Hear about the Irish twentysomething who looks like becoming a global phenomenon?

Jax Miller / Aine O Domhnaill

Aine O Domhnaill, a.k.a. Jax Miller (Picture credit: writing.ie)

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.

She said:

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.

Elton added:

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last year with writing.ie, following her nomination for the Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger prize for unpublished crime writers, O Domhnaill said: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.

Read: writing.ie interview with Aine O Domhnaill

Follow Jax Miller on Twitter

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James Joyce the man, as observed by his interviewer in Paris 1922

James Joyce portrait by Djuna Barnes, 1922

I stumbled across this rare and uplifting James Joyce interview, as signposted by Maria Popova over on the wonderful Brain Pickings on St Patrick’s Day, this week.

Writers of a certain era, before the mass-marketisation of journalism, are destined to be judged almost exclusively by their published works, so we can be hugely grateful that Djuna Barnes not only had the inclination to record Joyce through the medium of [21st century speak alert] the “longform interview”, but that she also found a willing editor/platform combination in Frank Crowninshield and Vanity Fair .

Barnes, who in the words of Popova was writing literary journalism decades before the great Gay Talese pioneered it, provides an exceptional portrait – in words and pictures – of Joyce in 1922, soon afterthe publication of Ulysses.

Barnes got to know Joyce over the course of four months in Paris, during which they “talked of death, of rats, of horses, of the sea; languages, climates and offerings. Of artists and of Ireland.”

And in the space of a few minutes through her omniscient eyes and omnipotent prose we find ourselves closer to a picture of Joyce the man than any in-depth reading of his work can provide – right down to the typically Irish beard-redness.

On Ulysses:

The pity is, the public will demand and find a moral in my book — or worse, they may take it in some more serious way, and on the honor of a gentleman, there is not one single serious line in it.

They are all there, the great talkers, them and the things they forgot. In Ulysses I have recorded, simultaneously, what a man says, sees, thinks, and what such seeing, thinking, saying does to what you Freudians call the subconscious.

On saintly superstition:

“Once he was reading out of the book of saints (he is never without it) and muttering to himself that this particular day’s saint was “a devil of a fellow for bringing on the rain, and we wanting to go for a stroll.”

And perhaps the most concise and telling artist’s manifesto of them all:

I will not serve that which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church; and I will try to express myself in my art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use: silence, exile, and cunning.

You can read the Brain Pickings piece here

Find Interviews by Djuna Barnes on Amazon here

Indie publishers, big players and overnight successes in the story of Eimear McBride

a-girl-is-a-half-formed-thingIt seems to be, increasingly, the way things are going in the post-internet, post-digital world: small, independent publisher unearths a hidden gem from a previously unheralded author, prizes are claimed and then one of the big hitters comes on board as a joint-publisher of the paperback.

Continue reading “Indie publishers, big players and overnight successes in the story of Eimear McBride”