It is said, that to write well, you must read well. So, whether to improve your writing or for the pure enjoyment of a great tale, well-told, place Billy O’Callaghan’s, The Dead House, at the top of your list.
It was while scrolling through www.writing.ie recently that I came across an article about his debut novel that piqued my interest, the title alone creating goose bumps. It was apparent that, at the very least, I’d read a story written by a master short story writer who has honed his craft. He has close to a hundred stories published in literary journals and magazines around the world while still others have won awards including the 2013 Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Award for Short Story of the Year. That’s no mean feat!
So I went in search of The Dead House, published in early May, and on my third attempt managed to secure a copy. It all helped to heighten my anticipation. But finding this beautifully bound novel with its haunting image on any book shelf, I would have been instantly drawn to it. I felt as I had as a child when I came across a book I hadn’t read by one of my favourite authors and settled down to read, with a fervent hope that I wouldn’t be disappointed. I wasn’t.
O’Callaghan delivers a well constructed story which gradually builds to a heart-stopping crescendo. I read this book in two sittings. After the first ninety-five pages I took a breather, sending O’Callaghan a Tweet to tell him how much I enjoyed his book but that I’d probably be too scared to sleep if I read any more. He advised that another fifty pages in and I’d definitely be awake. I should have listened! Except – after another fifty pages – I no longer had the power to close the book. I had to read on. Unfortunately for me, it was close to midnight when I read the final page …
You can read the full review over on writing.ie by clicking here.
About The Dead House:
Attempting to rebuild her life after a violent relationship, Maggie Turner, a successful young artist, moves from London to Allihies and buys an ancient abandoned cottage. Keen to concentrate on her art, she is captivated by the wild beauty of her surroundings.
After renovations, she hosts a house-warming weekend for friends. A drunken game with a Ouija board briefly descends into something more sinister, as Maggie apparently channels a spirit who refers to himself simply as ‘The Master’. The others are visibly shaken, but the day after the whole thing is easily dismissed as the combination of suggestion and alcohol.
Maggie immerses herself in her painting, but the work devolves, day by day, until her style is no longer recognisable. She glimpses things, hears voices, finds herself drawn to certain areas: a stone circle in the nearby hills, the reefs at the west end of the beach behind her home … A compelling modern ghost story from a supremely talented writer.
Back in 2014, I had the pleasure of interviewing Louise Doughty for writing.ie. Having thoroughly enjoyed reading Apple Tree Yard, I was delighted to hear that the TV rights had been sold.
Kudos Productions are, “the people who made Broadchurch which was a really, really big drama here last year,” Doughty told me, “they’ve got a top script writer on board who’s done a first episode and now we’re just in conversation with broadcasters so, with any luck, it’s going to make it to the screen.”
And tonight at 9pm on BBC1 – with Emily Watson in the lead – it finally arrives!
As you wait, in anticipation, for the first of four episodes, you can learn a little more about Louise Doughty and her writing world. Read on …
Apple Tree Yard is English novelist, Louise Doughty’s, seventh novel. It has sold more copies than Gillian Flynn’s, Gone Girl, (hardback) and rights have sold in twenty-one territories worldwide. It has been shortlisted for the Specsavers Crime & Thriller of the Year Official Mumsnet Book Club selection for January 2014 and has also been selected as a 2014 Richard & Judy Book Club choice.
Understandably, my expectations were high as I read the first line and I’m delighted to reveal that Apple Tree Yard didn’t disappoint. It’s a slightly different thriller than the norm, with plenty of twists and turns, but that’s what makes it so utterly compelling . . .
Piqued your interest?
Whether you’re a reader or a writer, I know you’ll enjoy, hopefully as much as I did, hearing how and where Louise writes, why her characters are so engaging and what she considers to be the best piece of advice she could offer to writers struggling with their first novel.
I was a little surprised with the answer!
And remember to heed Doughty’s advice.
About Apple Tree Yard
Yvonne Carmichael has worked hard to achieve the life she always wanted: a high-flying career in genetics, a beautiful home, a good relationship with her husband and their two grown-up children.
Then one day she meets a stranger at the Houses of Parliament and, on impulse, begins a passionate affair with him – a decision that will put everything she values at risk.
At first she believes she can keep the relationship separate from the rest of her life, but she can’t control what happens next. All of her careful plans spiral into greater deceit and, eventually, a life-changing
act of violence.
Apple Tree Yard is a psychological thriller about one woman’s adultery and an insightful examination of the values we live by and the choices we make, from an acclaimed writer at the height of her powers.
Some of Ireland’s best writers take to the stage: Declan Burke in conversation with Declan Hughes, Alan Glynn and Alex Barclay (Presented by Red Line Book Festival / New Island Books).
An evening of discussion on Irish Crime Writing: Author, editor and journalist, Declan Burke, will be leading the conversation to unravel the ins and outs of the crime-writing process, the development of gripping plots and characters and the evolution of Irish crime writing.
Date: Wednesday, 12 October 2016
Venue: The Civic Theatre, Loose End
Admission: €8/€6 concession
Perfect for crime fiction fans and aspiring authors – but it comes with a warning – as there will be a discussion of crime novels etc. and their content, the panel may be unsuitable for a young audience.
I’ve my seat booked and ready to go – hope to see you there!
Holly Seddon is a freelance journalist whose work has been published on national newspaper websites, magazines and leading consumer websites. Try Not To Breathe is her debut novel and has already been hailed as ‘the most original psychological thriller of 2016.’ While according to Tess Gerritsen, one of my favourite authors, this novel has: ‘A razor-sharp, fast paced plot and wonderfully complex characters. Not since The Girl on the Train have I been so captivated by a work of suspense.’
Naturally, my expectations were high and I was delighted to find that Try Not To Breathe delivered:
Alex is sinking. Slowly but surely, she’s cut herself off from everything but her one true love – drink. Until she’s forced to write a piece about a coma ward, where she meets Amy.
Amy is lost. When she was fifteen, she was attacked and left for dead in a park. Her attacker was never found. Since then, she has drifted in a lonely, timeless place. She’s as good as dead, but not even her doctors are sure how much she understands.
Alex and Amy grew up in the same suburbs, played the same music, flirted with the same boys. And as Alex begins to investigate the attack, she opens the door to the same danger that has left Amy in a coma…
I’m interested to know where the idea for Try Not To Breathe emerged from. Seddon tells me that it was while cooking dinner, some years back, when a health programme on the radio caught her attention. They were “talking about persistent vegetative states. Listening to the stories from loved ones left behind – unable to grieve but still having lost the person they loved – really floored me. And that’s where the character of Amy came from. Amy was a vibrant, brave 15-year-old in 1995. In 2010, she’s in the same hospital ward she’s been in for 15 years. A hot mess of a journalist called Alex stumbles upon her and becomes obsessed with working out what happened all those years ago.”
You can catch the full interview over on writing.ie by clicking here.
According to Peter James, Graham Masterton is “one of the most original and frightening storytellers of our time.” And who could disagree? Masterton was a bestselling horror writer who has now turned his talent to crimewriting. His experience of life in Cork, where he lived for five years, inspired the Kate Maguire series.
Masterton has written more than a hundred novels, across multiple genres, including horror, thrillers, historical sagas, sex manuals and crime fiction. Awards include a Special Edgar by Mystery Writers of America and the prestigious Prix Julia Verlanger in France.
I had heard that Masterton took less than nine months to write his 750 page second novel but I was amazed to find that his first novel, The Manitou, was written in a week! “I generally write quite fast because I was trained as a newspaper reporter from the age of 17 and then went on to become a magazine editor, so I am quite disciplined when it comes to writing and I have never had so-called “writers’ block”. I also imagine “writers’ block” to be some run-down apartment building where sad uninspired would-be writers sit in front of paraffin heaters and wrack their brains trying to think of something to put on paper.” Speaking of his second novel, Rich, he tells me that the reason it took much longer was “because it is a very lengthy historical saga and needed considerable research. By the time I wrote that, however,” he goes on to explain, “The Manitou had sold heaps of copies and movie rights had been sold, so I had the luxury of taking more time to write it.”
It is fascinating to hear this master storyteller explain how he writes and he offers plenty of advice to writers currently struggling through plot lines. “Some days I will write only a couple of pages, other days anything up to ten. It depends on the scene involved and the amount of research necessary. Sometimes it’s worth taking it slowly because it gives your brain time to work out a complicated plot and to ask yourself if your characters would really do what you had originally planned. The last crime novel; about Detective Superintendent Katie Maguire that I have just finished – Buried – took about eight months. I had to do a lot of research into cigarette smuggling in the Republic, as well as Irish history and Garda politics. I love it, though, no matter how much or how little I complete in a day. All I will ever say is, real writers write something almost every day, if they can. They simply can’t help it!”
You can catch the full interview, which includes plenty of tips for writers, over on writing.ie by clicking here.
About Blood Sisters
DS Katie Maguire hunts a serial killer who is targeting nuns, in this gruesome new thriller set in Cork.
In a nursing home on the outskirts of Cork, an elderly nun lies dead. She has been suffocated. It looks like a mercy-killing – until another sister from the same convent is found viciously murdered, floating in the Glashaboy river.
The nuns were good women, doing God’s work. Why would anyone want to kill them? But then a child’s skull is unearthed in the garden of the nuns’ convent and DS Katie Maguire discovers a fifty year old secret that just might lead her to the killer … if the killer doesn’t find her first.
My eyes scan the luxurious Westin Hotel’s, Atrium Lounge in Dublin and land on the bearded guy in the corner, dressed in black. If it wasn’t for the fact that we’d already met, Stuart Neville would have appeared more rock star than author and my eyes would have moved on. I find later, that if he hadn’t caught the writing bug, that’s who he may have become. Although then he may have swapped his pot of tea for something a little stronger – in keeping with that rock image!
When we get talking about his life before writing he agrees that “it seems to be quite a common thread among writers that they’ll have done a lot of odd jobs over the years before they finally end up as writers. I worked in a music shop and I worked for a long time trying to break into writing music for film. I studied music in college” he tells me, “and then I did score one low budget feature.” He grins, “sort of a musical director – for want of a better word – on a short film with Ardhal O’Hanlon.” It appears that Stuart Neville’s hands have a claim to fame all of their own. In a scene where O’Hanlon has to play the guitar, it’s actually Neville’s hands that appear on screen!
Many readers have authors they admire and would relish an opportunity to chat to them about their craft. And every writer has a number of writers they feel the same way about. I was delighted to find that we were both fans of Stephen King who Neville actually met up with last year. “It was a bit of a thrill to meet him actually,” he says.
You can read the full interview on writing.ie by clicking here.
About Those We Left Behind
Those We Left Behind is the new DCI Serena Flanagan novel from the King of Irish Noir:
When 12-year-old Ciaran Devine confessed to murdering his foster father it sent shock waves through the nation.
DCI Serena Flanagan, then an ambitious Detective Sergeant, took Ciaran’s confession after days spent earning his trust. He hasn’t forgotten the kindness she showed him – in fact, she hasn’t left his thoughts in the seven years he’s been locked away.
Probation officer Paula Cunningham, now tasked with helping Ciaran re-enter society, suspects there was more to this case than the police uncovered. Ciaran’s confession saved his brother Thomas from a far lengthier sentence, and Cunningham can see the unnatural hold Thomas still has over his vulnerable younger brother.
When she brings her fears to DCI Flanagan, fresh back at work after treatment for breast cancer, the years of lies begin to unravel, setting a deadly chain of events in motion.
Those We Left Behind is in bookshops now, or pick up your copy online here.
From The Front Row:
at The Launch of Freedom’s Child
One of 2015’s Hottest Books
At 6pm last Thursday, Dubray Books, in Dublin’s cosmopolitan Grafton Street, became a world filled with crime. But not the usual kind – this was a room buzzing with goodwill and anticipation as published and yet unpublished crime writers, crime readers and friends and family of Jax Miller (Áine O’Domhnaill) came together to celebrate her Dublin launch of Freedom’s Child.
Stacks of her orange and black debut novel are quickly snapped up, like prized possessions, as staff replenish them while topping up glasses of wine and prosecco. The cover is a haunting affair showing a lone figure walking towards you with the tag line:
All She Wants Back Is Her Daughter
Two powerful quotes are emblazoned across:
‘Original, compelling and seriously recommended’
‘A terrific read from a powerful new voice’
There are shouts, hugs and cameras flashes as introductions are made between old friends and new, until suddenly an eerie silence encases the room and all eyes turn.
Jax Miller has arrived!
Read the full article here on
The crowd hushes as Miller reads the prologue from Freedom’s Child.
“My name is Freedom Oliver and I killed my daughter …”
Over the years, I’ve read and enjoyed all of Alex Barclay’s books. Darkhouse, up until now, would have topped my all-time favourite books. As an avid reader, that’s high praise indeed – but that was before I read Killing Ways. Don’t worry – I guarantee no spoilers – but if you enjoy your crime fiction gritty with plenty of twists and turns then look no further. Engrossed in the story and the characters, about half-way in I had my first of many “oh, my God” moments, as the tension, along with my blood pressure, ratcheted up.
Sitting on the Luas I nearly missed my stop and couldn’t wait to dive between the pages again on my return journey; half of me wanted to race through the pages to the end while the other half wanted to savour every moment.
It was reminiscent of reading childhood books where I became so engrossed in the story that my real world virtually dissolved. The characters were alive and I felt as if I knew them as intimately as close friends and family; my mind already worrying about their future, long after that final page. Barclay is, most definitely, at the top of her game!
About Killing Ways
In the game of vengeance, he holds a killer hand.
In her most shocking case yet, FBI Special Agent Ren Bryce takes on a depraved serial killer fuelled by a warped sense of justice.
A master of evasion, each life he takes ramps up Ren’s obsession with finding him. Then one victim changes everything and brings Ren face to face with a detective whose life was destroyed by the same pursuit.
Together, can they defeat this monster?
Or will he take them both down?
Dreaming of writing a bestseller?
Five leading agents are looking for you!
They are looking for 75 top quality authors to pitch their work to 5 leading literary agents keen to sign new talent on 16th May 2015.
Submissions to the event will be assessed by Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin and a team of consultants from The Inkwell Group. Experienced literary scouts Inkwell have assisted award winning and bestselling authors to publication and will be reading every application, matching the selected authors to agents including:
- Simon Trewin, Partner and Head of Literary at WME
- Sallyanne Sweeney of Mulcahy Associates
- Clare Wallace, Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film agency
- Julia Churchill, AM Heath
- Paul Feldstein, Feldstein Literary Agency
Don’t forget the closing date for submissions is midnight, Friday, 27th March.
Full details available here – and don’t forget to drop back
and share your news . . .
Have you ever read a book which moved you so profoundly that you felt, because of it, your own writing would never be the same again?
In the last year, I’ve been lucky enough to read two such books, yet both author and genre-wise they couldn’t have been further apart. The most recent was, Joseph, by John MacKenna, which has just been launched by RTE Radio’s Joe Duffy. MacKenna felt it was about time that Joseph of Nazareth had a voice, and so in this contemporary novel, Joseph – a small-time builder in a small-time town – is for once, the central character.
Beginning the novel, I was unsure of exactly what to expect; but what MacKenna delivered, as a writer at the top of his game, was life to such fully-formed and interesting characters that you felt as if you knew them intimately. When the pages drew to an end, I felt myself slowing down, in the hope of somehow holding onto them – even for just a little longer.
It appears, if the reviews are to be believed, that I’m not the only one who feels this way:
‘A consummately skilled author’ – The Guardian
‘MacKenna is one of our most accomplished writers’ – RTÉ Guide
‘A writer whose emotional success rarely falters’ – The Irish Times
And even Jeffrey Archer had something to say . . .
You can read the full interview on writing.ie by clicking here.
‘It’s been forty years, and memory is the most unreliable of companions, so I can only offer these recollections with the proviso that you take them as the only truth I can call to mind. They’re my truth…’
When his ‘young fellow’ becomes involved in political agitation, and his own marriage begins to fall apart, Joseph of Nazareth must find a way to nurture hope.
The tale of a small-time builder in a small-time town, and his relationship with the charismatic figure he had treated as a son, Joseph humanises an often-overlooked Biblical character, and renders his story one for all time.
Joseph is available in bookshops now, or pick up your copy online here.
I’ve heard it said that you should never meet your heroes as more often than not you’re likely to be disappointed. Thankfully, with Alex Barclay, that was most definitely not the case!
We first met some years back at an event in Easons, O’Connell Street, and our paths have crossed at numerous writing events since. In The Civic Theatre last year, as part of the Red Line Book Festival, I chaired ‘Ladykillers’ which gave me the unique opportunity to delve into the minds of Alex Barclay, Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips and former Boulder Coroner (and good friend of Barclay’s), Joanne Richardson. What I found most disconcerting was how angelic they all appear on the outside, while managing to conjure up the darkest of villains and crimes within the pages of their novels.
Barclay is the author of several bestselling thrillers. Her first novel, Darkhouse, was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller while third novel, Blood Runs Cold (the beginning of the Special Agent Ren Bryce series) won the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award at the Irish Book Awards. Harm’s Reach is her sixth adult novel and the fourth in the FBI Agent Ren Bryce series.
Interest in plots and characters (especially villains!) or Homeland or tips for new writers?
Then read the full interview on writing.ie by clicking here.
About Harm’s Reach
FBI Agent Ren Bryce finds herself entangled in two seemingly unrelated mysteries. But the past has a way of echoing down the years and finding its way into the present.
When Special Agent Ren Bryce discovers the body of a young woman in an abandoned car, solving the case becomes personal. But the more she uncovers about the victim’s last movements, the more questions are raised.
Why was Laura Flynn driving towards a ranch for troubled teens in the middle of Colorado when her employers thought she was hundreds of miles away? And what did she know about a case from fifty years ago, which her death dramatically reopens?
As Ren and cold case investigator Janine Hooks slowly weave the threads together, a picture emerges of a privileged family determined to hide some very dark secrets – whatever the cost.
“The cleverest, creepiest book you’ll read all year. Twin Peaks meets Atonement meets In Cold Blood,” Gaby Wood, Daily Telegraph.
Having finished The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair only days before the interview, I was intrigued to meet Geneva born Joel Dicker, a writer with a novel which belies his mere 28 years. He is hailed as Switzerland’s coolest export since Roger Federer, with rights sold to 45 countries in 32 languages and over 2 million copies sold in less than a year.
For me, minus the supernatural element, it was reminiscent of a great Stephen King novel.
Will you agree?
You can read the full interview on writing.ie by clicking here.
The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair:
In the summer of 1975, struggling author Harry Quebert fell in love with fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan. Thirty-three years later, her body is dug up from his yard, along with a manuscript copy of the novel that secured his lasting fame. Quebert is the only suspect.
Marcus Goldman – Quebert’s most gifted protégé – throws off his writer’s block to clear his mentor’s name. Solving the case and penning a new bestseller soon merge into one. As his book begins to take on a life of its own, the nation is gripped by the mystery of “The Girl Who Touched the Heart of America.”
But with Nola, in death as in life, nothing is ever as it seems.
According to Michael Connelly, “Chris Pavone is the new best thing. The Accident proves the promise of The Expats. It is as intelligent and timely as it is relentless and gripping. Pavone is going to be around for a long time and now is the time to jump on the train.”
Moments before I met Chris Pavone, Stephen King had just Tweeted to his 350k+ followers, ‘THE ACCIDENT, by Chris Pavone:if you like real nail-biters, this is the best one so far this year’.
A wonderful writer and an interesting guy, Pavone talks writing, social media and the importance of having a plan. Similar to most avid readers, we have a preference for the physical rather than the virtual book, but his take on eBooks is refreshing – so maybe, after all, there is a place for both to inhabit our world . . .
Whether you’re a reader or a writer, I know you’ll enjoy, hopefully as much as I did, hearing how and where Pavone writes, why his characters are so engaging and what he considers to be the best piece of advice he could offer to writers struggling with their first novel.
Will you agree?
About The Accident
Isabel Reed, one of the most respected and powerful literary agents in New York, is in possession of a time bomb and she’s about to give it to her good friend and trusted editor at one of the top publishing houses in the US. Anyone who begins reading the manuscript is immediately struck by the importance of its contents. They can also see that publishing it could be dangerous, but it could also be the book that every agent, editor and publishing house dreams of… What they don’t realise is that reading it could get them killed. On the trail of this manuscript is veteran station chief, Hayden Gray, for him, quite simply, it must never see the light of day.
Crime Pays: Writing Crime Fiction
presented by WritersWebTV
“A forensic examination of the essential elements of writing crime,” is what Vanessa O’Loughlin promises to deliver to crime fiction fans of everything from psychological thrillers to detective fiction.
But whatever your genre, the key secrets, tips and techniques unveiled by a panel of writers at the top of their game – Ken Bruen, Declan Hughes, Jane Casey and Niamh O’Connor – will furnish you with the tools to pace your plot and keep your reader hooked.
Questions will be answered:
- Should you plot and plan in detail, and know the ending before you start, or can you write crime organically?
- How many characters should there be and how do you reveal backstory without losing the forward movement of the plot?
- What is foreshadowing and why does it play such a vital part in this genre?
- Research is crucial, but how much should you include in your story?
And best of all, you can watch it live for FREE, from anywhere in the world – but only on Wednesday, 30 October, from 10.00am – 4.00pm.
All you need to do is enrol now on www.writerswebtv.com or, if you want to download the workshop and watch it later, you have the option to pay to keep the course.
Wherever you are, and whatever your lifestyle, you’ll be able to tune in and out throughout the day:
10:00 – 11.30 Ken Bruen
11.30 – 11.45 Break/Online Audience – a chance for viewers to interact via Twitter @WritersWebTV
11.45 – 01:00 Jane Casey
01:00 – 01:30 Break/Online Audience – a chance for viewers to interact via Twitter @WritersWebTV
01:30 – 02:30 Declan Hughes
02:30 – 02:45 Break/Online Audience – a chance for viewers to interact via Twitter @WritersWebTV
02:45 – 04:00 Niamh O’Connor
This one-day workshop will be streamed live from a multi-camera broadcast studio in Dublin. Bestselling authors interact with an in-studio audience of aspiring writers, who present their work for critique. Online viewers can communicate with those in the studio using Twitter, Facebook or email. They can ask a question, take part in a workshop exercise, comment online and benefit from on-screen feedback from the authors in-studio.
Led by experienced workshop facilitator, Vanessa O’Loughlin, founder of writing.ie, the panel will consider the key elements of fiction writing and furnish viewers with tips, advice and actionable insights to help them improve their writing and get it on the path to publication.
I’ll be there – as part of the studio audience – hope you’ll join me!