Slushpile Success

Naomi Colthurst 2If you keep an eye on our Twitter account, you might have read that we acquired a book called SHIVER THE WHOLE NIGHT THROUGH recently. This acquisition was special for two reasons: 1) It was my first acquisition for Hot Key and 2) we found SHIVER and its marvellously talented author Darragh McManus amongst our enquiries account submissions (affectionately known as ‘the slushpile’).

We receive hundreds of submissions a year, so as you can imagine, it can take us a long time to read and get back to people on them. Because we receive so many manuscripts (as well as agented ones too!) sometimes it can begin to feel like you’ve already read this story twice, or maybe the story is great but the voice isn’t quite right… or sometimes it’s both problems… and then you begin to feel a bit despairing – like you’ll never find that diamond in the rough that you’re sure must be lurking there somewhere…

But then, I came across SHIVER.

Now it’s probably worth saying that Darragh had actually already submitted something into the enquiries account, and I had rejected it – I liked his voice and thought he had a lot of potential, but I just felt the story wasn’t quite right for us at the time. He then asked if he could submit something else he had up his sleeve, and I said sure. The thing up his sleeve was SHIVER, and I immediately knew it was something very different, and very special.

I’m drawn to darker stories, and this one was a stunner: a local beauty turns up dead the morning after our hero Aidan has tried and failed to throw himself off a bridge. Their small Irish town assumes Sláine’s death must be suicide, albeit a weird one (who would drag themselves into the middle of the woods to apparently freeze theirself to death?) but Aidan’s not so sure. Investigating Sláine’s death gives him a new lease of life – but then one night, things go from weird to worse. He discovers a message scratched in ice on his bedroom window: I DIDN’T KILL MYSELF. But if Sláine didn’t end her life… who did?

So yes, pretty dark. But it has all the things I love in a story – grit, amazing characterisation (you won’t forget Aidan in a hurry), mystery and a surprising romance. Most importantly though, Darragh’s voice is unique and truly refreshing – above all, it was his writing that made me sit up and take notice that day I decided to get in touch – so, writers of the world take note: Story is important, but at the end of the day it’s your writing and your style that will get you noticed. Good luck – and keep trying!

– Naomi

You can follow Darragh on Twitter here – he promises to be nice: