The necessity of communication: Talk to the homeless.

Hi all,

I haven’t written for a while and I felt the matter that I would post about today ought therefore to be an important issue.

I usually blog about writing but I also talk about life and the importance of communication.

I don’t think I ever felt how vital human words and actions were until last week.

I had been at a concert with my long-suffering better half and we passed a homeless man sitting tucked up in his sleeping bag, on church steps.

He asked for a light and something about him made me stop to talk.  I don’t know what it was…I think it was that he looked like he didn’t belong, that he wasn’t accustomed to living on the streets, not that I can imagine anyone could ever adjust to such a life.

Something in him also reminded me of a family member, someone I care very dearly for.

Whatever told me to stop…I stopped and spent the next hour and a half that warm summer evening on a Dublin street, chatting to this man.

He told me his name and as it turned out my instincts had been right.  He hadn’t been on the streets long – only three weeks.

I don’t want to go in to too much detail about this man’s story because I believe he entrusted this information with me and my boyfriend but I would like to tell the tale in the hope that others will do as we did and talk to the homeless.

I will call this man ‘Patrick’.  He was a father and had like so many, fallen in to a life of alcohol-dependence.

He had left home after a family trauma and found himself living on the steps of the church.  He didn’t seem to know his way home and instead as he clutched a wooden crucifix round his neck, ‘Patrick’ spoke about how he wanted to die.

The words just spilled out of his mouth, just as all the others had.  He spoke about suicide as though it was a normal thought, something that he wanted.

But when I reminded him of his family, how they would miss him, how indeed I would now miss him, how people did love him, I noticed his voice break.

A homeless man offered kindness and a chat. Dreamstime stock images.

A homeless man offered kindness and a chat.
Dreamstime stock images.

He was reminded suddenly in the darkness that he mattered.  He wasn’t just a statistic.  He was a father, a man, a husband, a son.

Tears welled in ‘Patrick’s’ eyes as he spoke of his family.  He told how lost he was, how reliant he was on alcohol but that he had come to the “House of God” for a place to shelter him in his time of need.

I begged ‘Patrick’ not to go through with his dark wishes and to believe me that he was loved, to believe there was still so much to live for.

I told him that if the sun rose on his face in the morning and he still felt as badly, then he was to contact me and I left my details.

I asked him if he didn’t feel the need to speak to me again, then I would hope he had gone home to his family to work through his problems.

I gave ‘Patrick’ a hug and told him once again I cared what happened to him, as I genuinely did and do.

He thanked my boyfriend and I for stopping to speak.  “You are the first to speak to me in three weeks,” he said.

That realisation startled me.  Only months after a homeless man, Jonathan Corrie, died only metres away from the Irish parliament (The Dail) last winter, it appeared people had forgot to talk to all homeless people.

Mr Corrie died tragically on a step on a cold winter’s night.  I wondered had anyone spoke to him that day.

‘Patrick’ said that just our talking to him had “helped me,” that just communicating with others, us seeing him as our equal, a human being, had been of more value than money or any prize.

I haven’t heard from ‘Patrick’ since and though I still worry for him and for the hundreds of homeless people across the country and thousands across the globe, I have one hope.

If we, as a society, a world, could open our hearts a little more.  If we could speak to the homeless, even if it’s only for a few minutes, we might just remind them they are human beings too, and are every bit as important as you or I.

Maybe a “Hello” or a “How are you?” might change their day.

I know we can’t save the world and everyone on this great big ball of confusion, but we can say “Hello” and we certainly can smile.

If we all remember, you or I could be ‘Patrick’ or Mr Corrie one day, maybe we would realise just how important humanity is and indeed it is a prize worth more than any money on earth.

Keep that promise please …and talk to the homeless,

Thanks and stay happy,

L x

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Drama and a Miracle

Hi all,

I’m back!  Sorry for the break I took there.  Basically life took its course and I wasn’t in the form for writing.

For those who follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you will know that earlier this month my much-loved brother vanished.

Thank God he turned up in a hospital in England and had a serious operation meaning after an accident or incident, he wasn’t in a position to call home.

To add misery to this situation – his house was burgled and to this day we are not exactly sure what happened.

I can say though, for the couple of days before my brother was located (yes, social network campaigns do work and the press – thanks again to the Manchester Evening News) that that 48 hour period was hell on earth.

As a family, we were very lucky to find my brother alive and I know that.  I had covered so many news stories over the years about missing people and I was aware of an all too often and tragic outcome.

As a family, for that short period of time, the clocks stopped, life stopped.  We couldn’t eat, sleep or think.  So many tears were shed and so many prayers said.

I suddenly realised the brutal pain that those I had written about over the years had felt when a loved one simply vanished.

I now realise that no one can understand that trauma unless you go through it.

Such is the pain, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

In any case, we were very lucky and the love and good feeling, the support and prayers of so many people, be it close friends, or those on social networks, all helped.

Then to hear from a doctor that my brother’s life was a miracle.  His injury had been so severe.  That he could easily have died or been disabled.  Well, today, as he recovers, as a family we feel blessed.

Today as I write this, I know I am not directly referring to writing, but I won’t always do so because one fact is clear, writers reflect life and life can be very tough.

However, life can also throw up miracles as I have learned and I want those who read this to remember that.

As I write this, I am thinking of every single person going through the trauma of a missing loved one or a relative or someone close who is injured or has indeed passed away.

I wish you peace and love.

I did not know darkness until it came from nowhere but I rediscovered my faith in the process.

With regards to writing, I can tell you, the follow up to Paper Girl is shaping up nicely.

Grace O’Brien, my protagonist, is still very much the focus of the second book.

This time however, she will leave Dublin for Manchester and one of the most depraved killers the city has seen, with Irish victims becoming prey.

A departure from gangland as Grace continues her career as a journalist trying to break that big story and stay alive in the process.

Until next time, L x

The Importance of People Watching

Hi all, I am going to tell you today that as a writer you should be engaged in people watching as much as possible.

You could be hanging out in a cafe, sitting in a bar, or just on the bus.  Listen in to the conversations of normal people because they are the ones who are capable of inspiring the best fiction.

Watch people’s characterisations and take notes in a pocket sized notepad or remember as much as you can to jot information down when you are at home.

For example, right now as I write this I am in a Dublin bar killing time waiting for my daughter to get out of acting school around the corner and as I sip my coffee and write to you all, I am aware of the bustling atmosphere round me.

I can hear Irish and English accents as rugby fans prepare for an almighty clash between their nation’s teams at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin tomorrow (Saturday, March 1 2015.)

A group of young English men are at the bar anticipating the match tomorrow and hoping to somehow get their hands on tickets for the game which they admit are “gold dust”.

Another man in the corner of the bar from Glasgow has been stuffing his rotund figure in to a pink corset – yes, I said a pink corset, in front of his amused and half drunk friends.

Clearly this is a stag do and this is a Dublin bar at just past 5 in the evening on a Saturday.

Over in another corner, there’s two middle aged men from Dublin, who are talking about the imprisonment of a group of anti water charge protesters in the Irish capital in recent days.

The men are discussing how angered they are at the jailing of the protesters, three of whom recently went on hunger strike.

Five protesters were jailed for refusing to agree to stay 20 metres away from water meter installations.

The jailings, seen by many as political policing in Ireland, against the backdrop of an unpopular new law to charge people to use their water, has sparked further protests.

The prime minister, Enda Kenny does not seem to realise the divisions he is influencing among his electorate and how far the working and lower class are becoming more and more marginalised while a wealthier class seem to be on top.

The divide will become clear no doubt at the next election in Ireland when it is very possible that the majority – the working class will turn to a left wing alternative government or coalition.

Ireland is an interesting place politically to write about right now.  I guess it always has been but the views of the man and woman on the street, captured by the writer can tell a story that no politician’s words ever could.

Even during the Troubles in Ireland I have been told by relatives that it was the stories of the ordinary people that stayed with them. It was not the words of the political elite.

In my opinion art does imitate life and vice versa.  Such societal turmoil and the anger it causes among the masses, the class divisions that are so clear in this particular debate, are “gold dust” for writers.

Tell the story of the people, the places you are, the experiences you have in your life and I would say without doubt, it is possible to create a good, solid piece of fiction.

You don’t have to be a journalist, a police officer, or a politician to have a backlog of stories.

The man or woman on the street are the artists and paper can be your canvass to create your art.

Within just ten minutes in a Dublin pub, I have a scene in a book. These are real characters and you as a writer can use them as inspiration for your book.

Normal people on the street can provide your comedy, your drama and at times of love and loss in our own lives, we can create the best art.

Nobel prize laureate and one of America’s finest writers, William Faulkner, said:  “The best fiction is far more true than any journalism.”

Normal street scenes can colour your fiction and make it seem real and that’s because the information, the characters are born out of reality.

Knock yourself out – and don’t ever ever let anyone tell you you can’t do it.

By the way during more than a decade as a journalist, the most interesting people I have ever met, are the normal, working class people I have interviewed or merely stumbled upon.

I remember the stories of cab drivers, waitresses and bar men, an elderly lady down the street frustrated by how little her children call her.

I have never remembered the celebrity or the glamour too much so just as I have the ability to see the beauty in normality, so does everyone out there – bring it to life and create your own fictional world.

Remember though, don’t just take from people – give back too. Sure, listen in and absorb but engage in conversation, tell people how you feel about issues, about yourself, your life and I guarantee they will open up their own personal story book on their life.

Who knows you could be the next great writer.  Have fun, L x

Meeting With Evil: Paper Girl

Hi all, when I was writing Paper Girl I decided to take a risk, meeting with some of the most notorious men behind the criminal underworld in Dublin.

I wanted to make my characters as realistic as possible but I agreed with these men that I would never reveal their identities and of course as a journalist, I am very accustomed to protecting sources.

I relive the hours and moments spent with these men and right now I can’t believe I took the risk I did…but I felt it was worthwhile to create the best possible crime-fiction.

I remember sitting down and listening to some of these men’s stories – the lives they lived and I realised that they were nothing like you or I in any way.

There was an arrogance there that they had the right to do wrongs and to control and strike fear in to people and I know some of the men had troubled backgrounds.

They didn’t say, but it was clear that they had not had good upbringings.  How could they if they viewed people with such little value?

The Priest is the main criminal character in Paper Girl and he is based on a criminal that will stay in my mind for as long as I live.

He was the charmer, the character, the older man.  He had very little respect for human beings round him and life seemed to be all about ‘business,’ making as much money as he could.

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Handguns are a dangerous accessory to Dublin’s gangs

 

The only people that seemed to matter to him were his family – his wife and grown up children but I even remember he told me if his family ever crossed him they would be no less thought of than an enemy.  This was a terrifying concept to me.  How could a man feel this way about his closest loved-ones?  No-one was truly safe in his world.

The Priest would willingly take risks asking other women in to his bed without a second thought and though an older man, he did not question his ability to attract much younger women, often turned on by his power.

He was the most interesting character to me because he held old-fashioned values in some respects, ie. not hurting women but then again he had no problem using women sexually and cheating on his wife.

He appears in the book as a similar character, cheating on his Russian girlfriend, Ageta, with two young prostitutes during a party at his Wicklow mansion, just to prove his virility in front of younger gang members.

He is the boss, the real life don and I have fictionalised him, with particular focus on his well-groomed appearance and sexual prowess but pinning down his true character, a cold-hearted killer who prays over the dead in tribute to his former life in a seminary.

Tyler Cox, The Priest’s handsome henchman in the book, is tabloid news reporter, Grace O’Brien’s love interest.

The two make an unlikely pairing and of course because of their conflicting roles in society the relationship will prove to be one that is difficult to maintain.

Tyler is based on a young man I met alongside others, who was caught up in a world of criminality.

When I first met him he took his top off in the middle of the street just to show off his tatoos.  There was an innocence, a boy, still within the real life Tyler.

He spent his time working for those older and more powerful than he and he also seemed to have a lack of empathy for normal people.

However I noted he had an affectionate side for his young girlfriend and family.  I felt perhaps with this young man, there was hope, that time could heal him somehow – and this is why I created Tyler Cox, a man who could potentially be saved.

The real life Priest and Tyler had another thing in common too – they were very charismatic.

They had the ability to put a person completely at ease, make them feel they were the only person in the room, they were flirtatious with women and admired or feared by men.

I had never seen such fear in people in normal circumstances as I had when I was with The Priest.

Visiting a bar in Dublin, it became clear to me just how powerful he was.

The bar man could not stop tending to him, asking “Can I open the window?” to keep the gangster cool of course.

The bar man came up to the table and offered table service – which if you are from Dublin, you will know this is not customary.

Asking if there was “Anything else I can do?” as his eyes darted panic-stricken across the room, it was apparent the bar man was afraid of this man, his reputation.

The real life Priest was treated like a king during his time in the bar.  I found this power unsettling while the ageing hood reveled in it.

On another occasion I remember sitting with him in a park while he discussed his life, some of the things he had done and I felt afraid.

This man could be so friendly to me and then he would switch to this menacing persona, telling me that I could never repeat anything he had told me, that our deal was only that I could fictionalise him.

This behaviour worsened and turned in to late night phone calls from different phone numbers and threats.

I began to question what the hell I was doing – what purpose was it that I spend time with criminals – was a book really worth it or could I end up in serious trouble?

I stood up to him when he threatened me and told him he had no purpose to hurt me – to as he put it “Blow your head off,” because I was no threat.  I would keep his identity secret but he would not threaten me and expect me to speak to him anymore.

This went on for some weeks on and off.  I would think he had gone away and then he would pop up again on a different phone number or a withheld number.

I was followed home to an old address. I knew I had got in too deep with this man.

As soon as he said “Hello Laura” during a phone call, I knew who it was and I shivered.

I felt in the end he was threatening me to try to control me.

We did NOT have a friendship.  To me, he was business, an education in criminality for my book.  I was not going to let such a man control me so when he became threatening, I cut the communications off.

I let the phone ring if I didn’t recognise the number and eventually the phone stopped and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Don’t get me wrong, he still tried to call me a few more times, but I continued to ignore the calls.

The young man who inspired Tyler behaved much better.  He knew I was only asking questions for research and he didn’t want to manipulate me.

But although I thought he may have had a chance at redemption, I feared I may have been wrong the more I learned he was taking cocaine and becoming increasingly aggressive.

I couldn’t imagine his upbringing but I knew both he and The Priest and the others I met came from the poorer neighbourhoods in Dublin.

They wanted to be the kings of the street and they aimed to own all the riches they could hope to possess.

I saw diamond rings, fast cars, and heard mention of holiday homes and boats.

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Lifestyles of the infamous: a villa with a pool

 

 

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Dublin’s gangsters tend to love their expensive cars

 

They had come from nothing and part of me felt if they had been offered the right upbringing, these very men could have been leaders in business.

They had their eyes set on the prize but they were willing to kill, steal, and intimidate in order to get what they wanted.

The women, the children who got swept along with them are the only ones I felt sorrow for in the end….but still, these men, whatever they are, were great inspiration for my fiction so despite all they do, I have them to thank for that.

Hope you enjoy reading about the fictionalised versions of these quite terrifying men, L x

Fifty Shades of Grey & Paper Girl: the male psychopath Vs the male sociopath

Hi all, I am going to discuss the male sociopath:  Christian Grey from the hugely popular Fifty Shades of Grey released in cinemas last weekend, rather ironically on Valentines’ Day, and compare him to the male psychopath Tyler Cox, the gangster love interest in my new crime-fiction book, Paper Girl.

50ShadesofGrey

Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele aka Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of Grey. Copyright Entertainment Weekly.

At points when writing my book, I was of course very aware of the phenomenon that is E.L James’ Fifty Shades.

After a while I noticed a link between my book’s dominant male characters, in particular Tyler, the sexy, muscular hood, whom Grace O’Brien, a straight-laced reporter becomes entranced by and Grey.

When I thought a little deeper, I considered the question:  Just why are women attracted to the psychopath/sociopath male?

Of course I cannot argue that all women feel this way, but when we look at many women today, they would admit to being attracted and turned on by power.  Some women choose the powerful businessman – the Christian Grey type – while others choose the hood – Tyler Cox.

Many women opt for the sensible, honest, good man – but as a woman, I am willing to admit I’ve had my bad boy moments and that almost every woman I have spoken to about this subject, has admitted powerful men, even those on the wrong side of the law, hold a certain allure.

In the movie and book Fifty Shades, the 28-year-old Grey is played by County Down’s Jamie Dornan – an actor who ironically played a psychopath before appearing on screen as the ultimate sociopath, Grey.

Dornan starred as serial killer Paul Spector in The Fall alongside the majestic Gillian Anderson, last year.  Spector, just as Grey, dominated women.

Grey targets an immature and sexually naive 21-year-old, Anastasia, even striking her during foreplay, while Spector gets his kicks from choking women before murdering them.

While I am a fan of The Fall, I have to admit as a woman and a writer, I find it disturbing how Spector and Grey, are so similar in ways and how yet, they are still viewed or portrayed as sexy.

Jamie Dornan The Fall

Jamie Dornan as Belfast serial killer in The Fall (BBC and RTE TV)

When writing Paper Girl, I was aware of this bizarre fascination with the strong, dominant male, and this is why I created Tyler Cox, the black-haired, handsome, muscular hood whom reporter Grace O’Brien, like Anastasia, would be unable to resist.

However, being a feminist, I really didn’t want my female heroine Grace, to be too akin to someone like Anastasia.

If a woman was to be attracted to a powerful but criminal man, in my view, she should be strong herself and conflicted about the morality of her situation, her love, for what is essentially a bad apple.

When Grace and Tyler first meet, I show her strength when she sprays hairspray in to his face to protect herself from what she believes is a mad man following her down the street in Dublin.

Tyler respects Grace for her ‘guts’ which I believe would be the case with a dominant male of this type.  Wouldn’t an Anastasia be a little too much of a pushover?

Grey’s idea of foreplay in an elevator sees the wealthy sociopath pinning Anastasia to the wall.

A couple of chapters later, this foreplay descends into violence: “Suddenly he grabs me, tipping me across his lap. With one smooth movement, he angles his body so my torso is resting on the bed beside him.

“He throws his right leg over both mine and plants his left forearm on the small of my back, holding me down so I cannot move … He places his hand on my naked behind, softly fondling me, stroking around and around with his flat palm. And then his hand is no longer there … and he hits me – hard.”

I can see why domestic violence groups have campaigned against the movie for “romanticising” abuse against women.

However, the truth is that some women do seem to like this type of man. What else could explain the packed out cinemas mainly full of women across the world, watching this movie or the 100 million copies of the trilogy sold internationally, making it one of the all-time top selling books.

I can’t imagine too many of the readers were men, can you?

While Anastasia seems happy to play the victim being tossed round in this increasingly disturbing S&M relationship, Grace O’Brien fights to have equal power with her bad boy.

Paper Girl explains the dynamic during her first meeting with Tyler:  “He quite fancied the reporter even though he thought she was stuck up, there was a certain quirky attractiveness there.

“She had guts and was clearly intelligent, he thought. Grace was different to the air-head type of women he usually met. He didn’t mind screwing them but he’d never had a proper conversation with any of them – and had never been in love.

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My vision of Tyler Cox from Paper Girl – the ultimate bad boy. Photo credit: Charles Roffey, Flickr

“Tyler shifted his focus back to the task on hand, but found himself staring at her nipples again. “What the fuck are you looking at?” Grace said, putting the phone back into her pocket. “I was just admiring your tits darling,” Tyler said with a cheeky smile.

“Seriously, you think just ’cause you’re a fucking bad boy, that I’m going to fancy you, be scared of you? Fuck you,” Grace said quietly into his face, then jumping back to her spot and flicking her cigarette into the road.

“Tyler liked her just a little bit more. She had guts without a doubt…but Tyler wasn’t about to let Grace take the reins.”

Next, the book explains that though Grace tries to gain common ground, a type of equality with this man, he will remind her that he is a psycopath and if there is one thing that every woman must be aware of in reality, there is no way of controlling a bad boy.  They are dominant and unpredictable by nature.

“He had to keep her under control for his plan to work. He pushed her up against the pub wall, just enough to scare her but not enough to hurt her.

“Look sweetheart. I could kill you right here if I wanted,” he whispered into her ear, opening his suit jacket to reveal a knife inside the pocket.

“Grace felt her body tighten up, as if she no longer had control over it. Her eyes widened as she realised she might have gone too far.

“She knew who she was messing with and she just hadn’t wanted him to intimidate her. She had a job to do after all. She wanted that professional distance. She had told herself this was just another new contact, but really she knew Tyler wasn’t just that and she knew she should be scared of him and what he stood for.”

The pair would become unlikely lovers just like Grey and Anastasia, but in my opinion for the story to work ethically, Grace would need to fight her demons for loving Tyler while Tyler would have to travel a road to Damascus for their love to become a worthy one – one free from abuse.

My novel was always going to have to take the inevitable journey towards being a piece of noir fiction.

The good, the bad and the a-moral would all have to learn their lessons, stare morality in the face, because without humanity learning from its experiences, we only have women as victims and men as abusive dominants, and we as women and writers know that Fifty Shades of Grey does not reflect real life.

We have a world full of strong, independent, sexy women…but if most admit it, they still keep a little guilty space in their heart for the Christian Grey’s, the Tyler Cox’s and numerous other bad boys and powerful all-encompassing sociopaths.

Hey, don’t believe me – ask the woman beside you,  Oh and read Paper Girl – there’s a little of me in there too, L x

Real life Monsters: An Inspiration.

Hey there, so I’ve been thinking about how as human beings most of us at one time or another will encounter real-life monsters.

If you’re writing crime or fiction of any type, these guys could come in very handy so turn the bad in to good by utilising your own monsters.

Now, when I say most of us encounter monsters at one time or another – this person/s could be anything from the school bully who stabbed you in the hand with a pencil aged 8 (Yes, I am afraid that was me) to the dapper businessman in a suit who was ready to cut your throat sooner than give you a break (Yes, I have to say I’ve met quite a few of those) or even just the man who broke your heart when you were 17 and you had to burn every single love letter in your garden to the strains of The Smiths (again I ‘fess up, it was me 🙂 )

However, there are also of course much more serious monsters out there – the ones who occupy the crime sections in the papers and on the news and for those who have been unlucky to face a monster up close and personal like that, you never quite forget them.

I for one, have dealt with monsters of sorts since childhood.  I used writing to escape them and to bring them to life, depending on the mood I was in.

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Me aged 7 when I first started writing about monsters, fairies and of the contrast between good and bad.

One of my favourite fictional monsters appeared as the Trunchbull in a still-to-this-day much-loved children’s book, Matilda.

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The Trunchbull, Matilda by Roald Dahl

Another that stands out in my mind is Pinkie Brown, from Brighton Rock, one of the most evil and believable monsters I have ever read within the pages of a book or seen on a screen.

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Pinkie Brown played by a young Richard Attenborough in Brighton Rock

The monsters within Paper Girl are the criminal godfather, The Priest, who prays over his victims, The Priest’s rival Hacker Byrne and the most evil of all, Dan Joe Delaney, Hacker’s henchman who thinks nothing of carrying out the most debased acts against human beings.

You could say I was unlucky to have met a multitude of monsters – from the playground to my work as a reporter, but I see the experiences as only having enhanced my view of how bad people can be.  That has only helped my writing.

Everyone has known someone like this at some time in their life so whether you got bullied in school or grew up in the same neighbourhood as a gang boss, use this monster to inspire your work.

Monsters can be powerful – they can destroy your dreams and replace them with nightmares, but once you escape their clutches, you can use them to your benefit as a writer.

I will never forget my monsters, the ones who’ve kept me awake at night and whom I awoke to write about.

I will also never forget the voice of the real Priest.  He would call me on the phone at any time of the day or night and each time I would recognise his menacing voice even before he finished the first word.

By the end, I was afraid to pick the phone up, but my fear, the adrenaline I felt getting to know this gangster, among others, was poured in to my fiction and the way my protagonist, reporter Grace O’Brien, feels when she stumbles in to the Dublin underworld.

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How I see Grace O’Brien, the red-haired reporter in Paper Girl. Copyright Dusdin for use on Flickr

To anyone using monsters to make their fiction all the more believable, I also suggest another matter – to provide the reader with hope.

Although you may create a fictional world occupied by killers, criminals, or the a-moral, do not make them the all-encompassing.

Just as the amazing Roald Dahl provided us with these characters in his books, he ensured we had heroes to keep the nightmares at bay.

Humanity needs heroes much more than monsters.

Happy writing! L x

Getting Started: The writing process and self-belief

Hi all, well today I thought I would write to the writers…the creators and yes, that IS potentially each and every one of you out there reading this.

I started writing my book, Paper Girl, four years ago and at times I thought “How the hell am I going to do this?”

I was a busy news reporter and a single mother – don’t get me wrong I have a lot of family help and every day I thank God for my family, but still it’s hard to do it all.

To be honest, anyone who claims to, may be telling little white lies…so I would take chunks of time out from writing my book.  I accepted this was part of the process because my life was simply too busy.

However, the one bit of advice I can give to anyone A) thinking of writing a book, B) writing a novel or C) giving up on the whole thing is: MAINTAIN TUNNEL VISION. 

Being single-minded and having a vision is a tool all successful people adopt when setting about their goals and it was, from a young age, a tactic I used.

I am an incredibly single-minded woman and as one past editor said of me in a local newsroom some years ago:  “You’re like a bull with a red rag.” Well, that’s pretty much me – I don’t tend to give up on my dreams and nor should you – not one of you.

Do NOT ever let anyone tell you YOU CAN’T, YOU WON’T, YOU’RE WASTING YOUR TIME – as those people are the ones that don’t have a vision, a dream – you do.

If the world didn’t have the dreamers, the writers, the visionaries, we would still be stuck in caves – so keep on keeping on and don’t give up.

When writing a novel, find a topic that you really can get your teeth in to so that if you leave the book behind for a time, you will come back to it and it will be like seeing an old friend.  You pick up right where you left off.

Spend time keeping notes of places you go, people you meet – this is your diary and you will use it as inspiration for the book.

I went a little further than you may like to – I don’t recommend it to be honest, by meeting members of the criminal underworld to inspire some of the characters in my plot.

This was a dangerous period in my life and I was at times afraid of the consequences of my delving in to realism, I guess a form of Gonzo writing.  I merely wanted to achieve the best for my book, for my readers.  I believe I did that, but it certainly isn’t a tactic I would recommend to others.  Live your life on the safe side!

I am a journalist also, so I know this world inside out and the characters that live within it.

Someone said to me the other day – a journalist who will go unnamed “So, your book was about this paper hey?” referring to his place of work.  I replied “No, what made you think that?” He said “Well, the characters must be similar to those in many newsrooms in that case, because I swear I knew the editor.”

This made me laugh – but then I realised the journalist was right.  If characters are coloured and made to seem realistic – of course some of my journalistic characters were a mish-mash of personalities I have met over the years, then they could seem like people we have met in newsrooms.

So, to sum up – base your fiction on little segments of fact and colour it and tamper with it, to make it a new story – your story.

If you have a foundation to work from, fictionalising little segments of your life, then the story will in honesty write itself.

Much of my book was complete fiction because I was always a creative writer – ha ha! I certainly don’t mean within the day job!  But from a very young age, I wrote stories and had a passion for the escapism this entailed.

I could make up entire worlds full of different creatures so when it came to writing about the people within my world of crime, I was able to imagine an entire criminal underworld and a tale which runs from Dublin to Russia.

Also possibly the most important advice I can give to anyone who wants to write a book is – to enjoy it.

Take your book in to your heart, love and cherish it and all that you write.  Give it as a gift to your readers and then even if you don’t make a million bucks on the first one 😉 you will have achieved the greatest thing of all, creating something you love….till next time, L x

The Writing of Paper Girl

Paper Girl black cover8Hello all. This is my new blog devoted to crime-fiction, my debut crime novel, writing tips and general meanderings about the world.

I self-published my first crime-fiction novel, Paper Girl, in January 2015 after four years of writing the book in between a busy life as a reporter and as a mother to a teenage girl.

Paper Girl is a book loosely based on some of my own experiences though all professional characters are fictionalised.

I spent months with various crime figures from Dublin to get a taste for the men behind the criminal profiles we read about in the news.

This experience was an education in respect of seeing the way these underworld characters live and how they tick but it was also at times a terrifying baptism in to a world I, as a reporter and writer, did not belong.

None of the actual crimes or murders I have written about are factual but the characters are based on those I met.

I have worked as a newspaper journalist for 11 years in the UK, Northern Ireland and Ireland.  It was second nature for me to therefore base my book with tabloid journalism at its centre.

I felt that within crime fiction, whether it be within the pages of books or on TV or film, there are not enough strong female role models.  Too often women are marginalised as victims.

Therefore my protagonist, reporter Grace O’Brien, became my heroine.  She is a single mother who works in a male-dominated newspaper, ‘The Messenger’ in Dublin and is struggling to break the big story that could solidify respect for her in journalism.

The story she had been waiting for comes to Grace with the grim discovery of an actress’ dismembered body in a suitcase found in the Wicklow Mountains.

The reporter sets about trying to solve the murder and becomes entangled in the world of Irish gangland, falling in love with the wrong man and bringing in to question her own morality.

Paper Girl has been very well received and just one month in to publication, the book has performed well selling in Ireland, the UK, and the U.S.

I believe I have created a likeable and realistic character in Grace, who is a symbol of the bravery of some journalists in Ireland today – while she is like you and I, a normal woman with real struggles such as family, relationship problems and money issues.

I would love for nothing more than to inspire other women to write and for young women to have strong role models such as Grace O’Brien to look up to in a culture where there are far too few female heroines.

Women deserve in fiction, as well as the real world, to be empowered and I believe my book gives every woman a voice.