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Catherine Talbot's first novel was due to be published in spring 2020 but things worked out differently ...

Grieving for my book in the middle of a pandemic

Photo: Fiach O'Neill

Photo: Fiach O'Neill

Catherine Talbot lives in Dublin with Dara and their two young children. Catherine is a recent graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, where she completed an MPhil in Creative Writing. She has had several short stories published, in Banshee Literary Journal and the anthology Still Worlds Turning.

A Good Father is her first novel and was due to be published in spring 2020.

Grieving for my book in the middle of a pandemic

I remember clearly the day the World Health Organisation re-classified Covid-19 from an epidemic to a pandemic. That’s when I knew things were looking dark, grim even.

My first novel A Good Father was due to be published in Ireland by Penguin Sandycove on the 23rd of April. The launch was set for April 29th. The first sign for me that things might not come to pass was when my children began to whisper that their school could be closing. They were already using words like lockdown, and preparing accordingly. They thought that the whole situation was exciting. In my mind, I was still considering my book launch and I had a nagging worry that a gathering of more than fifty people might not be a goer. I mentally calculated how many people I thought might attend to support me. Surely between friends and family it would surpass the dreaded fifty cut-off point? Media feedback for the book was gathering momentum, and I even had an exciting endorsement from Mr. Banville himself.

I was alarmed when I read in the ‘Bookseller’ about the cancellation of the London Book Fair where my book was due to go. This was all taking a nasty turn. Getting your book to such a prestigious event was a big deal. It was a difficult blow to take. I then found out that Penguin Random House UK had cancelled all book launches and author events from April through to June. There goes my book launch, I figured.

The time period leading up to the decision to postpone the publication of A Good Father was possibly the most stressful period in my life as a writer. It is hard to articulate how I felt. I had watched Italy crumble, people singing on balconies, the death toll mounting. I empathised hugely with those poor people. The suffering was enormous. I hated that my overriding concern was my book. Even though I knew the book would make it on to shelves eventually, it felt as though all the work I had done up until that point was for nothing.

Your first book is special. The idea of it going out into the world finally. Hours and hours of work, up all night, reading it over and over, until you have even forgotten that it was you who had written those words. You can no longer see yourself in the work, not recognising it as your own. I think that it is at this point that you realise that you may have created a piece of worth.

I went through the many different stages of grief, from denial and on to anger and then to acceptance. So many artists and writers and actors and musicians were going through awful times. I felt terribly for them all, it was such a scary time, but I also couldn’t help the sadness I felt about the impact on my own work. People were losing everything, I was losing my book. I saw it as a loss, not as simply a postponement; the books languishing in brown cardboard boxes, released officially, yes, but unavailable to purchase.

I am now no longer grieving. With a vaccine imminent, the end is in sight. An ending and a beginning. I am so excited for my book to reach the hands of readers.

A Good Father will finally be published by Penguin Sandycove on 25th February 2021.

Thank you to my publishers Penguin Sandycove for your support and to my husband Dara.

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