I had written just three chapters of my debut novel, With My Lazy Eye, when I sent them away to a handful of Irish publishers and literary agents. I’d spent months labouring over those opening chapters so they were quite polished and tight and I was hungry for some feedback. I also had almost no idea of what the rest of the novel would be about, was utterly lacking in self confidence and discipline and I was lazy.
To my amazement (and terror) the editor-in-chief of a renowned Irish publishers phoned me three days later to say that he loved what I’d submitted and asked if he could see the rest of it. He was quite disappointed when I confessed that the rest of it didn’t yet exist but he offered me a small advance and it was his belief and the pure pressure of a deadline that made the difference between my finishing my first novel and never having the courage or discipline to do so.
I took unpaid leave from my job in the civil service to get it finished and went through endless internal battles and self doubt while I worked on it.
Some people struggle through their lives trying to prove to the world that they can do something that people say they can’t. I had the opposite problem — the weight of expectation from family and friends who believed in me and were endlessly supportive and who I couldn’t bare to disappoint.
With My Lazy Eye went on to win a large prize, Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards and was shortlisted as one of the books of the decade. It resulted in my getting a two book deal with Quercus in London which meant that I could take a career break and write full time for the first time in my life.
The Playground by Julia Kelly is out now.