Welcome to a guest post from Catherine Ryan Howard, author of Distress Signals which was published on the 5th May 2016.
Synopsis: Did she leave, or was she taken?
The day Adam Dunne’s girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart. Days later, the arrival of her passport and a note that reads ‘I’m sorry – S’ sets off real alarm bells. He vows to do whatever it takes to find her.
Adam is puzzled when he connects Sarah to a cruise ship called the Celebrate – and to a woman, Estelle, who disappeared from the same ship in eerily similar circumstances almost exactly a year before. To get the answers, Adam must confront some difficult truths about his relationship with Sarah. He must do things of which he never thought himself capable. And he must try to outwit a predator who seems to have found the perfect hunting ground…
“Pacey, suspenseful and intriguing … [A] top class, page turning read. Catherine Ryan Howard is an astonishing new voice in thriller writing.” — Liz Nugent, author of 2014 IBA Crime Novel of the Year Unravelling Oliver
“An exhilarating debut thriller from a hugely talented author. Distress Signals is fast-paced, twisty and an absolute joy to read.” — Mark Edwards, #1 bestselling author of The Magpies and Follow You Home
Now over to Catherine to talk about her journey to being a published author and her inspiration for Distress Signals
Distress Signals (Corvus/Atlantic) is out now and it was a very long road to get to here – both in terms of writing the book and getting it published.
I’ve always wanted to write books, ever since I discovered that actual people were behind the books I loved as a child. (Point Horror, Christopher Pike – it is any wonder I write crime?!) My first attempt was a terrible YA novel I wrote about studying for the Leaving Cert [think Irish GCSEs] instead of studying for my own Leaving Cert, which I then made a mess of. I submitted the book to a publishing house five minutes from my own house, because I was convinced neighbourliness was what got people published. They rejected it, but with a lovely line of encouragement that I spitefully ignored. I threw the book and the letter in the bin. (Nooooooo!)
I was always writing, but never getting much further than the first couple of chapters or a patchy plot synopsis. The problem was that I was missing a crucial ingredient for a novel: a good idea for one. Then I started, accidentally, writing non-fiction. I’d moved, wholly unprepared, to Orlando, Florida, and had been keeping a diary-like Word document about my escapades ever since. When I returned to Ireland in 2008 I shaped it into a book, Mousetrapped, and then watched that get rejected too. A friend sent me a link to Lulu, the Print-on-Demand service, and – bam! – my self-publishing adventures began. I ended up self-publishing two more titles: Backpacked, the story of the trip to Central America I took on the way home from Orlando, and Self-Printed, a guide to self-publishing.
Meanwhile, I kept plugging away at my novel-writing dreams. Miraculously, I’d had an idea: a sort of corporate satire that was Weightwatchers meets The Devil Wears Prada. Even more miraculously, the idea sustained me long enough to write the whole book, and this book ended up in the hands of an editor at a major publishing house… But she didn’t like it. She liked me though, and asked if I’d go away and write something else. Something else required an idea. Those pesky things. I felt like I was back to square one.
The problem, I see it now, is that I was trying to write what I thought would get me published – not what I really wanted to write. I’d been devouring crime/thriller novels since I’d discovered Patricia Cornwell when I was 12 or 13, and Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben were my favourite authors. So why was I trying to write women’s commercial fiction, a genre I didn’t even read much of?
One day my mother brought home a copy of the Guardian’s Weekend magazine that had a cover story by Jon Ronson: ‘Lost at Sea’. It detailed the unsolved disappearance of a British girl from a Disney cruise ship back early 2011. Half-way through, Ronson mentioned something called the International Cruise Victims organisation. It stopped me dead. International cruise victims? Victims of what? And why was there so many of them that they evidently needed this group? I started Googling and was shocked at what I found. I started thinking, A cruise ship is the perfect place to get away with murder.
And then, I should write a novel about that.
I finished a draft of the book that would become Distress Signals back in summer 2014 and within two months I had (somehow!) convinced legendary crime fiction agent Jane Gregory to represent me. We worked on another draft of the book for a few months until, on Monday 23rd March 2015 (at a minute to 1pm – yes, I know the time down to the minute) she called to say we had a pre-emptive offer from Corvus/Atlantic for Distress Signals plus a follow-up. From submission to offer, only five days had passed. Jane said it was the fastest deal she’s ever done.
Now, more than a year later, the book is out in the open which is very, very scary but also exciting for me. I wrote the book I wanted to read but couldn’t find on the shelves. I hope it turns out that you want to read it too…
About the author
Catherine Ryan Howard was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1982. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida, and most recently was a social media marketer for a major publisher. She is currently studying for a BA in English at Trinity College Dublin.