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Tell Your Own Story

My Route to Publication by Susie Murphy

Article by Susie Murphy ©.
Posted in the Magazine (Tell Your Own Story: , ).
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I have wanted to be an author ever since I was eleven and wrote my first ‘novel’ about a group of rabbits going on a perilous journey (eleven pages overflowing with blatant plagiarism of my favourite childhood book, Watership Down).

During my teen years, I filled notebook after notebook with stories, and daydreamed about what might be. The problem was that the stories always fizzled out, running out of steam a few chapters in and never reaching an end. I told myself I just didn’t have the stamina for it, and I put my notebooks away in a drawer.

But the drawer niggled at me and I couldn’t resist pulling the notebooks back out! On 20th June 2002, I put pen to paper to write the beginnings of what would eventually become A Class Apart, and in October 2004, my final year in school, I completed the first full draft. It was riddled with adverbs and stilted dialogue, and included no research whatsoever, but it was a story with a beginning, a middle and, crucially, an end.

Real life got in the way and, apart from a couple of scripts I wrote in college, it wasn’t until December 2010 that I properly returned to my writing. And that’s when I really put my head down and worked. This wasn’t an idle pastime anymore. I had experienced the compelling urge to write enough times over the years that I couldn’t ignore it any longer, and now I was going to give it my best shot.

The story expanded to such a size that it grew too big for a single novel – it became two books, and then three! My characters told me where they wanted to go and I did my best to take them there.

I wrote and I revised, and I started to consider the grand notion of seeking publication. I attended a publishing workshop, I asked a local author for advice, I set up a website, and in April 2013 I began to send out submissions.

And the inevitable rejections came. Although I treasure them like a badge of honour now, they were difficult to bear at the time. I bruised easily until I realised I needed to grow a thicker skin. But I can see now how invaluable those rejections were. While the publishers and agents I approached did deliver hard truths, many also included helpful feedback, enabling me to improve my writing with each draft.

In February 2014, my novel was shortlisted in the RTÉ Today Show/New Island ‘Get Your Book Published’ competition. I made it to the final ten and it was a huge boost to my confidence! I was disappointed not to win but in retrospect I’m glad that’s the way it happened – though I didn’t realise it at the time, my book still had a long road to travel before it was ready for publication.

I attended a self-publishing workshop at the Irish Writers Centre in January 2015 and began to contemplate going down the independent author route. Then an acquisitions editor from a traditional publisher got interested and I genuinely thought ‘This is it!’ We communicated back and forth across eight months and I really got my hopes up, until it ended in yet another rejection.

It was my most significant one. The comprehensive feedback I received enlightened me on the flaws in my work and I entered an eighteen-month period of solid revisions, with zero submissions to agents or publishers. My whole focus became improving my writing in every aspect. I worked on dialogue, adverbs, characterisation, plotting and – rather belatedly in the overall process – meticulous historical research. I plumbed the depths of that stamina I had once believed I didn’t have and discovered that I possessed two particular qualities: patience and sheer stubbornness. My publishing dream had to be put on hold for a lot longer than I wanted, but I was determined that when I went for it again my book would be ready for it.

Oh, and by this stage the scope of the series had grown to six volumes! While I concentrated on editing the first two in detail, I also plotted out the other four scene by scene.

In summer 2017, I started submitting to a few agents again. But, strangely, my heart wasn’t in it. Within just a few months, I realised what I really wanted to do was self-publish my book. I announced my intention to do so in January 2018!

I knew the two most important things I could do to prepare my book for publication were to get a professional edit and a professional cover design. Averill Buchanan carried out the manuscript assessment for A Class Apart and Andrew Brown at Design for Writers designed the cover. These two steps were essential in putting a polished finish on my book.

Ever since I started my blog back in 2013, I had tried to maintain a social media presence as an author, despite being an introvert who frets over every word I write online! This year I stepped out of my comfort zone and got more involved on WordPress, Facebook and Twitter. And I met the loveliest people, from America to Australia and so many places in between. The people who inhabit the book world are encouraging, friendly and kind, and they made it much easier to put myself out there.

And then I had to put my actual book out there. It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but I started writing this story sixteen years ago and it was time to finally share my characters with the world. I officially launched A Class Apart, the first volume in my historical fiction series A Matter of Class, on 10th July 2018. What would my daydreaming teenaged self say to that?

It’s been a long road but I know the hard work has only just begun – there are five more books to go in the series. And I can’t wait to get stuck in!

(c) Susie Murphy

About A Class Apart:

It’s 1828, and Ireland is in turmoil as Irish tenants protest against their upper-class English landlords.

Nineteen-year-old Bridget Muldowney is thrilled to return to the estate in Carlow she’ll inherit when she comes of age. But since she left for Dublin seven years earlier, the tomboy has become a refined young lady, engaged to be married to a dashing English gentleman.Cormac McGovern, now a stable hand on the estate, has missed his childhood friend. He and Bridget had once been thick as thieves, running wild around the countryside together.When Bridget and Cormac meet again their friendship begins to rekindle, but it’s different now that they are adults. Bridget’s overbearing mother, determined to enforce the employer-servant boundaries, conspires with Bridget’s fiancé to keep the pair apart.
With the odds stacked against them, can Bridget and Cormac’s childhood attachment blossom into something more?

Order your copy online here.

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Susie Murphy is an Irish historical fiction author. She loves historical fiction so much that she often wishes she had been born two hundred years ago. Still, she remains grateful for many aspects of the modern age, including women’s suffrage, electric showers and pizza. A Class Apart is the first volume in Susie's A Matter of Class series, which begins in Ireland in 1828. To find out more, visit www.susiemurphywrites.com, where you can subscribe to Susie's newsletter and receive a free short story, When Class Began To Matter, which is a prequel to A Class Apart.