Irish girl, writer and mummy to a four-legged family.
That about sums it up if you want the brief version. If you want the long version, read on...
Where in the world?
I was born, raised and live in the north of Ireland. No matter where I roam or how long I'm away on holiday or for work, this wee island will always be home. For the last couple of decades I've been in the beautiful lake-land county of Fermanagh, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by over a hundred acres of forestry. It's quiet, tranquil and sparsely populated. A great place to write!
The early years.
I've been having conversations with the people in my head from the age of three. Since I sucked at Math, the intricacies of Science were a mystery to me, and my body wasn't designed for sport, English was my favorite subject at school. I dabbled in poetry and tried some lyric writing along the way, but my first love was and still is, storytelling. In my teens, I discovered romance novels and devoured them and by eighteen, I was determined to write for Mills & Boon. Of course, in order to do that, I had to finish and submit a book...
Any writer will tell you, neither of those things are easy, particularly if you've never done them before. And at eighteen, I still had a lot to learn about life and love. So, I went out into the world, worked hard, played hard, fell in love, got my heart broken, shed numerous tears and frequently laughed until my ribs hurt. I had numerous careers, too, the longest of which was in the music business in retail, sales, marketing and promotion. Skills I hoped would serve me well in the future.
The turning point.
Along the way, I met the love of my life: An incredibly handsome, character-filled Irish Draught named Charlie who taught me some of the most important lessons in life, two of which were to love what you do and never give up when you want something. When I took a fall off another horse, Charlie was my physiotherapist and, when I had a bad bout of depression, he was the reason I got out of bed every day. Everything I did, I did for him and he repaid me a thousand times over. It was during one of the countless hacks through the countryside with him when I started thinking about a story I began at eighteen. I could remember the gist of it and reckoned I could tear it apart to make it better. And I figured, what the heck? Life's too short not to go out there and grab your dreams, so I sat down at a keyboard and started writing.
The result was my first complete manuscript, my first submission to Mills & Boon, my first sale and my first award. Not a bad start!
Life as a writer.
I spent a little over a decade writing for Harlequin Mills & Boon, published twenty-three books and two short stories with them and will forever be grateful for all the support, advice and opportunities I was given there. Thanks to the lessons I learned from those stories, the editors I worked with and the fabulous romance writing community I became part of online, I made friends all over the world and ticked several International destinations off my travel bucket list. It was honestly one of the best times of my life.
But what happened in the music industry when I worked there had already started in the publishing world. The landscape was rapidly changing at a time when I was struggling to cope with personal upheavals and depression and when combined with burn-out, it caused a serious bout of writers block. After a long break, I battled through it and started writing again. But when I did, the characters who called to me weren't the same as the ones I used to write and they frequently had more to say, which added to the word-count. Then the line I wrote for closed and I was forced to think long and hard about what I wanted to do next. And I'm not a big fan of change, so it was pretty scary!
After much deliberation, soul-searching and hours upon hours of research, I decided the best path for me was self-publishing. There, I would have the freedom to write what I wanted to write, regardless of the characters and stories that called to me. I could also set my own deadlines, would have complete control over things like covers/back-blurbs and promotion/marketing, the latter utilizing the skills I'd honed back in the day. It was going to be amazing! But it wasn't at the start. It was a really steep learning curve.
A rocky re-start.
Since I'm among friends here, I can be honest and say, with hindsight, I now know I panicked with my first Indie release. I was afraid I might never finish another book. I struggled to retrain my mind not to think in terms of a category/series romance's word-count, content and characters and rewrote the darn thing dozens of times. Then I stressed about being forgotten because I hadn't released anything new for a while, which in turn pushed me to ignore all the advice I'd been given so I could get the book on the market as soon as possible. It was a mistake. A big one. And the book floundered. So, I was determined to be better prepared with the next one. I planned, organized and strategized and gave myself time to prioritize what mattered most: Writing. Then an author friend of mine gave me what she referred to as the 'come to Jesus' talk regarding my back catalogue, regaining rights to books, and the importance of having a solid actionable business plan for the next chapter of my career.
In many ways, it feels like I'm starting all over again. But I'm more optimistic than I've been in a very long time, have found joy and excitement in what I am doing again. So, hopefully it's a case of third time lucky. I guess time will tell!
Baby steps have brought me here. Some of them stumbling. Sometimes I ran and got somewhere new with surprising speed. At others, I fell flat on my face and had to dust myself off, get back up, and get on with it. Kind of a metaphor for life, isn't it? What matters most is I'm still here, doing what I love, and will continue to for as long as I can. Along with close family and good friends, a roof over our head and food on the table, I don't think we can ask for much more than that. So, from now on, I'm looking at everything else writing-wise as the icing on a cake.
Thank you for joining me on this adventure!