Shelf Media hosts the annual Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition for best self-published or independently published book. In addition to prizes, the winner, finalists, long-listed, and more than 100 notable books from the competition are featured in the December/January issue of Shelf Unbound.
It is the wrong time to get sick. Speeding down the highway on the way to work, her two little girls sleeping in the back seat, medical resident Claire Rawlings doesn’t have time for the nausea overtaking her. But as the world tilts sideways, she pulls into a gas station, runs to the bathroom, and passes out. When she wakes up minutes later, her car – and her daughters – are gone.
The police have no leads, and the weight of guilt presses down on Claire as each hour passes with no trace of her girls. All she has to hold on to are her strained marriage, a potentially unreliable witness who emerges days later, and the desperate but unquenchable belief that her daughters are out there somewhere.
About The Author: Maureen Joyce Connolly
LITTLE LOVELY THINGS is my debut novel and I am so excited to share it with the world. Through four different POVs, we experience the tragedy and ultimate joy in overcoming loss. NY Times bestselling author, Jacquelyn Mitchard calls it “A Shattering Adventure.”
Interview with Maureen Joyce Connolly.
Tell us about your book.
MJC: It’s 1993, the first Saturday in September—impossibly hot—and Claire Rawlings is driving her two girls to the daycare at the University of Chicago Hospital where as a resident, she is scheduled for rounds. Ignoring the troublesome signs of a sudden allergic reaction, Claire exits off the freeway to safety, only to pass out cold. When she wakes up, her daughters are gone.
LITTLE LOVELY THINGS is a haunting and prismatic exploration of how tragedy can transform lives. With lyrical prose and page-turning momentum, the story unfolds through the viewpoint of four characters: Claire, the devastated yet strong-willed mother; Moira, the transient who finds herself thrust into instant motherhood; soulful Jay, whose grisly discovery brings him to the center of the tragedy; and Andrea, the scrappy and wildly talented tomboy.
Traversing the landscape of loss, LITTLE LOVELY THINGS ties together the threads of lives shattered, hope lost, and—finally—joy restored.
How did you go about developing this book?
MJC: This book took a long time! I spent close to ten years considering the themes, the plot, the characters. I needed to get it just right, to balance the tragic event with the hopefulness. I think that being a late in life mother helped fuel the fearfulness of losing a child – I think I was able to capture how difficult that might be.
What was the experience of writing this book like for you?
MJC: It was like running a marathon with a boulder in my arms! As mentioned, it took a long time but that was partly because I was working full time and partly because I had to actually learn how to write a novel. When I got into the scenes I am most proud of, the experience was pure joy.
What writing advice do you have for other indie authors?
MJC: I am actually not fully indie, I am with a smaller press. I think you should hire someone to professionally edit your manuscript, since another pair of eyes is critical, and then you should stay on top of marketing trends because they are changing all of the time.
What are you working on next?
MJC: I have just finished a chapbook of poems and am starting my next novel. Fingers crossed it works out!
READ AN EXCERPT
Excerpt from Chapter 1
Thwap, thwap, thwap.
Claire woke, bleary-eyed and still in the Mother Goose chair, to the sound of neighborhood sprinklers through the open window. Swords of sunlight cut through the tree cover into her eyes. Her back grumbled at the angle she’d struck: ninety degrees south for her lumbar region, twenty degrees north for her neck. The girls’ beds were empty. A brief ember of panic stirred until Glen appeared in the doorway.
“Can you hurry, Claire? I have to be at the field in thirty minutes.” He helped as assistant coach to the high school’s football team on weekends for extra income. “Lily’s dressed.”
“Nope, but eating Eggos.”
“One for two.” Claire tilted forward and groaned. “I’m hurrying.”
“You okay, hon?”
She nodded. It was her turn to take over their shared routine. She dragged herself to the bathroom and into the shower, where the hot water goosefleshed her skin.
Glen appeared in a cloud of steam to hand her a towel and then pointed to her stomach. “Claire?”
She looked down. A faint rash was splayed across her abdomen like a pink Canis Major.
“Might be,” she spoke slowly over the din of the water, careful not to convey concern, “a slight reaction.”
“Reaction?” Glen’s voice tensed. “To what?”
“Hep C vaccine.”
A new strain of the virus was invading healthcare facilities like mad, messing with patients’ livers or kidneys. The residents had been put on an accelerated vaccination schedule. Two doses, back-to-back.
Glen’s gem-blue eyes filled with worry.
“Don’t do that, babe.”
“That oversensitive thing. It’s nothing. I’ll take a Benadryl.”
“You should call in.”
“You know I can’t do that.”
“Or you won’t.” He paused before smiling. “Laid a T-shirt and shorts on the bed for Andrea.”
Article originally Published in the December/January 2020 Issue “2019 Indie Best Award Winners”