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Behind the Bestseller: what makes a book a success? Bestselling author Sam Blake talks to authors, editors, publicists and agents to find out exactly what that magic ingredient is. This week, Sam Blake chats to Catherine Ryan Howard, an internationally bestselling crime writer from Cork.
Catherine’s debut thriller, Distress Signals (2016) was an Irish Times and USA Today bestseller. It was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey/New Blood Dagger and the Books Are My Bag Irish Crime Novel of the Year, and it won Best Mystery at the Independent Press Awards (USA). Pre-publication, it was optioned for television by Jet Stone Media and it has since been translated into five other languages, including Swedish, Chinese and Japanese.
Catherine’s second thriller, The Liar’s Girl, was a finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Novel, previously won by Stephen King, Ian Rankin and Raymond Chandler, making her only the second ever Irish woman to be nominated for this award. The Irish Independent said ‘solid plotting … propels The Liar’s Girl forward at a terrific pace. In this, only her second book, Catherine Ryan Howard has certainly pulled off, with remarkable confidence, the notoriously difficult task of surpassing a debut novel that was met with critical acclaim and garlanded with awards.’ It was named a Best Book of 2018 by the Irish Independent and Crime Time (UK) and a Best Audiobook of 2018 by Library Journal (USA). In May 2019, it was included in The Guardian’s list of 50 Great Thrillers by Women written since 1945. The Liar’s Girl has been translated into five other languages, including Polish, Norwegian and German.
Catherine’s third novel, Rewind, is out now in the UK/Ireland and North America. The Irish Times called it ‘a top-class thriller, fast-paced and vividly rendered … [which] confirms its author as one of Irish crime writing’s leading lights,’ while the UK’s Daily Mail said ‘[the] third novel from the precociously talented Howard … confirms her position as a major new talent in thriller writing.’ Rewind entered the Irish Original Fiction bestseller chart at no.2 and was shortlisted for the Crime Fiction Book of the Year at the 2019 Irish Book Awards.
In March 2019, it was announced that Catherine had signed a major new deal with Blackstone Publishing that will see her publish a further six books in North America.
Catherine Ryan Howard began her writing career self-publishing non-fiction – a memoir, Mousetrapped, about her year spent working for Disney. She has delivered workshops on the subject for Faber Academy, the Irish Writers’ Centre and Guardian Masterclasses, among others. But her goal was always to write crime fiction and to get published. Catherine was once obsessed with the idea of becoming a BSL4 virologist and she still hopes to be a NASA astronaut when she grows up. Catherine graduated with a BA in English Studies from Trinity College Dublin in May 2018.
In a fascinating discussion, Sam chats to Catherine about the inspiration for Distress Signals, what a high concept novel really is and why that gives a book huge opportunity. Her second novel The Liar’s Girl began as a line she saw in a magazine, but creating a story from that was a challenge in itself. Find out how Catherine writes, where she gets her ideas from and what she thinks of twists in a story. Find out too, what she’s working on next.
Listen to all the Behind the Bestseller episodes here