Kerrygold. Saoirse Ronan. Rory McIlroy. Proud and distinctly Irish, despite claims by our near cousins to the contrary.
The first guest on my new feature series #Reid2Write is a self-publishing phenomenon from Cork, Ireland. Her first foray into self-publishing was back in 2010 with the release of Mousetrapped – a hilarious account of her adventures in Orlando, Florida working at a hotel in Walt Disney World.
Coupled with a blog, brimming with essential content for self-publishers, my guest – Catherine Ryan Howard has regularly featured in National Press, and conducted workshops in the U.K. and Ireland, to teach others how to follow their writing dreams.
Her hard work over the years finally paid off. In 2015 she was signed by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books. She is currently studying a BA in English Literature in Trinity College Dublin, and with the small matter of her debut novel – DISTRESS SIGNALS – released on May 5th, she will no doubt be extremely busy in the coming months.
Which, is why I’m so grateful she opened up a space in her calendar to speak with us today.
First things first, Catherine – tell us what your debut novel DISTRESS SIGNALS is about.
Distress Signals tells the story of Adam whose girlfriend of ten years, Sarah, disappears while on a business trip in Barcelona, leaving lots of secrets behind. Days later her passport and a handwritten note that says “I’m sorry” arrives at the home they share, and the logo on it helps lead Adam to a cruise ship called the Celebrate where Sarah might have last been seen alive.
Adam then meets Peter: a man whose wife also disappeared from ‘the Celebrate’ a year before – and who also received a passport and an identical note. They team up to try to find out what happened to the women they love, putting them on a collision course with a predator who may have found the perfect hunting ground. (Cue dramatic music!)
Your highly successful Self-Printed book, and dozens of (FREE!) articles on your blog continue to attract new readers who have similar aspirations to yourself of making a career out of their passion. With lower barriers of entry to the marketplace, do you think it’s still realistic to use self-publishing as a stepping stone into the traditional model?
I don’t think it was ever realistic to use self-publishing as a stepping stone into the traditional model because for me, they’re two entirely different things. I didn’t self-publish in the hope that someone would spot me and offer me a deal – I self-published in an entirely different genre (non-fiction) to the one I was trying to get published in (fiction) so I could keep myself in ink cartridges and Starbucks while I worked on my novel.
It really just depends on what you want. For some books, self-publishing is best. But I believe that all things being equal, you cannot recreate all the things a major publishing house will do to publish and promote a work of commercial fiction.
And a lot of the success of a self-publishing project comes down to the author and how much they know about the book selling business, how much time and energy they put in, etc. so there are so many variables. But there is one thing both options have in common: there are no guarantees.
The nice thing about self-publishing is that you have total control, and if it goes well you can pat yourself on the back and say you did that all by yourself. Ideally I think authors should have a foot in both camps.
How important of a role did social media play in promoting yourself, especially in the early stages of your writing career? Can you give an example?
Nothing else was as important. If it wasn’t for Twitter, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It allowed me to connect with readers all over the world and to make real writing friends, network, etc. all from my little bedroom in Cork.
How do you manage your time to write/promote/blog/juggle social media/study etc?
I don’t really! I’m all over the place. But I kind of like it that way. And I don’t feel like I can get away with saying “there aren’t enough hours in the day!” when I’ve already seen all of Making a Murderer – TWICE.
Your blog and previous books have a lighter, comedy tone which resonate with a lot of your audience, although DISTRESS SIGNALS is a crime/thriller. Are you planning to publish solely to that genre, and do you think it’s a bad idea to branch into others?
I wouldn’t really say that I write in two different genres – I write two entirely different things. For me, two different genres would be like romance and thrillers, but my line is drawn between fiction and non-fiction. The first non-fiction (Mousetrapped) was an accident, just because my experiences in Orlando were begging to be written about and I hadn’t had any idea that I loved enough to sustain me the length of a novel (yet).
Then Backpacked was a natural follow-up to that. Self-Printed was the obligatory “How to” that came afterwards, and I did that because I knew there was a demand for it and it was difficult for anyone to work their way chronologically through all the blog posts I had by then.
But fiction is what I’ve always wanted to write, and crime/thrillers is what I’ve always read. It’s my favourite genre by far. Patricia Cornwell was my introduction to it years ago (back when I was in primary school and way too young to be reading Patricia Cornwell!) and now Michael Connelly is my man.
It was always my goal to write a thriller, and it’s what I’ll continue to do so long as they’ll let me. The non-fiction was fun, but I feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing.
Catherine Ryan Howard can be found on the following channels:
Further Reading – Archive of #Reid2Write Interviews