Sing Sisters Quality Commercial Women’s Fiction
This brilliantly observed first novel from journalist Fionola Meredith is a darkly comic coming-of-age story centring on an all-women singing group, which dissects the complex dynamics of female friendship and the so-called ‘sisterhood’, as well as the madness of evangelical Christianity and the universal human need to belong to a group, a creed, a ‘tribe’.
Set in Belfast in the mid-noughties, the action is seen through the eyes of 17-year-old schoolgirl Catriona, outwardly shy but inwardly possessing all the assurance of a bright teenager as yet unscathed by the challenges of adult relationships, separation and loss. When a music teacher at school recommends a local singing group – and Catriona discovers it is run by the mother of Henry Harper, the English classmate on whom she has a huge crush – she joins the all-female choir, seeing it above all as an opportunity to get closer to Henry.
With their wild tribal chants, hymns to Mother Earth and impassioned anti-war anthems, Catriona has never met women like this before.
The ‘Sing Sisters’ are led by Alison, a bossy English academic living in Belfast, who hosts the weekly Sunday night sessions in the bohemian home she shares with Henry. There is abrasive Dubliner, Isobel, a 50-something performance artist, who is fiercely protective of Alison’s ‘Queen Bee’ status, and prides herself on being a subversive. Diffident and deferential Morag is in her late 30s and literally inseparable from her four-year-old son, Finnegan, who she continues to breast-feed. Peggy and Frances, a kindly middle-aged lesbian couple, run a sanctuary for homeless dogs, and are otherwise greatly preoccupied with their forthcoming wedding, at which the Sing Sisters will be giving a special performance. Meanwhile, whip-smart Chantelle, younger and the most streetwise of all the women, claims she is just there ‘for shits and giggles’; during breaks, she shares her sweets with Catriona – as well as her witheringly ironic take on everything the others say and do.
The established order of things is thrown into chaos by the arrival into the group of Angel McCurdy, a local celebrity and a ‘good-living’ gospel singer, who once made the big-time in Nashville but now finds herself back in Belfast. Angel is a die-hard religious fundamentalist who wears tight jeans, body-con tops and has a Bible verse tattooed across the top of her backside; no one seems to know what she’s been doing all these years since her return from America, or why she has suddenly decided to honour the Sing Sisters with her presence.
A covert battle for control of the group soon develops between the chilly Alison and the seductive, charismatic Angel. As tensions deepen, the tactics get dirtier, and Catriona learns a great deal about female friendship, group dynamics and the true nature of the ‘sisterhood’.
In a summer which she will later look back on as a golden time, Catriona also embarks on an intense first sexual relationship with Henry, her teenage crush and Alison’s only son. All the while, however, she finds herself increasingly drawn to the enigmatic Angel. But her growing infatuation blinds her to the older woman’s damaged personality, ruthless will and desperate need to be loved by everyone she encounters. Ultimately Catriona and each of the other members of the Sing Sisters will find their lives, and their illusions about female solidarity, blown apart by the manoeuvrings of Angel – who, despite her professed faith, is fully prepared to breach every moral code to get what she wants.
At the end of the book and a decade later, a disillusioned, far less assured Catriona, in exile in Dublin, looks back at what now she sees as her halcyon days. She is filled with nostalgia for the heady hedonism of that summer, her intense physical connection with Henry and their shared love of fine food when it seemed that the world was bursting with promise and the future full of exciting possibilities.
Catriona realises now that, while she came to terms with the end of her relationship with Henry some years previously, and even as she tries to accept the recent death of her beloved father, some part of her still hankers after Angel and all she represented. Her old passion for Angel is still alive, despite the vicious betrayal of their final encounter all that time ago. At the heart of Catriona’s fascination with the older woman is the very ambivalence of her feelings for her – was she a demon or a fallen angel; a damaged soul who meant well, or a selfish monster who cared nothing for the devastation she left in her wake? Catriona realises that the only way to get to the truth is to track Angel down; to confront her after all these years – even if the answers she seeks might end up destroying her.
A wickedly funny book which pokes fun at human pretention, especially that of the female sex, and forces the reader to take a closer look at some of those things modern feminism tends to regard as sacred – such as the sisterhood, female empowerment, being a mother and even the menopause. In its portrayal of a classic ‘battle of the Queen Bees’, there are shades of Gill Hornby’s The Hive and a literary Mean Girls, while the voice of the teenage narrator Catriona carries a flavour of The Secret History by Donna Tartt.
As well as humour however, there is another, more poignant dimension to the story – a deep, compassionate understanding of human weakness and the need we all have to be acknowledged and to somehow belong.
Fionola Meredith is a writer, broadcaster and commentator, based in Belfast. She contributes regular features, comment pieces and reviews to the Irish Times, and writes a weekly opinion column in the Belfast Telegraph. She is also a frequent contributor to BBC Northern Ireland current affairs and discussion programmes, debating the moral, social and political issues of the day.
Fionola’s original background is academic: she holds a PhD in English and Scholastic Philosophy from Queen’s University Belfast, and her doctoral thesis was published as a book, Experiencing the Postmetaphysical Self: between Hermeneutics and Deconstruction, by Palgrave Macmillan (2004). Sing Sisters is Fionola’s first work of fiction. Aside from her media work, Fionola has a keen interest in contemporary visual art, and for the last seven years she has served as chair of the board of directors of the Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast. She lives in Belfast with her husband, Robbie and their son and daughter, Aaron and Cait.
Author’s Home: Belfast World Rights
Peninsula Quality Commercial Women’s Fiction
Peninsula, a second novel from published author, Tanya Ravenswater (Jacques, Twenty7 Books, 2017) is a beautifully told love story with a dark secret at its heart.
When 40-something artist, Gillian returns to remote Strangford Lough in her native Northern Ireland for a break from city life in Manchester, where she has been living for nearly two decades, she is hoping to take refuge for a few weeks in the beauty of the landscape and draw comfort from the memories of the beloved parents she has recently lost. Newly divorced, she also intends to keep her visit to the area below the radar of her two older sisters, who, settled with husbands and children in a neighbouring town, would never have contemplated leaving Northern Ireland, and have never really approved of Gillian’s more free-thinking views about what makes for a fulfilling life.
The day after she arrives, Gillian is somewhat irritated to discover that she must share her space on the small farmstead near the Lough shores with David, who is renting the cottage next to hers. Although it is quickly clear that they have plenty in common – David too is in his 40s, holidaying alone, originally from County Down, and now based in Manchester – Gillian is determined that she will keep her distance from him, so as to fully enjoy her solitude as originally planned. As it turns out, she need not have worried – her temporary neighbour is just as keen to keep himself to himself.
Over the course of the next few weeks, however, their paths keep crossing, and it becomes increasingly obvious to Gillian that the purpose of David’s visit to the area is not purely recreational, and that he seems to have troubling score of his own to settle. As the narrative shifts between Gillian’s perspective and David’s, we gradually discover the sense in which each of them is haunted by old ghosts which need to be finally be laid to rest.
Despite her best efforts, a chance encounter with one of her sisters means that Gillian is once more drawn into the circle – and the long-standing conflicts – of her Northern Irish family. And when circumstances conspire to make her the unwilling witness of the careless adultery of one of her brothers-in-law, she is forced to confront some stark home truths. Will she be able to finally resolve these old, divisive issues, and in so doing, potentially transform her relationships with her sisters?
Meanwhile, David is taken to some far darker places from his own past, as he finally acknowledges the truth about the long-ago deaths of his two closest boyhood friends, Sammy and Kev, and feels compelled to seek retribution for a terrible crime the three of them witnessed as teenagers but about which they were powerless to do anything at the time.
As well as a captivating portrayal of a small, intense, inward-looking community whose difficult past still bleeds into the present, Peninsula is a hugely lyrical evocation of place, of a beautiful landscape and the sometimes difficult sense of belonging ‘home’ can engender. While we are not spared an unflinching examination of the dark, chilling underbelly of life in such an apparently beautiful place, this book is ultimately an uplifting and life-affirming read, and one which will draw the reader in from the very first page.
Tanya Ravenswater was born in County Down, Northern Ireland, in 1962. She graduated in modern languages from St Andrew’s University, trained in general nursing at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and later gained an M.A. in Counselling Studies from Keele University, Staffordshire. She has worked as a general nurse, as a bereavement counsellor and in counselling education.
Tanya writes fiction and poetry for adults and children, and has facilitated numerous writing workshops and projects within an educational context. Her first novel, Jacques, was published by TwentySeven Books/Bonnier in 2016. Her short stories have been published among shortlisted entries for the Cheshire Prize for Literature, and her poems have appeared in poetry magazines, such as Orbis and Obsessed with Pipework. Tanya won the Cheshire Prize for Literature in 2015 for her children's poem, 'Badger’.
Author’s Home: Cheshire, England World Rights
Pickle's Progress – A Novel Upscale Commercial Debut Fiction
Critically acclaimed memoirist (The Skin Above My Knee) Marcia Butler’s debut novel.
When Jacob Kalisaart commits suicide off the pedestrian walkway of the George Washington Bridge, he unwittingly delivers his girlfriend, Junie Malifatano, into the hands of the McArdle family: Stan McArdle, his wife Karen, their dog The Doodles, and Stan’s identical twin brother, Pickle McArdle. Karen and Stan take the traumatized young woman into their home, a brownstone on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Junie becomes the guileless psychological pawn for the dysfunctional family; they use her as leverage against each other. Over five weeks, long-held alliances are threatened, shocking secrets are exposed, and love never looked so strange or felt so heavenly.
Stan and Karen run an architectural firm and are “working” alcoholics. Pickle, a cop, has been waiting for two years to move into the upper two floors of the brownstone they all purchased together. But Karen has put off the renovation necessary for Pickle’s half of the building. The reader discovers that Karen and Pickle are having an affair, and Karen fears that if Pickle moves into the brownstone, their affair will necessarily end.
As this relatively simple dilemma floats on top, a more complex narrative unfolds. Stan suffers from mild obsessions: counting, color-coding, lining stuff up, and is a bit of a savant; he grapples with life in this odd manner while being duped by his brother and wife. Stan resents Junie living in the brownstone, because he feels she cannot possibly understand his eccentricities. Simultaneously, Pickle has an immediate fascination with Junie, as does Karen, each for deep seeded reasons. All their lives quickly begin to whirl around Junie, who is simply trying to recover from the trauma of the suicide of her boyfriend. She functions as the person with whom Pickle and Karen can actually “be themselves” in a vulnerable way, and without deception. Pickle and Karen are both in love with each other and in heavy competition for Junie. Stan blocks the whole thing out; or does he?
As the McArdle Clan works out their various entanglements, they act out in degrading ways: Pickle is rough and unkind to Karen and later actually impersonates Stan in an effort to mess with their architectural firm. Karen is playing every angle she can think of to keep the status quo afloat: Stan and their business, Pickle whom she loves deeply, and Junie who she sees as a surrogate sister. Karen and Stan play out their “George and Martha” relationship while attempting to get sober. Junie is the solar plexus of all their struggles.
A sometimes dark, quirky present day New York City story, with iconic architecture and the art world playing backdrop roles. Part Tom Wolfe, part Woody Allen, and part John Updike, the novel addresses the bond of identical twins, the hardships of booze, and the pitfalls of beauty. All of it is questioned, tested, and mangled, as so often happens in life.
Marcia Butler’s nationally acclaimed memoir, The Skin Above My Knee(Little Brown, 2017), was one of the Washington Post’s “top ten noteworthy moments in classical music in 2017”. She was chosen as 2017 notable debut author in 35 OVER 35. Her work has been published in Literary Hub, PANK Magazine, Psychology Today, Aspen Ideas Magazine, Catapult, Bio-Stories and others. Her first piece of flash fiction appears in the anthology One Hundred Voices from Centum Press. Marcia was a 2015 recipient of a Writer-in-Residence through Aspen Words and the Catto Shaw Foundation.
Marcia was a professional oboist for twenty-eight years until her retirement in 2008. During her musical career, she performed as a principal oboist and soloist on the most renowned of New York and international stages, with many high-profile musicians and orchestras – including pianist Andre Watts, and composer/pianist Keith Jarrett. The New York Times hailed her as a “first-rate artist”. .
Author's Home: New York City World Rights Ex US & Canada
The Listeners Book 1 in the Carla Herron series Crime Fiction
Anthony J. Quinn
Detective Carla Herron is leading the investigation into the savage murder of a respected psychotherapist whose decapitated head has been found in a forest clearing. The crime scene is devoid of any leads but a patient at the nearby Deepwell psychiatric hospital has declared responsibility for the deed in a vividly detailed confession – even though his claim is demonstrably impossible.
Dedicated and full of aspiration, Carla throws herself into the investigation. She discovers that several of the other patients on the ward have made similar confessions in the past year. Faced with secrecy, professional betrayals and cover-ups, she is soon stripped of any illusions about her capabilities. Ignoring the advice of her superiors, Herron delves into the hidden secrets of the hospital, embarking on a chilling trail through the bleak Scottish borders that winds perilously between hallucination, violent fantasy, all towards a final, deadly, twist.
The Listeners is about a woman who turns the unsettling silence of a Scottish forest into a murder investigation. Stationed amid the heather and pine-forested hills of the Borders, Detective Carla Herron is trying to find her place in the world, in her career, and in her personal life. When a patient at a local psychiatric hospital makes a false confession to murder and describes in hypnotic detail his recurring nightmare, a grisly crime scene in the middle of a nameless forest, she becomes obsessed with finding its exact location.
In the course of the novel, this mental landscape becomes a refuge for Herron, a hiding place from the pressures of her personal life, even though it links her to the darkest place imaginable, the mind of a man who fantasises about murder. Herron’s obsession is finally rewarded when she discovers a perfect fit for the patient’s nightmare in the landscape of the Southern uplands.
However, it is a trick landscape, assembled by a calculating murderer, which carries Herron far beyond her own limits as a detective and a human being, into a deepening torrent of nightmares and dangerous fantasies
Anthony J. Quinn is the critically acclaimed author of five Detective Celcius Daly crime novels, published by Head of Zeus.
Author’s Home: County Tyrone, N. Ireland
North American Rights available (UK and ROW to Head of Zeus)
Hurstbourne House Quality Commercial/Literary Fiction
A ‘Big House’ novel with a difference, which is completely made up by a writer as an escape from grief but who finds instead that his characters, led by the eccentric 92 year old Lady Nerine, have very much taken him on his own journey of self discovery and awareness.
When Gerard, returns to Ireland, mourning the death of his partner Shane, he takes a job restoring the garden of an historic house. Inspired by the atmosphere of both house and garden, he begins to write his fictional Lady Nerine story as an escape from grief.
The novel opens with Lady Nerine. This razor sharp lady lives in a drawing room, gazing out at long herbaceous borders and dreaming of earlier days. Her mother’s ghost drifts amongst the corridors and garden paths and the Greek statue of Hermes, Messenger to the Gods, casts a long shadow across her mind.
She befriends a new young gardener, Hugh because he reminds her so much of Colm, a gardener she fell in love with when she was young. She takes us back on a trip to India where she spent unhappy colonial years with her husband, the ‘beastly’ Randolph.
In the separate diaries which are interweaved with Lady Nerine’s story, we meet Gerard, the grieving writer behind these characters.
Death now stalks the pages of both diary and story.
Hugh and Lady Nerine grow ever closer, but when Hugh has an accident and has to leave, Lady Nerine is so upset at losing him that she finally caves in and relives the night at the ice house. Revelation after revelation takes place, building to the murderous climax of the book and the truth about Lady Nerine.
In a final twist, the writer has some revelations of his own to make, which shed even further light on both the story and his own journey. Although, the shadow of Hermes eventually comes for Lady Nerine, in the end she remains more real than ever to the writer, as the fictional creation who rescued him from himself and his past.
Eoin Lane’s first novel is a stunning debut, both a highly commercial work and a highly literary novel that uses the big house format to deceptively capture the reader’s attention and take us on two different yet parallel journeys of love and redemption. It reads fast and is very accessible, yet what a beautifully written and compelling a story it is.
Eoin Dolan Lane was a finalist in the 2016 Greenbean Novel Fair for In the Shadow of Hermes. He was also the fourth prize winner in the inaugural year of the RTE Frances Mac Manus Awards 1986, when James Plunkett was the head judge (The story was later published in the accompanying anthology with Mercier Press), and , in 2015, he was shortlisted for the same awards with his story When Blue Snowflakes Fall . This is his second novel. His first, Beyond the Horizon, will be published by Blackstone Publishing in 2020.
After a degree in Fashion Design, Eoin worked with Vivienne Westwood in London, before designing in New York and Seattle with spells in Hong Kong and India for Timberland and The Woolmark Company. After diversifying into public relations for the property and interior design sector in London, Eoin then won a scholarship with The National Trust and took charge of the formal gardens at Mount Stewart in County Down for eight years where he hosted Prince Charles’ visit in 2010.
Since 2011, he has run his own restaurant No14 in Greyabbey, County Down alongside his partner’s gifts and accessories shop. Eoin also exhibits oil on canvas landscape paintings with The Trinity Gallery Dublin and The Lavelle Gallery Clifden. Eoin lives in Comber, County Down with his partner Ian, their cat Shadow and Pomeranian x Terrier, Pepe.
Author Home: Comber, N. Ireland World Rights
Her Kind Quality Commercial Women’s Fiction/Historical Fiction
In the spring of 1894, a mysterious young woman arrives in a remote village in the west of Ireland. Some will love her, many will hate her, and one will fall hopelessly in love with her. But no one will be able to foresee or forestall the events and circumstances which conspire inexorably against her, leading to her downfall. Her Kind is a compellingly readable novel from a bestselling author and gifted storyteller, who engages you from the first sentence and draws you into the dark drama of a tragedy very much of its time.
In 1894, the small community of Kilkeam in West Cork is rocked by the sudden arrival of an enigmatic young woman. A widow with a small baby, Maeve O’Leary intends to make her new home in the local Lodge, to which she holds the deeds. This means that she is now landlord to Mick Kelly, a brutish bully who for years has had a lucrative sideline in the production of poitín on Maeve’s property, with the help of his co-conspirator, the crippled and embittered Jack Ganey.
Beautiful, independent and free-spirited, Maeve quickly poses a threat not only to the illicit activities of Mick and ‘Gamey Jack’, but also to many other aspects of the established order in a village whose inhabitants are laid low by poverty and crushed by the absence of any hope of a better life.
Despite her frequent acts of kindness and generosity to those in need, and her gifts as a healer, Maeve is soon regarded with suspicion by the local women. Her disregard for convention and determination to do as she pleases make her the secret object of lust amongst the men of the village; her exotic beauty, uninhibited ways and penchant for the poetry of Yeats attract the admiration of the local curate, young Father Tom, who soon finds himself rushing headlong into a secret, illicit affair with her.
Maeve’s presence quickly sets in motion an unfortunate series of events within the small community, and soon the reader can only watch helplessly as larger forces conspire against her.
Inspired by and loosely based on the true story of the 1895 burning in Tipperary of Bridget Cleary (who was set alight and burned to the death because her husband and father believed her to be a witch), Her Kind explores the myth of the witch within the folklore tradition of Ireland, and the sense in which such beliefs were used to legitimise the casting out of those who did not conform. With the lightest of touches, the author also looks at the collision of town and country, of storytelling and science, of old and new, as well as, most significantly, the unhappy lot of ordinary women in the Ireland of the late 19th century.
Her Kind is the second book in the Magpie series (the first, the bestselling Catch the Magpie, was published in 1999 – see below). However, like its prequel, it can be read as a stand-alone novel. The author plans to write a third book in the series — Annie — which will follow the continuing fortunes of Maeve’s ancestors.
Tina Pisco was born in Madrid, Spain and lived mostly in mainland Europe before moving to West Cork in 1992. She has been a professional writer for over 25 years, working across the genres of prose, poetry and drama, in fiction and non-fiction. Her two previously published bestselling novels, Only a Paper Moon and Catch the Magpie (1996 and 1999, Poolbeg Press), have been translated into five languages. An acrimonious divorce in 1996 meant that for the next decade, Tina’s focus was entirely on bringing up her four teenage children. Now that all of her daughters have grown up and left home, she has been able to return to writing again.
Tina currently lives with her partner in a big house on the hill in Clonakilty, along with two dogs and three cats.
Author’s Home: Clonakilty, Ireland World Rights
In Between Jobs Memoir
From a clearly talented writer, this book is gritty, sordid, vivid and compelling on so many levels – a very dark contemporary tale, tempered by an unexpected spiritual dimension . . .
I was 34 years old:
I am an actor. I am a son. I am a brother. I am a nephew. I am a drug addict. I am a sexual deviant. I am a lover. I am a fighter. I am good. I am bad. I am a Buddhist. I am all of these things. I am none of these things. I am everything. I am nothing.
I was making a cause. I was trying to change. Because the only thing that is constant is change. But my demon had other ideas. My demon wanted me for itself. A battle between light and dark. Between moving forwards and regressing. Between happiness and unhappiness. I was in between jobs.
Duncan Pow is an actor, originally from Scotland and now living in London. With no formal training but plenty of raw talent and formidable drive, at this early stage in his career Duncan was already a recognisable and successful television actor.
But Duncan was also a functioning addict, addicted to cocaine, success, pornography and dark, depraved sex, wherever he could get it. He was addicted to addiction itself, with its heart-breaking cycle of synthetic highs and crashing lows, where punitive purging follows increasingly sordid excess, and fresh resolve only ever ends in countless broken promises to the self.
Yet our anti-hero had lately discovered a more spiritual dimension in life and, in the tradition of Buddhism, he has ‘made a cause’: to change his way of being at the most profound level. As the endless cycle of his addict’s existence moves in ever-decreasing circles towards seemingly inevitable catastrophe, might it be that this new-found spiritual awareness will only serve to heighten Duncan’s inner turmoil, transforming an already potent cocktail of sex, drugs and addiction into a truly deadly one?
As this mesmerising, compulsive narrative hurtles towards its conclusion, the battle Duncan faces – between light and darkness, good and bad, life and death – ramps up to an almost unbearable pitch which, we know, cannot be sustained for long. In this dark night of the modern soul, the ending, when it comes is swift, brutal – and utterly unexpected.
Duncan Pow was born in 1977 in Edinburgh. He lived in Lockerbie until he was 11, when his family moved to the small medieval city of Wells, in Somerset. He is a highly successful film and TV actor, known for lead roles in Sky One’s Dream Team, Holby City (2008 - 2010), Law and Order UK, as well as Waterloo Road and The Wrong Mans (to name a few).
Author’s Home: London World Rights
Rudi General Fiction
Author’s Home: Belfast World Rights ex German Language