My Writing Journey: The Lies Beneath by Lucy O’Callaghan

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By Lucy O’Callaghan

Author Lucy O’Callaghan on the writing of her gripping tale of friendship, love, and the masks we wear: The Lies Beneath.

Writing was always a hobby for me, I filled notebooks with stories as a teenager and wrote stories for my children when they were young and got them to do the illustrations. It was something I did when the kids were in bed when my husband was away with work. It wasn’t a secret hobby as such, but it was my background hobby. When COVID happened, my preschool business, along with my children’s schools were closed and I decided that to keep busy I would treat my writing like an office job. As my children sat down to homeschool, I sat down to write. With two novels from years gone by confined to the desk drawer, never to see the light of day again, I turned my focus to teasing out a new idea that had been percolating in my mind since Christmas.

I’m a handwriter; a purple pen, and a purple notebook is all I need. I have a superstition about using the same type of notebook for each story, and each novel has a collection of a particular shade of purple notebooks. I do type up my stories, and I can type fast, but I can’t seem to think creatively and type at the same time. So, my process is long-winded. About a year ago, I bought a Remarkable 2 which is a writing device that converts your writing to text. So that saves me a lot of time these days. But I still use notebooks. I find this writing process helps me to find my story. I write into it.

I write the story premise and list the characters involved. This is all very rough and changes immensely as the story is developed and written. Next comes my character development, for which I write pages and pages of ramblings. Not a character interview as such, but I might use character questions to get me started. I’ll describe them physically, their relationships with others, and their habits and tics which tend to come out themselves as I write about the characters. I often write mini-scenes which never make it into the story but help me understand the character. This might be something mundane like them driving to the supermarket. I’ll note what they’re listening to in the car, how they react to other drivers, what car they drive, and what they buy in the supermarket. This can run to several pages and it’s the way I get to know my characters.

While I was writing my way into the story of The Lies Beneath, I joined an online writing challenge run by Writers Ink. This was to be my best decision ever writing-wise. The challenge was run by the most amazing Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin AKA best-selling author, Sam Blake, and journalist and mindset coach, Maria McHale, and I joined Writer’s Ink directly afterwards.

To say I’ve learned a lot from being part of this group for the last four years is an understatement. Being amongst other writers daily, albeit online, has been the greatest support. Learning to be brave enough to share my work, to accept critique, and to give critique to others, was a huge step in the development of my writing.

Writers Ink taught me how to plan my novel. It doesn’t work for everyone but having a thought-out structure helped me. I planned my chapters, describing them in one sentence. Even if I only started with 40 chapters, more would be added as I wrote and added subplots, etc. This also helped when I was writing because it meant I didn’t have to write linearly. If the words weren’t flowing for one chapter, I could move on to the next. Listening to how other writers wrote gave me the flexibility to find a way that worked for me.

I had never submitted my work outside of writing groups. My motto was, you can’t get rejected if you don’t put your work out into the world! I was writing for myself, no publisher needed to see it. But my writing tribe pushed me to send it. I submitted it to a few places to test the water but didn’t allow myself to hope. Every email notification made me jump and question, is this the agent? Is this the publisher? Until the days turned into weeks and months and there are some I still haven’t heard back from.  

A friend mentioned she was sending to Poolbeg and encouraged me to do so. I posted my first three chapters and the synopsis on a Tuesday and on Wednesday, I received an e-mail asking for the rest. As I mentioned, some publishers and agents don’t get back to you for months, but as Poolbeg asked so quickly for more, I was sure they’d be quick with a yes or no to the full manuscript. What followed was an increasingly tense couple of weeks waiting to hear if they liked it and I’d resigned myself to a rejection when the e-mail pinged into my inbox offering me a three-book deal!

My top tips for any writer are to surround yourself with other writers, learn from them, and don’t be afraid to share your work, as it’s the only way to learn. Finally, don’t give up, keep writing and keep sending your stories into the world.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About The Lies Beneath by Lucy O’Callaghan

Friendship tested, secrets revealed, lives shattered: a gripping tale of deception.

Carla seems to have it all – a big house in a picturesque village on the west coast of Ireland, a rich husband, and two great kids. But she wants to be Carla again. To rediscover herself beyond her roles as a mother and wife. Teaching is her passion, but her husband Thomas prefers to keep his wife at home and blocks her attempts to return to work.

Carla’s best friend Emily is struggling in the dating world. Back to work since separating from her husband, she longs to have a partner again – a longing that leads her to make a disastrous mistake.

Amanda, a friendly librarian, is a manipulative mother behind the scenes, and prepared to use extreme measures to hold on to her student daughter Dawn who is desperate to escape her suffocating situation.

Hidden beneath the picture-perfect marriage, the enduring friendship and mother/daughter relationship lie betrayals that will shatter three families.

Order your copy of The Lies Beneath online here.

About the author

Lucy is originally from Yorkshire but met a Galway man at university in Wales and moved to the West of Ireland. She studied English Studies and Philosophy and travelled some of the world before embarking on teaching English.

Motherhood to two boys and a girl distracted her from her career for a long time and she enjoyed working in the home. Courses in journalism and writing fiction kept her brain ticking over. Writing stories at first for her children, she moved towards contemporary women’s fiction. A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her.

Lucy writes a weekly Really Useful Links column for writing,ie aimed at finding the best advice out there for various aspects of writing. From potting v pantsing, world-building, scene description, and character traits, to working through the saggy middle, her columns have all areas covered. She also writes regular interviews with literary agents.

The Lies Beneath is her first novel and is published by Poolbeg Press. When not writing, Lucy can be found walking the beaches of Ireland and exploring her favourite Burren hills alongside her husband and dog. These walks are often when the best story ideas come to mind, and plot problems are teased out and fixed. She also likes to rearrange her purple pens and purple notebooks, and line up her collection of elephants (not real).

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