Can you tell us a little bit about your new novel, Dark Corners?
Dark Corners is a story that follows Neve, who in 1998 leaves the small mining town she grew up in after her best friend Chloe disappears. She was never found, but a rumour circulated around that someone they called The Drifter was responsible.
After 21 years of trying to bury her past, she gets a message to tell her that Jamie, her first boyfriend and friend of Chloe, has vanished in similar circumstances to what happened all those years ago. Forced to go back, Neve’s childhood friends begin to vanish, one by one, and the drifter is spotted once again.
Someone will stop at nothing, until the truth of that night all those years ago is revealed…
Where did you get inspiration for the story and the main characters?
This question is so difficult to answer. With each story, I start with my notepad, the same, battered, coffee stained book all of my ideas go into. I doodle pictures, write characters that don’t have a story but would one day like to write about, I ask myself questions. What is important in a story? What excites me? What do I want to learn more about and explore? Dark Corners comes from one of the dark corners (see what I did there) of this notebook. And once I discovered where I wanted to set my story, those characters and ideas that fit the location lifted from the page and drew together to become the overall idea.
What was the hardest part of writing this novel?
Without a doubt, the middle third of the first draft. The opening 25k words I can write in two weeks, the last 25k words is usually about ten days. That middle third seems to last for 87 years! It’s also in that middle third all of my doubt and insecurities and worry comes forward.
What are you most pleased with about Dark Corners?
There are a few things I’m so pleased about with Dark Corners. The first is Neve, I spent so much time trying to ensure she was truthful, and I feel she is as close as I’d ever get to that. I’m so chuffed with how the Drifter played out. I wanted them to exist in the silence between paragraphs on every page, and from what readers have told me, it can be felt.
Most of all, I am so pleased with the balance of this story. Since my debut, I have wanted to write something that felt more poised, and I’ve been obsessing about balance ever since. I feel, with Dark Corners, the balance is the best it has ever been for me.
What do you hope readers take from the book?
I want nothing more than the reader to be transported somewhere else when reading this book, Dark Corners is pretty dark (clue in the title) and scary, and perhaps the perfect break from real life at the moment.
I understand you started out as an actor, before becoming a director and then turning your hand to writing, how has that background in performing arts fed into your fiction?
Being a theatre director and actor for so many years had proved to be the biggest asset for my writing. I spent years either drawing character from a page, or helping other actors do so, and that means when I create a character for a novel, all of that experience comes into play. It also helps with my research. As an actor, you have to put yourself in your characters shoes and walk a mile, I do the same with my characters in my books. I have stood on the platform edge where Chris stands in Our Little Secret. I have driven around the west coast of Ireland where the back story serial killer scenes from Closer Than You Think are set. And with Dark Corners, I spent time in an old mining town, just to ensure what the character saw and felt and experienced was grounded in reality, making them more real. Also, as a director, I have spent so much time with casts talking about the things that are unsaid in the text, and I draw on that in my writing.
What made you make the move into writing and how enjoyable has the experience been?
I accidently became an author. In fact, when I started to write at the age of eighteen, I wanted to write for the stage. And for a number of years, I did. I wrote short plays, the occasional short film. I wrote for my friends and for youth theatre companies. I didn’t think I was a novel writer. But in the winter of 2011, I wrote a play called Pact. It was about a man on a platform edge, with a secret, and a woman who accidently saved him. I was really pleased with the play, so I shared it with some actor friends, and we tried to get it on its feet. But it was dreadful. Slow, dull, repetitive. I put the script in a draw (with dozens of others that would never see the light of day) and tried to write another. But the characters in Pact wouldn’t leave me. they wanted to be heard. About six months later, I thought I’d look at it again, and the little idea popped in to turn that play into a book.
And I’m so glad I listened. Writing books fills me with utter bliss. I love opening my laptop every morning to create, I love the adventure, the uncertainty. I adore what I do!
There seem to be some parallels between the two art forms, but what has been the biggest difference that you’ve had to adjust from moving from stage to page, as it were?
The only challenge that has really affected me is going from being in a room, bouncing ideas off of other people, being spontaneous and energised, to working quietly on my own. The transition was hard, but now I’m on the other side, I love the routine of how I work now.
Do you ever see your own novels in terms of stage plays? How appealing would it be to bring them to life in this way?
When I’m writing, I don’t think of how it would work in any other context other than a novel, I have to get that bit right. However, once it’s done, edited and in the world, I do think of how the story could be told in a different format. The stage as my first love. Writing novels is my forever love. If I could one day bring those two worlds together, it would be a very good day. (any theatre producers want to explore, hit me up!)
It’s a very unusual time right now, how important are writing and books to you at the moment?
My love for books and writing is so important at any time, especially right now. Life is tough at the moment, for everyone. And I have to say that I count my blessings every day that I don’t have it as hard as some. My heart goes out to everyone who is struggling. I wish I could do more. I have had lots of messages over these past few weeks from readers, saying that reading has offered solace from what’s going on. It makes me want to work harder, to help where I can. In tough times, you fight harder for the things that a truly important.
Dark Corners is your Fourth novel, do you have any ideas in mind for a potential Fifth?
Yes. Book 5 is in the editing stages as we speak. It features a small character that exists in another one of my books and the premise of this novel is a question. If you had no choice and had to be a player in a ‘game’ that was kill or be killed. How would you choose?
And, finally, Dark Corners will offer readers a chance to be swept up in a story that allows them to escape for a while, what one book would you most like to escape with right now?
This is again, a tough question to answer. So, I might cheat. I think, right now, I’d want to escape into a completely different world. Something enchanting. So I might have to go for The Chronicles of Ancient darkness series by Michelle Paver. It’s meant for a younger reader, but it’s so absorbing, and a lovely little break.