Just write the damn book and be done with it!
Well, now. My path to publication? I started off in 2009/2010, as a lot of Irish writers do, by having my short stories published in Ireland’s Own, a family magazine (they were good enough to take about ten, then they asked me nicely to give everyone else a chance), and, as most Irish writers most assuredly don’t, having my silly poems about X Factor entrants Jedward published in the Sun and the Star newspapers. This last earned me immortalisation –– which I’m still trying to live down –– in Jedward’s biography. I still own about five copies of this book if anyone wants one. Don’t all rush at once . . .
Did I mention that I hold a first-class degree in Failed Relationships from the University of Why Won’t He Call Me? From 2010-2014, I performed my comedic spicy failed-relationship poems in Dublin’s pubs and other Spoken Word venues. Okay, so it was mostly pubs. My public speaking career kicked off with a poetry slam one sunny Saturday afternoon in the Central Hotel.
I went along armed with a poem I’d penned about a painful break-up I’d recently endured. I sat through an hour or two of very worthy poems about stars in the night sky and birds and snow and spring and the weather and the seasons in general. Then it was my turn.
I got up and part-read, part-performed my little ditty about how some bloke had done me wrong and left me for another woman, and so I’d reacted in the only way I knew how. I climbed the tree across from his house and spied on him and his new girlfriend through a pair of bird-watching binoculars borrowed from a mate.
Everyone in the room was in stitches by the time I’d finished. Much to my surprise, I came home with third prize and a new lease of life for my writing. I started attending every open mic night I could find around Dublin and, at the time, there were plenty. Some of my favourite ones are now sadly defunct, possibly due to the rise in home performances thanks to increased and improved technology, but, back in 2010, the world was my oyster.
I discovered that the listening public, bloodthirsty ghouls that they were, were only interested in the poems about relationships that had gone spectacularly tits-up, and rightly so. I mean, who wants to hear about a couple who meet, fall in love, get married, have two lovely, well-adjusted children called Saoirse and Seadbh who don’t need psychologists or some class of rehab and live happily ever after? How boring is that? My audience wanted to hear about cheating…and so much more. And what my audience wanted, my audience got. Where I didn’t have the relevant experience myself, I’d just make something up. The audience didn’t mind, because it was laughing its collective arse off.
The poems were astonishingly popular and so in 2014, I published a book entitled 50 Sex-Poems You Must Read Before I Die with Kindle Direct Publishing. This part of my life is very definitely over now, but I’ll always look back on it fondly.
As the years performed their terrible dance, I got better at being a writer and, in 2012, I was shortlisted for the Strokestown International Poetry Prize for my poem about Ryan Tubridy, entitled Tubbers And Me.
I adore films and so, in 2014, I started my own film blog. To date, I’ve reviewed nearly 1,600 films, roughly half of which were for Cinehouseuk.blogspot.co.uk, a website for which I acted as Editor-In-Chief from 2015-2018. The best thing about this position was probably having the writers and directors of indie films approach me directly for reviews of their work because they’d read my reviews and liked them. The low point was probably having to sit through Paddy-The-Vet-From-Emmerdale‘s debut indie horror flick, Attack of the Adult Babies. It still makes me gag to think about that awful, awful film.
I stopped writing for Cinehouse in 2018 (I still write my own film and book review blog) because I had a terrible hankering to write fiction again. Fiction had started to push its way out, rather like a much welcome bowel movement after weeks of constipation. Gross, for which I apologise, but rather scarily apt. Words will out, you see, and I am a total gimp for writing. I am writing’s bitch, if you will. Writing tells me what it wants done, and I do it. What happened next was sheer serendipity.
My previously home-schooled son went to school for the first time in his life in September 2018. After only about three weeks, I found myself writing a novel about the (fictional) people who might use our Luas route, from the Stephen’s Green to Sandyford. Just over two months later, Thirteen Stops had been written in full. That was the easy part, lol. Next came the hard bit. Finding an agent, and then submitting the book to publishers.
I secretly hoped I’d get Poolbeg. I’d read so much of their women’s fiction, by authors I’d grown to love as well, like Marian Keyes. I’d always wanted to be the ‘next’ Marion Keyes, the ‘next’ Maeve Binchy. When I was accepted by Poolbeg, I was ecstatic. And, while I may never be the ‘next’ Marion Keyes, or the ‘next’ Maeve Binchy, I am, at least, the first Sandra Harris, and, let me tell you, that feels pretty damn good right now.
(c) Sandra Harris
About Thirteen Stops:
There are thirteen Luas stops between Sandyford and St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin, each significant in the lives of the people who step on and off the tram every day.
The passengers all hunker down, folded tightly into themselves, eyes fixed on their phones, interminably scrolling, terrified of connecting with each other. Except . . .
Except, who’s that good-looking guy in the long dark coat who’s eyeing up Selfie Queen Laura? Could he end up as one of her terrible choices? Hang on, isn’t he the same guy who was ogling glamorous working-mum-with-a-secret Maroon before? And why is Jamie over there telling his life story to a complete stranger? What’s Fauve hiding in her handbag? It must be the Crown Jewels at the very least, the way she’s clutching it so tightly to herself. And why does Becks from two seats down look out the window so anxiously? Is she worried that Barry could be straying?
Alight here for the inside track . . .
Order your copy online here.