for it. The characters from They All Fall Down were still hovering around in my house, in my car, and eventually began to infiltrate my sleeping hours. Then the readers started- ‘When’s the sequel?’, ‘When is Scott coming back?’, ‘I can’t wait to see what happens next!’ – I knew they were right, all of them. They had to come back.
After a discussion with the publisher and editor in September 2016, book two was shelved and I sat down to write the sequel. My inner critic and the wicked form of Second Book Syndrome were having a hoolie in my kitchen and the longer I stared at the blank screen in front of me- the harder they partied. How in the name of the creative gods was I going to write a novel- a second novel- a sequel – a thriller – and a better book? My biggest fear was disappointing the readers who loved the first one- they had spent their money and time investing in it and now they were hungry for more. While all this was going on, I still had to keep the plates of real life spinning- children needed to be loved, nurtured and fed, school runs had to be ran and homework had to be fought over between cleaning and supermarket runs.
Finally, and in a flash, the cavalry arrived- in the form of friends, laden down with tea, scones, and common sense. The metaphorical headphones were presented to me and when I managed to block out the noise of my two unwelcome ethereal guests, I began to write, and write, and write. There were a couple of stop-starts along the way but once I managed to ignore the noise, the self-doubt, the expectation and the spin, I was on the pig’s back. The characters came back with a vengeance and they took me on a dazzling journey from Marrakech, to Spain, to Berlin before skidding to a halt in Ireland.
Blocking out the noise made way for the lessons I had learned during the process of editing the first book to come to the fore. A level of confidence came when I recognised the biggest lesson of all- how to disassociate myself as a person, from me as the writer. I had censored myself while writing the first book and although the finished product was a really good story, it was hard to define. It crossed a number of genres and didn’t sit in any given one. From the first page of There Was A Crooked Man, you know what you are getting as a reader. It’s easily defined and it’s sharper. Structure, plot, and pace were easier to manage and I began to really enjoy the physical process of putting words on paper. I had slayed the monster. Second Book Syndrome hadn’t got the better of me as I chose to ignore it. I wanted the second book to be darker, faster and better. I hope I have done that.
As the second book winged its way to the printing press, I winged my way into a restaurant for lunch with a writer friend to celebrate the win and my relief surrounding the completion of the hardest book I’ll ever write. He laughed as I described the process I employed to slay the monster.
‘Congratulations,’ he said as he raised his glass to me, ‘but you do realise the third book is the one that will make or break your career. The next book will be the one you will be remembered for. You’re going to have to get it perfect.’
I’m still screaming.
(c) Cat Hogan
About There was a Crooked Man:
Scott makes enemies everywhere. Powerful people want him dead. He’s coming back to Ireland to finish what he started. But first, he must make it out of Marrakech alive.
Jen knows Scott will come back. Every day, she waits. He almost killed her last time and, fuelled by hate and arrogance, he s not a man to ever just move on. He will kill her and he will kill her young son. But her husband and friends believe she has spiralled into paranoia.
So she knows, when he returns, she ll face the psychopath alone.
In this powerful thriller, Hogan plunges us into the world and mind of her psychopathic killer from the first line and relentlessly tightens the tension until the very last page.
Order your copy online here.
Cat Hogan was born into a home of bookworms and within spitting distance of the sea. Her father, Pat, a lightship man, instilled in her a love of the sea and the stars. Her mother, Mag, taught her how to read before she could walk. Writing, storytelling and a wild imagination is part of her DNA.
The beautiful County Wexford, Ireland is home to Cat, her musician partner Dave, two beautiful sons Joey and Arthur, and her tomcat Jim Hawkins. There they live a life of storytelling, song and adventure. The other love of Cat’s life is food. A self-professed foodie, there is nothing she loves more than feeding a houseful of friends round her kitchen table.
When she is not conjuring up imaginary friends, she can be found supporting local musicians and writers of which there is an abundance in her home town.