Calling all volunteer readers

We all have moments when we’re reading books and we think, wait what? What is the author doing? WHY DID THEY WRITE THAT? I WISH I COULD TELL THEM THAT WAS A TERRIBLE IDEA!

Now is your chance!

I need readers. I have a manuscript called Hold back the night. It’s 74K words, which is slightly on the shorter side of standard for contemporary fiction.

The elevator pitch, blurb, or whatever you want to call it, is:

New Year’s Eve 2015, Dublin, a young Australian woman is sexually assaulted by a man she sees on a daily basis, in a bar, in front of a camera. Her instinct is for silence but, as she is continually exposed to her attacker, the pressure builds, and she must learn to accept the support of those around her or risk blaming herself forever.

If you’re intrigued, I’m happy to send the first chapter so that you can see if it’s something you would like to read. I will not be offended at all if you read it and say no!

What I need:

People who like to read, who can read it in a month or so, and can make critical but useful comments. I have thicker skin than it might seem, and I need it to be good. So bring it on! I’m specifically looking for:

  • As much information as possible about scenes/paragraphs/sentences that you like or don’t like, and why
  • Any time you are confused
  • Anything that seems clichéd
  • Anything that seems unnecessary
  • Anything that you want more information about (particularly subplots or characters)
  • Anything that would make you stop reading and why (e.g. boredom)
  • Typos, clunky sentences, bad grammar (only if that’s your thing)

What you will get:

  • My endless thanks
  • Book vouchers! Because who doesn’t need more books in their life?
  • (If you actually don’t need more books in your life, this can be exchanged for something more useful)

Things to know:

  • It’s a draft, there are mistakes
  • It’s about sexual assault, right from the first chapter, and may not be for everyone
  • It’s fiction, please don’t look for yourself, people I know, or me
  • Projects are fun, and if you like reading and/or writing, something like this can be quite rewarding!

So, for an obligation-free sample of the first chapter (as the salesmen on TV say), send me an email (

Also, if you’re wondering where the title comes from, check out the haunting Ms. O’Connor.




June: the month I went crazy, made a plan, and got impatient for July



It’s been a really tough few weeks, made tougher by the fact that I was expecting to feel all kinds of wonderful.

I went to Manchester for work. When I travel for work, I get to write a lot. Hotels are inspiring, somehow. But Manchester was in lock-down and even though I was as productive as I’d hoped, something about the atmosphere crept into me. Writing the climactic scenes when your novel is about a woman recovering after a sexual assault is traumatic enough, but editing them over and over while in a city with armed police on every corner was worse.

It was only a few days and I did what I had planned – I finished a draft. I had promised myself to put the manuscript away for a month, and expected to feel elated. Instead, I felt lost, empty, and like I was abandoning it. I tried to distract myself by researching literary agents and the publishing world. There was a lot of encouraging advice around but all I could think was – I’m not ready.

I wanted to get straight back and start editing again, but I’d already entered the first three pages in a competition and paid for feedback. I felt like I couldn’t do anything much with it until I received the feedback, and then I found two more competitions I wanted to enter it in before the end of June. My month of marinating started at least one month too early.

For three weeks, I stubbornly stuck to my plan even though it was increasingly making no sense and I felt rubbish. Why would I get out of bed if I wasn’t going to write? The strangest thing is that when I’m not writing, I find it very difficult to do my normal work, or anything much. Life is low, basically. Finally, I gave myself permission to look at the manuscript again. The problem with not writing very much is it’s difficult to start again, it really is like a muscle that needs to be used. I read paragraphs and knew they needed to be changed but had no energy or inspiration to change them. It started to feel like I would never get it to the next level.

And then I realised – the competition is announced this Saturday. If, as is entirely predictable, I don’t win, chances are high that I won’t want to look at it for a while. So I panicked, and in my panic I found my motivation. The things I have been thinking about adding or changing, I suddenly need to do before Saturday and the expected slump. I work well to deadlines. So I will do what I can before Saturday, slump a bit, then hopefully receive the feedback and work on the first three pages ready to submit to the two competitions by the end of June.

Hopefully, in July, it will truly be ready to sit quietly for a month so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes. I am impatient to read it cover to cover (so to speak) and then start the process of finding beta readers (volunteers welcome!). And then, I will start using all my research and find me an agent. Who would guess I also have a full-time job?