The second instalment in the Frankie Sheehan series, The Killer In Me, is released this week. Olivia Kiernan, the author, very kindly answered a few questions I had! Read on!
How did Frankie come to you?
I guess Frankie’s character was probably brewing for some time but I remember, a couple of days before sitting down to write, an image was replaying in my head. That image was of a tall woman stepping out of a building on to the streets of Dublin. I knew she was a high-ranking detective with the gardaí. I knew that she was good at her job. And I knew she’d just witnessed an autopsy. I ‘watched’ her walk out of the building and struggle with what she’d just seen. And I sensed that when she witnessed that autopsy she was, in some way,witnessing her own fears.
When it came to the page, Frankie’s voice was very clear. The first few chapters came out quickly (this is not always the case when I’m writing!) and I remember I was haunted by her voice. Every time I left the desk, she had more to tell me. Of course, the writing slowed down when the plot increased in complexity but even then I relied on Frankie. I put on the hat of my character and asked: what would she do in this situation? This is often how I manage my plot: I write and Frankie unravels the problems for me.
How long did you spend writing Too Close To Breathe?
I wrote most of the first draft Too Close To Breathe in a month. I had been writing for some time and decided, along with a friend of mine, to attempt National Novel Writing Month. This is where you try to write 50,000 words in a month. By the end of that November, I had a manuscript of sorts with a strong-ish storyline. Over the next ten months, I edited, added or deleted scenes and tightened the plot.
Did you find The Killer In Me easier to write?
This is the thing about novel writing: every one is different. You’re just getting familiar with the rhythms of one story when you begin writing another which often turns out to be a different beast altogether. You’re never really using the same process or the same methods. So in way, yes it’s easier because you have the knowledge that you’ve gotten to the end before so you know you can do it again but each new novel brings new challenges. And that can be daunting but it’s also the reason I love writing so much. I like to try new techniques in writing and to push myself creatively. It keeps me interested.
I gave myself plenty of challenges when writing The Killer In Me: the documentary elements, the emotional storylines attached to Frankie and the complexities of the two cases she’s investigating. I got the first half down pretty quickly but I always have a moment midway where I have to decide which plot points are goers and which ones are not. I try to listen to the story, let it tell me what needs to happen, really look at my characters and ask myself what would they do here. So no, it wasn’t easier to write just different!
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
It depends on where I am in the process but when I’m drafting a new novel, I get up early, go straight to the computer and try to get some writing in before the house wakens. Then it’s breakfast (sorry if this is boring!), get my daughter to school, I might go for some exercise then it’s back to the desk. By this time, especially if it’s coming close to publication, I’ll probably have some other writing requests to get done; articles or other piecesI’m working on.
If I’ve managed to get a lot of my novel done in the early morning then I’ll move over and back between the draft and other pieces of writing for most of the day. If I’m not happy with what I’ve done in the morning then I’ll try to work solely on the novel. When I’m drafting, I like to keep in touch with the work, to keep the mood or atmosphere of that fictional world around me. It’s easier to pick up the narrative thread if you feel like you’ve not really put it down in the first place. So a good block of hours, undisturbed (which is why early morning is good),for when I’m drafting a new book is ideal. But I can and will write anywhere, particularly if there’s a deadline approaching. There’s nothing quite so motivating. I’llwrite on trains, planes, café’s, the sofa, I’ve even typedparagraphs into my phone when I’ve been out and about.
What’s next for Frankie?
I’m busy drafting the third Frankie book right now. It’s called, If Looks Could Kill and sees Frankie called out to a small town in the Wicklow mountains to investigate a peculiar crime scene. That’s all I can tell you, until I finish it!
The Killer In Me is released on 4th April