Caramel Hearts is Published!

caramel latest with QU (2)

Caramel Hearts – published today!!!

I can hardly believe it; today is publication day for Caramel Hearts, which means that my second book is hitting the shelves! It is separate to the trilogy and for an older audience, so here’s a bit of info before I tell you how it all happened …

Can a book full of secrets unlock the past?

Liv Bloom’s life is even more complicated than that of your average fourteen-year-old: her father walked out on the family when she was young, her mother is in a recovery centre for alcoholics, and her older sister is struggling to step into Mum’s shoes. The only person she can turn to is her best friend Sarah, who gets out of scrapes at school and is a constant source of advice and companionship. One day Liv discovers a book of recipes written in her mum’s handwriting, which sets her off on a journey towards self-discovery and reconciliation – but a theft, a love rivalry and a school bully are just some of the many obstacles on the way.

Structured around real cake recipes, Caramel Hearts is a coming-of-age novel about love, disappointment and hope, and discovering the true value of friends and family, no matter how dysfunctional they are.

The journey of this book was fraught with uncertainty. I wrote it because my first book hadn’t been signed, and I needed to write something else. Something that wasn’t like my rejected book – not fantasy, or middle grade, or anything like The Book of Learning! I’d put so much into that first book and needed to move into a different headspace.

There was no guarantee that Caramel Hearts would be any good, and even though I now had a wonderfully supportive agent, the way forward felt pretty bleak at times. But I knew that being an author was what I really, really wanted and what I really, really cared about, so there was no way I was giving up. The decision to shelve The Book of Learning and start all over again was a difficult one, but a new book gave me something to concentrate and focus on, rather than the recent rejections.

When I started typing the first sentence of Caramel Hearts, did I believe it was ever going to get published? I hoped so, but the knockbacks – all part of the process but still difficult to deal with, especially in the early days – can be distracting, especially when you’re getting good feedback but still no deal. And yet, despite the upset and frustration, I couldn’t not write.

It was at this point, at this moment of realisation that I decided to stop focusing on the end result, on getting that elusive book deal, and instead, on enjoying the process. Coincidentally, this is also when things really began to fall into place. I found that I enjoyed turning up to my desk every day much more when I wasn’t worrying about whether I was good enough or ever going to be good enough. The words flowed. The edits flowed.

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Plenty of *research* needed! #Baking #Cakes

It took a year to write and edit Caramel Hearts with the help of my agent. But when it went on submission, it felt different to last time; instead of excitement, I felt fear. What if I got close to getting signed again but it still didn’t happen?

I remember asking myself – OK, if you truly want this, how many books are you willing to write that will be potentially never be published? When will you stop?

The answer was: I would write as many books as needed and I’d never stop. I had written a whole other book after the first one was rejected, and I would do it again. And again.

And so, that’s exactly what I did. I sat and wrote another first draft of a different story, to distract myself and continue improving my craft. I also reread my The Book of Learning manuscript and still felt it was good enough. I removed the word ‘very’ as a token gesture and it went back out on submission. The fear doubled.

It turns out that I needn’t have worried. A month later, The Book of Learning was signed in a three-book deal and a couple of months after that, Caramel Hearts was also signed. Two book deals within six months, four books in total signed and three of those books to be published in my first year as an author – a dream come true!

And so, here we are: publication day of my second book, Caramel Hearts. It’s a change in age group and genre, but a book I really believe in and I hope you enjoy it.

I’ll be celebrating my ‘book birthday’ all day long on twitter and facebook, so please do join me – there’ll be a few chances to win copies of the book too, so spread the word.

Hope to see you there! Thank you for celebrating my book birthday with me! 🙂 

Cover Reveal: Caramel Hearts

I’m delighted to reveal the cover of my next book, Caramel Hearts; it’s my young adult debut, published by Alma Books in March 2016.

caramel latest with QU (2)

This novel is about a girl with an alcoholic mum – there are real cake recipes throughout, and given the name, I was terrified the cover would end up pink, glittery and full of cupcakes. This wouldn’t have suited suited the story, characters, or the author – but there’s an art and agenda to cover design, often driven by sales, so sometimes the story and the cover don’t match.

Thankfully, I’m delighted with this design by Jem Butcher – I hope you love it as much as I do!

Brain splurge & a burning question…

It’s been quiet on the blogging front because it’s been hectic – so apologies to all.

Schull, West Cork

View from near my home

It ended up easier than I expected to adjust to the cold weather in Ireland after my Cambodia trip; partly because my husband is a great hunter gatherer and has us stockpiled with fuel for this winter and next, but also because – despite the constant hail stone – there have been plenty of blue skies. And everything feels easier when there’s a blue sky.

So, what have I been up to? Actually, quite a bit. In the last two weeks, I’ve completed and delivered the final edits of The Book of Learning (Nine Lives Trilogy Book 1), so next time I see it, it’ll be a proof copy (which means it’s almost a real book).

There’s been plenty of excitement while my cover was being designed – and bang! Now I have a cover! I absolutely love everything about it, and I’ll let you see it as soon as I can, I promise.

I’ve also been accepted on a three-week writers retreat in France later in the year, invited to participate in an exciting new Cork publication (more details to follow) and invited to speak on a panel in Cork on April 25th (again, more info later).

And, breathe…

When it comes to writing books, there’s no rest for the wicked. When you get signed up for a trilogy, there’s lots of work involved in kicking the first book into shape and then…you have to write Book 2! Aargh! Well, I’m happy to report, the day after Book 1 was delivered, I had a rest, then I glued my butt to the chair and started on Book 2.

Three days in and 8000 words have magically appeared on the page – and I’m delighted, because I was starting to get a little scared.

I always write my first drafts completely free form (I think Niamh Boyce uses this approach too, amongst others). Any planning kills the excitement for me and anyway, it’s the only time you get to play before the editing begins. I enjoy editing, but I like the freedom of the first draft. It’s exhilarating and I look forward to the exploration, watching the ideas form a story.

As everyone knows, writing doesn’t pay the bills, so the work front – I don’t include writing as work – has been hectic too. As well as my usual freelancing gigs, I’ve taken on more Reader Reports for the Inkwell Group, as well as Blogging and Beyond courses. I love both of these roles.

Editing or commenting on someone else’s work is useful for your own; it helps you to focus as you write, naturally avoiding mistakes you would make earlier in your career. And as we all need the support of other writers as we stumble our way along, it’s great to know you’re also helping by providing some support in return.

It’s also rewarding to watch people pick up on social media learn to love it, and then make it work for them. Blogging has opened many doors for me, and I hope it does the same for my students.

green fingered writer

The obligatory dog photo

But you’ll be pleased to know, it hasn’t all been work. We’ve managed to get our potatoes in the ground now – the ridges were waiting for ages but it was too wet – and I’ve been clearing other vegetable beds. In the hailstone. Which was pretty refreshing, actually.

There have been endless dog walks and library visits, and I’ve been watching a plethora of westerns (I love westerns) as well as enjoying some fantastic reads/rereads…

I was completely surprised by The Miniaturist and I’ve loved reconnecting with The General in the Piers Torday trilogy. And if, like me (and Barbara Scully, it seems) you’re obsessed with Antarctica, I’d highly recommend Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins by Gavin Francis.

The online world has been lots of fun lately too, with an incredible buzz and energy around the #YAie & MiddleGradeStrikeBack chats on twitter. There’s a thriving community of writers for children and Young Adults here, and it feels like there’s change – and plenty of excitement – in the air. I feel so pleased to be a part of it, and can’t wait to see how things develop. The World Book Day TeenFest tonight looks interesting – see you there?

And so, now I’ve finally managed to get the blog updated with a brain splurge of drivel that won’t matter to anyone but me, I’d better get back to it.

But I’ll leave you with my burning question…

Hands up, who loves westerns? 🙂