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A novel new experience

Although I’ve focussed on poetry throughout my writing career, I’ve always been an avid reader of fiction, and much of my poetry has tended towards the narrative. So it was only a matter of time before I ventured into the brave new world of fiction writing. That I should want to write crime came as no surprise to me; my earliest reading as a young teenager was the novels of Agatha Christie; I worked my way through P.D. James, Ruth Rendell and though I never read Colin Dexter’s novels, I became addicted to the TV adaptation of his Chief Inspector Morse (and the sequels and prequels that followed).

I’ve always believed that we should write what we enjoy reading, so in 2015 I took my courage in my

The cover of The Branchman,

hands and signed up for a course in crime fiction with Irish thriller-writer, Louise Phillips. In an incredibly instructive 10 weeks, Louise took us through the intricacies of structure, suspense, hooks and dialogue. Her first piece of advice was the most crucial; she pointed out that if you wrote 500 words a day, you’d have a full-length novel within the year. She encouraged us to email her our weekly word count, and even provided a handy grid so that we could fill out our daily rate. I got up at 5.30am and wrote until 7am every morning that course ran, and had the best part of 20,000 words written before it had ended. It took me another two years to complete the remaining 60,000 and another year again to edit, refine, edit again to the point that I was ready to send it out.

So i was thrilled when Irish publisher Alan Hayes of Arlen House said he’d like to publish the book, The Branchman, which is soon to make its first appearance in the world.

So what’s it about? It’s about a Special Branch Detective, Michael Mackey, who is sent to a small East Galway town to uncover a nest of subversives and a possible traitor within the police station to which he has been assigned. It’s about the utterly lawless world of post Civil War Ireland, where nearly everyone had a gun, or a secret, or both. It’s about murder and love and jealousy.

I enjoyed writing it enormously, wanting above anything else to create a story that people would want to finish, pages they’d want to turn and characters they’d come to care about. I hope you enjoy The Branchman. There’s more where that came from.

The Branchman will be launched by novelist Catherine Dunne at 6.30pm on Tuesday 18th September, alongside new work by Mary O’Donnell and Sophia Hillan, at the Irish Writers Centre, Parnell Square, Dublin 1.

 

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