At the time, Amy had two children under three. Now, Fionn is aged seven and Ciara is six. Life has even been busier this past year, with home-schooling thrown into the mix. And Amy has managed to get a three-book deal from Poolbeg.
Having written a lot of fiction over the years, she says that when Ciara started school in 2019, she decided to pull out all the stuff she had written to see if there was anything that could be published.
“I found an old laptop. When I eventually remembered the password, I found all this stuff. I sent a short story I’d written to Woman’s Way and it got published. That was a real boost.”
Amy came across a chapter of a novel she had written and realised that she really liked the main character.
“With the children at school, I had time on my hands and more headspace. I decided to give writing a go. I’m due back to work in the not-too-distant future. It was now or never so I started writing.”
By the time the first lockdown occurred, Amy had written the bones of a novel, combining it with home-schooling.
She had to revise what she had written and now,, a thriller set in Cork, is published by Poolbeg and is available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.
The joy of writing a story that resonates with a reader is something that Amy experienced with her daughter. Ciara was three when she tasted a chocolate bar that had peanuts in it.
“I remember asking Ciara if this was her first time having peanuts. She said she didn’t like the peanuts as they were hurting her throat.
“It just happened really quickly with Ciara going into anaphylactic shock. I had worked in a chemist when I was at college so I knew she was having an allergic reaction. We got to the GP on time.
“Now, Ciara has a consultant. She has two Epipens at school, two with her all the time, and another set with us. We have to have a complete avoidance of peanuts. It means sticking to restaurants we know and trust.
“All Ciara’s classmates and friends are very aware. It’s cute the way they and her brother mind her. If she’s going to a party, I give her a party bag or my own cake.”
Being a keen reader, Ciara wanted a book that tells the story of a little girl with a peanut allergy. Amy searched high and low for such a book and her local librarian at Carrigaline library was very helpful, ordering her books dealing with the subject. But Ciara wasn’t satisfied. So Amy decided to write a story featuring a girl who has to avoid peanuts.
“Ciara loved what I wrote. It was such a lovely feeling to watch her enjoy the story. I read it many times to her.”
It whetted Amy’s appetite to write even more.
Her debut novel’s main character is Anna Clarke, a civilian analyst working in the fictional Lee Garda Station in Cork. A character called David Gallagher, from a criminal family, is shot dead. Kate, an old school friend of Anna’s, is suspected and has gone to ground. Anna cannot believe that Kate would commit such a crime and feels she may have acted in self-defence. Their paths merge. Anna realises she has to step back.
The sub-plot of the novel is the tenth anniversary of the disappearance of Anna’s parents. They were driving to Dublin. Their car crashed but the couple was never found. An extensive search of missing persons was carried out. Then it all died down. Anna was 16 at the time. She wants to resume the search and hire a private investigator with the backing of her brother.
“The book is very plot-driven. It turns out that David Gallagher had contacted a German gang. He had offered to sell them something very valuable.
“Because he is dead, the German gang take David’s brother, John, hostage. So you have the father of the family, Tom, trying to grieve his dead son. The Germans try to pressurise the father into finding out what David was selling. All the threads come together in the end. Anna has inserted herself into this strand of the story without even knowing it.”
is part of a trilogy, and Amy has already completed the second book in the series.
“Initially, the first book is available online only or in paperback via Amazon. I can understand the decision not to put it in book stores because, as a debut author, it might be hard to get people to buy it off the shelf. I’m hoping the next two books will be available in book stores.”
Amy writes in her kitchen.
As Poolbeg accepts manuscripts from writers who don’t have an agent, Amy sent off the first three chapters ofto the publishing house.
“Paula Campbell then asked me to send on the rest of the book. That was last July. By September, I was offered the book deal.”
The first person Amy shows her writing to is her husband, Kevin.
“He’s a great person to find a plot hole. He has a forensic mind. He’ll be reading my second book as well. I’ll be there with my notebook and pen, writing down his recommendations.”
Amy is glad she has a project to get her through lockdowns.
“Even if I was only writing for an hour or two in the evenings, at least I had that to look forward to.”
And what a rewarding activity Amy has rediscovered.