The route to getting her first novel published was a long and unusual one but proof that perseverance always pays off in the end
The saying goes that everyone has one novel in them, but whether or not we get it from our imagination to the pages of an actual book is another matter entirely.
This was not the case for Amy Gaffney. From a young age, shortly after reading Little Women, she realised that she could be a writer. Why not? It sounded as adventurous as being both an astronaut and a cowgirl, which were the other career paths she was mulling over at the time.
“I also wanted to be an architect, and a fashion designer, and an actress, and interior designer, and an event co-ordinator,” she elaborates. “But life is too short to try for all of those things and being a writer meant I could explore them all! There’s something magical in creating. There’s an honour in being able to take people away from their day-to-day life and zoom them right into another world. In the end writing won.”
After returning to college as a mature student, Amy received a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing but, despite having poetry published and seeing one of her short stories nominated for the Irish Book Awards, she had no luck with her novels. Even though the feedback from agents was positive, rejection emails were a regular occurrence and she started to give up hope of ever becoming a published author.
And then, her luck changed. Another author, Hazel Gaynor, spotted a tweet from an editor looking for an Irish author to write a story about gardening and sent it directly to Amy.
“Immediately I knew this was meant for me!” Amy says. “I contacted the editor and we emailed for a bit, brainstormed a little, and then I wrote the first chapter of The Moonlight Gardening Club and sent it to her. Then I waited. And waited. I tried to forget about it but I really wanted to write this book – I already knew the characters! I could see them, I could smell the sea, I could feel how the Moonlight Garden felt.”
After what felt like a lifetime, Amy finally got the email she had been waiting for – an offer of a two-book deal. She sat down and got to work.
Speaking about the process, she said: “While the idea of the book existed, it was the amazing collaboration between editors and the writer that made it a reality. The phrase it takes a village comes to mind – writing a book is difficult, and it’s always going to be better when there is someone else, who shares the same vision, who can see it more clearly due to the degree of separation they have to the creation of the work.”
As she wrote, Amy quickly realised that this story was in stark contrast from her usual writing. Not wanting to confuse her readers, she decided she would write this book and any future books in a similar style under the pseudonym Rosie Hannigan.
“Rosie Hannigan writes uplifting emotional stories with a realism that’s quite different from my other work,” she muses. “My other novels have darker themes, as does some of my poetry and I wanted to make sure that the reader of one genre wouldn’t pick up a book of a different genre and feel let down, so it made sense to choose a pen name.”
Amy also writes Christmas romance under the name Cici Maxwell with a collective of other shortlisted authors called The Christmas Collective. “It’s kind of nice to be Amy one minute, then Cici, and Rosie the next. Maybe that stems from my desire to be an actress too!”
While she is a big fan of social media, she is adamant that it’s important to decide on how you want to use it before you become too involved. For her, it was a tool for education and making connections.
“When I joined Twitter over a decade ago it was with the express intention of learning more about the publishing industry and writing. This led me to discovering local authors and going to book launches and writing events. What I learned over that time was invaluable – the information was almost absorbed by osmosis.
“Writing is a solitary occupation, mostly, so being able to connect with people in publishing, with readers, and with friends through social media offers a relief from the solitude.”
Amy’s advice for up-and-coming writers
- Choose a genre and know it well because your readers know the genre inside out
- Write for your reader. It’s so important to give a little of what the reader expects while also trying to keep the element of surprise fresh
- Write daily, if you can. The practice of writing regularly will sharpen your writing skills and when the time does come, you will be more than ready to show the world how talented you are.
- Read all the time!
The Moonlight Gardening Club by Rosie Hannigan is published by Avon and available to buy now.