When you hear of a debut crime novelist by the name of Jax Miller, to be published by Harper Collins after a six-figure deal, rural Ireland is not something that might immediately spring to mind.
But that’s the story behind Freedom’s Child, because Miller is a pseudonym for 28-year-old American-born Co Meath resident Aine O Domhnaill.
Freedom’s Child centres on the story of a woman who has spent 18 years under a witness protection programme and embarks on a search for the daughter she gave birth to in prison and knew for all of two minutes and 17 seconds, and who has now mysteriously disappeared.
While the circuitous route to publication is usually the norm – witness Donal Ryan’s 47 rejection slips and Eimear McBride’s nine-year itch – the news release for the Miller announcement outlines the phenomenal speed at which this particular deal was done, with Miller/O’Domhnaill signed on a two-book deal within days of finishing her book.
I finished my novel on Tuesday, Simon [Trewin, agent at WME] read it on Wednesday, signed me on Thursday and sent it to Kate Elton [editor at HarperFiction] on Friday. The deal was finalised overnight on Monday and I hope I don’t wake up tomorrow and find it was all a dream.
I couldn’t have been more astonished when I discovered that this incredibly accomplished, meaty thriller was a debut novel by a 28-year-old. Freedom is one of those characters you just fall in love with … I am hugely thrilled to have acquired two novels by this amazing new talent for the HarperFiction list.
The author’s route into the world of writing is also intriguing, with a counsellor in the Deep South proving the catalyst.
In an interview last year with writing.ie, following her nomination for the Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger prize for unpublished crime writers, O Domhnaill said:
It’s a funny story, really. Five years ago I was living down in the southern states in America, and I began to see a counselor due to some rough patches I was facing. Now, here was a very conservative, Kentucky bred, Born-Again Christian who would cringe over every F-word I’d utter in his office – and there were quite a few. So he told me to write. And I hated it. But for whatever reason, I liked the shock value, and so I came back with a violent, action packed piece of work sprinkled with profanity, just to see his reaction.
While you might think that that the Debut Dagger nod and Harper deal might logically be connected to the same piece of work, it appears not – the nomination came for the opening chapters of The Assassin’s Keeper, a chronologically-reversed futuristic trilogy set in New York. It’s not hard to see why HarperFiction believe they’ve just unearthed a chunk of solid gold.
The only slightly disappointing note about all of this is that we will all need to expel plenty of bated breath before the book that caused such a kerfuffle finally hits the shelves – Freedom’s Child will be published in the summer of 2015.