Like many writers, I draw on my personal experiences to add flavour and background to my scribbles. It’s easy research.
My dad had a small tailoring business, around the corner from Dublin’s iconic Trinity College. I can remember many a happy time messing around with boxes of assorted buttons and bales of cloth. It was one of those dark, dusty shops with gnarled shelves and dreams in every corner. A space for my imagination to expand and flourish. When I left Dublin in the eighties to pursue my nursing career, I lugged a sewing machine, a set of knitting needles, a bundle of wool and a pile of happy memories. It was only when I reached my forties that I built up the courage to do the one thing I’d always wanted to – write a book.
Crafting is a theme that runs like a steady stream through my crime thrillers but, given my background, it’s hardly surprising. There’s also usually a medical twist but, with a nursing career that spans nearly forty years, that has again to be viewed as easy research. Silent Cry, the first in my Detective Gaby Darin series, features an artisan crafter in South Wales who spins and dyes her own wool from the sheep roaming the hills behind her cottage. But what appears to be an idyllic life hides the heartache of a stolen baby. Darkest Night, book two, is an acknowledgement to that well-known trope of someone waking up next to a dead body but, in this case, the MC goes to bed with a man only to wake up beside the dead body of a woman. I return to crafting in my latest book, Fallen Angel. I picked up an imaginary box of my dad’s buttons, the shop has long since closed, and wrapped a plot around a dead woman found on Llandudno headland wearing someone else’s nightdress.
My journey from Irish nurse to published writer with HQ Digital, has been long and arduous. In a way it’s mirrored my travels around the globe. Itchy feet took me from Dublin to North Wales before I finally settled on a small island near France called Guernsey. I’d been writing for fifteen years, fourteen of which produced lots of words but little interest. While I had a degree it was in nursing. While I had drive and enthusiasm, I didn’t have even one single contact in the literary world to help push me through the door. With three children, a fulltime nursing job and bills to pay, writing was relegated to a cheap hobby – the dream of a glamorous, midlife career change just that. Unfulfilled.
You don’t need me to remind you what a difficult year 2020 is but, for me, 2019 was worse. My mother was ill and, with one thing and another, I was at a low ebb. After years of trying, I decided on one last chance at getting a publishing contract. The truth is there’s only so many times you can beat your head against a brick wall before the wall wins!
I’d like to say that it was my beautiful writing, unusual plots and wicked twists that secured my book contract with HQ Digital but there were a few other things that came into play. My editor at Harper Collins had just moved from another publishing house and had had to leave a well-known, Irish crime writer behind. My book landed on her virtual desk around about the same time. On the day it arrived in her in-box Silent Cry, which I’d self-published a couple of months previously, was racing up the UK and USA charts – by the end of that day it had hit the number one slot on both sides of the pond – only for a day but it didn’t matter. It was the extra push that was needed.
Publishing a debut crime series during lockdown has been an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Both Silent Cry and Darkest Night had this fate and, with lockdown repeated, Fallen Angel, out November 20th, is destined to suffer the same treatment. But there are worse things. Books and writing are two huge aspects of my life but I also still work as a nurse. My writing has always had to take second place to the many other facets of my existence. It’s something that’s squeezed in at the start of the day when my muse, for some reason, is always at her sweetest. Those fifteen minutes are invariably the best words I’ll write all day. There’s no magic bullet. It’s sitting behind my laptop with a mug of tea on the side while I throw together the first draft.
I’m currently working on book five because I’ve recently been lucky enough to have my contract renewed for another three books in the series. If I can give you one tip it’s not to give up on your dream. All it took for me was dogged determination and a lucky break.
Keep writing and best of luck, Jenny.
(c) Jenny O’Brien
About Fallen Angel:
She looked like she’d drifted off to sleep, curled up in her white dress, blonde hair floating in the breeze. They called it the Angel Murder.
Eighteen-year-old Angelica Brock is found dead at a local beauty spot, dressed in a pure white nightgown, her white-blonde hair arranged around her. For years her death is a mystery, her killer the one who got away for a whole generation of police.
For DS Gaby Darin, it’s not just any cold case – the victim is intimately linked to someone close to her, and emotions are high. But just as the team finds a breakthrough clue on Angelica’s nightdress, another case crashes into the station. Could they be linked? After all this time, can Gaby finally discover what really happened to Angelica?
This gripping and emotional thriller will have you flying through the pages and on the edge of your seat. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, LJ Ross and D. S. Butler.
Order your copy online here.