100,000 sales in a month for debut Irish author

Patricia Gibney took up writing when her husband died. Now her debut crime novel, The Missing Ones, is a digital bestseller

Patricia Gibney: I write in the crime genre because that is what I read

Patricia Gibney: I write in the crime genre because that is what I read


The Missing Ones, my debut crime novel featuring Lottie Parker, was published on March 16th. In the month since publication it has become a US bestseller, hitting the number 1 slot in three categories in the US Amazon Kindle charts, reaching number 6 in US overall charts. It climbed to number 2 in the UK overall Kindle charts and number 2 in three categories. It is a bestseller in Canada and Australia. It reached number one in Amazon Audible Narration. The Missing Ones has sold over 100,000 copies in the month since publication.

The Stolen Girls, book two in the series, is on pre-order and due to be published on July 6th.

Eight years ago I would have thought this impossible.

On February 11th, 2009 my world was turned upside down, inside out, and every which way you care to imagine. My strong fit, 49-year-old soldier husband was suddenly diagnosed with cancer, following investigations for a clot in his leg. Aidan died just over three months later on a beautiful sunny morning on May 31st, 2009. I could only see darkness.

We had three teenage children. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was sit them down and tell them their Daddy was going to die. The day after the funeral the two girls sat their Junior and Leaving Cert exams – and passed!

I had worked for almost 30 years with Westmeath County Council but after Aidan died I crumbled. I’d been too strong throughout his short illness and after his death I couldn’t cope any more. I succumbed to depression and had to give up my job. Two years later I eventually hauled myself back to the land of the living, helped by family and friends, and I revived an old friend – creativity.

Rekindling my love of art and writing, I self-published a children’s book, Spring Sprong Sally, which I illustrated and wrote. I didn’t sell many copies as I have no head for business but then I began my writing journey. I had always been an avid reader and about 20 years ago I had written a full-length crime novel, promptly consigning it to a bottom drawer, never again to see the light of day.

As I began to write again, I found myself immersed in the world of Lottie Parker, my lead character, my new creation, my new friend. People ask what was my inspiration for The Missing Ones and I say “life; my life and the world I live in”. So much of the stability that had grounded me throughout my life had suddenly collapsed. The death of my husband is the obvious one. But prior to that I had been a fairly religious person. I grew up in a staunch Catholic family. Attended Mass every Sunday and read the liturgy. When the scandals involving the church broke I really couldn’t understand it. When Aidan died, I definitely couldn’t understand anything. Soon I discovered that plot lines I had written years earlier were suddenly becoming all too real. Fact was overtaking the fictional world I had created and I was horrified.

I write in the crime genre because that is what I read. I love the mystery and suspense, the thrill of a good crime book. The writing journey is a tough one. Perseverance and a “never give up” attitude are essential. I trotted around with The Missing Ones rusting away in my laptop for about four years. I participated in writing courses in the Irish Writers Centre in an effort to fine-tune my skills and to take the novel to a higher level.

Due to a fear of letting The Missing Ones go, I started writing a second book, featuring Lottie Parker. It was a welcome release to get lost in a new plot with more unsavoury characters and sad victims. When eventually I sent The Missing Ones to Ger Nichol, of the Book Bureau Literary Agency, I was terrified. After a couple of weeks Ger emailed to say she loved the book and in particular my writing. I actually thought she was mixing me up with someone else. Surely she couldn’t mean my book? But she did and I signed up with her in January 2016. In May of that year, Bookouture, a London-based digital publisher, made a proposal for four books featuring Lottie Parker. Could I do it? The deadlines were incredibly tight. It was a digital publishing contract. I knew nothing about publishing, least of all the digital publishing world. I owned a Kindle and that was the extent of my knowledge. But my agent, Ger, advised me to sign. Bookouture are a new vibrant digital publisher and already had two bestselling authors, who had sold more than a million copies each. I could only dream.

The biggest lesson I have learned in the writing world to date is that writing the novel is only the beginning and in some ways it is the easiest part. The whole editing process is intense but I have embraced it and so far it is working well for me. I won’t deny that it is very hard work, but I love it and it has given me something to focus my life on. And along with my family, it gives my life a new reason for being.
The Missing Ones is available on Amazon, Kobo, Google play, iBookstore and Audible. The Stolen Girls is on pre-order and will be published on July 6th.

What is The Missing Ones about?
“The hole they dug was not deep. A white flour bag encased the little body. Three small faces watched from the window, eyes black with terror. The child in the middle spoke without turning his head. ‘I wonder which one of us will be next?’”

When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Inspector Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear there is a connection, but what is it? The trail leads Lottie to St Angela’s, a former children’s home, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal. As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger? Lottie is about to come face to face with a twisted soul who has a very warped idea of justice.

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