Writers In Ireland: Amanda J Evans

This week on ‘Writers In Ireland’, I am chatting to Amanda J Evans, an award-winning author writing paranormal and fantasy romance novels as well as children’s stories. Amanda lives in Ireland with her husband and two children. Her first novel Finding Forever won Best Thriller in the 2017 Summer Indie Book Awards and her second novel Save Her Soul won Silver for Best Paranormal in the Virtual Fantasy Con Awards 2017. Amanda has a publishing deal with Handersen Publishing and her first children’s book, Nightmare Realities was released on the 25th of September 2017. Her latest story, Hear Me Cry, a fantasy romance telling of the old Irish myth of the Banshee won the Book of the Year Award at the Dublin Writers Conference 2018.

Growing up with heroes like Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones, her stories centre on good versus evil with a splice of magic and love thrown into the mix. An early tragedy in her life has also made its way onto the page and Amanda brings the emotions of grief to life in her stories too. She is the author of Surviving Suicide: A Memoir from Those Death Left Behind, published in 2012.

Welcome, Amanda and congrats on your multiple awards! So, how long were you writing fiction before you were published?

I joined a writers group in early 2016 and this gave me the motivation to start writing every week. I’d always wanted to write for myself and have the confidence to put pen to paper but self-doubt always got in the way. In July 2016, we began a page a day challenge and that led to my first complete story, Finding Forever. I didn’t have the confidence to submit it to agents or publishers and after some great feedback from beta readers I chose to self-publish in January 2017. Finding Forever later went on to win Best Thriller in the Summer Indie Book Awards.

And did anyone – famous or not – inspire you to write?

No, writing has always been my go to for comfort and enjoyment for as long as I can remember. I spent hours in my bedroom writing as a child, filling copybooks with stories and scripts for new episodes of my favourite cartoons. Teenage years were spent writing poetry, and as life went on, writing took a backseat. It was always my go to though if I got down or needed answers and I love the joy that comes with putting pen to paper and just allowing the words to spill out. It’s therapeutic and I’d love to see journaling being added to school curriculums.

Do you write every day?

Yes. I write every morning, Monday to Friday. I usually get up at 7am and once I’ve checked all my social media and emails, I sit down with my iPad and type for about 40 minutes. I use my iPad because I have no distractions and no notifications. It’s just me and the screen and it works really well. Once I’ve completed my own writing, the rest of the days is taken up with client work. I am an SEO content manager for a large company in Canada so my days are spent typing up reviews and website content.

And you enjoy writing in multiple genres?

I think it might get boring to stay with the same genre forever. I don’t know any readers that only read the same genre of books, so I think it’s okay for writers to experiment in different genres too. Even Stephen King writes in different genres and everything isn’t just horror anymore. He mixes genres in a number of his books including epic fantasy, westerns, sci-fi, and more.

What are the themes you explore in your writing, Amanda?

I write YA and adult romance in a number of subgenres. I love happy ever afters and this is something I strive for in my books whilst still focusing on dark themes. I focus on the struggles and the pain of finding that happy ever after. In Finding Forever, my main character Liz is quiet and can’t make a decision for herself. When her husband goes missing, she is forced to rely on herself and find her own strength as she fights to get him back. In Save Her Soul, a paranormal romance, my main character Kate is a very strong, independent, young woman who is hell-bent on getting revenge on the people who murdered her sister. Hear Me Cry, my latest novella is a fantasy romance retelling of the Irish legend of the Banshee and deals with a lot of dark and deep emotions as well as reminding readers about the important of time.

How long does it take you to complete a book?

That all depends on characters and how willing they are to dictate their stories. In reality, it takes anywhere from 2 to 3 months to get a first draft done and depending on how busy my editor is, it can take another month or two to get the book polished.

Given that you have received so many, literary competitions and awards are obviously worthwhile?

I think literary competitions and awards are great for getting your name out there and getting recognition. I’ve read many interviews with authors who got their big break after winning a literary competition.

And your thoughts on Indie publishing?

I think indie publishing has turned the publishing industry around. It has given serious writers a way to get their stories out in to the world and have more control over the entire process. It also has a negative side in that anyone can publish a book and this, in the beginning, led to a lot of poorly edited and badly written books being published. It tarnished self-publishing and many people assumed that if you were self-published it was because you couldn’t get a “real” publisher. This is not the case and there are quite a lot of traditionally published authors who are choosing to embrace the self-publishing model too. I think on a whole it’s a wonderful way to get your stories out there, but it’s a lot of hard work too and you need to ensure that your book is the best it can be. This means having a professionally designed cover, paying for a professional editor, and taking the whole thing very seriously.

Do you have an agent?

I don’t have an agent at the moment as I have been self publishing, but I am working on a novel called Winterland that I plan to submit to agents and publishers in 2019. I don’t think it’s necessary to have an agent but I would love one. I think their expertise and knowledge of the publishing industry is invaluable and with an agent by my side my writing could reach a bigger audience.

And marketing and PR?

I do all my own marketing and PR work as a self-published author and it’s extremely difficult. I’d love to have a marketing or PR company to help me with this.

Thoughts on social media for authors?

Social media is a necessity in today’s world. It is expected of authors and part of your marketing. It’s time consuming too, but it has its benefits such as being able to engage with your readers.

Do you read your reviews, and if you have received any, how do you handle negative ones?

I had one negative review (1 star) for Finding Forever. The reviewer stated that they read the sample and enjoyed it so bought the book only to be disappointed to find the F word in the second chapter. Initially, I was gutted and considered rewriting and removing the F word, but after speaking with a number of other authors, I realised that my book won’t be for everyone. Surprisingly, when I mentioned that I’d received a 1 star review in one of the book groups on Facebook and the reason for it, my sales soared. 

Name six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with, and why?!

First off it would have to be my dad. I miss him so much and would love to be able to sit with him and talk about my life. After that, Roald Dahl because I loved his books growing up. Also Stephen King because I’d just love to get inside his mind and see how he comes up with his story ideas. Others would be Enid Blyton, Charlotte Bronte, and one of my writing friends, (they could argue about it themselves and choose who would come along).

And is there a book by another writer that you wish you had written?

There are a number of books that I’ve read over the past couple of years that have had a profound effect on me. Carnage by Lesley Jones, Bright Side by Kim Holden, and A Thousand Boy Kisses by Brittany Cherry, all showed me the power of emotions and allowing the reader to feel them. These were the first books to ever make me cry and after reading Carnage, I couldn’t even tell anyone about it without breaking into tears.

Tell me about your latest work and what inspired it?

I have a number of projects on the go at the moment. One of these is a second collection of short spooky stories for children aged 9+, called Nightmare Realities 2. This is for my US publisher Handersen Publishing. I’m also working on a new paranormal romance series, The Cursed Angels. Book 1, Visions, is complete and available in the Angels & Magic Collection until January 2019. I’m working on Book 2, Power. This series came about following a called for angel and magic themed stories. Once I read the post I immediately had an idea about two cursed angel brothers and a witch.

And finally, Amanda, do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. Write as much as you can and as often as you can. Just go for it whether you’re a planner or a pantser, without words on the page you don’t have a story, and without a story you have nothing to work on. Get the first draft written and be proud of that. There are so many aspiring writers that never even get as far as completing a first draft so praise and congratulate yourself every step of the way. Once you have your first draft you can decide what you want to do next. Another very important thing – Enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy writing, the publishing world isn’t for you.

You can find links and more about Amanda’s books HERE

Writers In Ireland: Lindsay J. Sedgwick

On Writers In Ireland this week, I’m chatting to Lindsay J. Sedgwick. A former journalist, Lindsay is a versatile and imaginative award-winning screenwriter and playwright with more than eight hours of credits for TV and film work, including a feature film, TV series and short films. Her series Punky has been recognized as the first mainstream cartoon series in the world in which the main character has special needs (Down’s syndrome). It is available in over 100 countries with around 5 million hits on YouTube. She founded the Creatives in Animation Network in 2012.

A screenwriting tutor since 1995, she regularly runs courses, workshops and masterclasses in libraries, colleges, universities and festivals around Ireland. As Screenwriter-in-Residence at Maynooth University/Kildare Co. Council Library and Arts Service 2016-7, she published Ireland’s first comprehensive guide to screenwriting, Write That Script in April 2018. Lindsay has had 14 plays produced around Ireland and the UK and has published two novels, Dad’s Red Dress and The Angelica Touch.

A prolific and varied writing career, Lindsay! So when did it all begin?

I can remember writing poems when I was six or seven; I wrote my first book when I was nine. It was 56 pages of a journal and I can remember making the words very big towards the end to fill the pages. But I can also viscerally remember the intensity and excitement of putting those words down and seeing the story build. Very melodramatic, it was about a cousin who was due to visit Ireland only a witchdoctor substituted his daughter instead. There were voodoo dolls, poisoned chocolates, mind control, the whole lot.

And your publishing journey to date?

My first feature article was published in 1984 when I was 17 in the Evening Herald, after which I worked as a freelance journo until 1997 in Ireland, Australia and also for publications in Europe, the UK and the US, while writing plays on the side. I’d been steered towards journalism by my mother, creative fiction was meant to be the hobby. In 1989, I got my first book commission from a publisher. It was a history of the Olympia Theatre up to 1990, all based on original research after the music hall era since the records had all been dumped in the ‘50s. The day after I delivered the manuscript, the publisher went bankrupt. End of first publishing break! Then I wrote a few novels between 1993-96. I got nice replies from agents and publishers that said I fell between literary and popular fiction. I focused on screenwriting from 1997 onwards, but did return to rewrite those first books, but I never felt I got them right and put one aside. The other I will return to. In 2010 or so, I tried turning some of my family features scripts into books. Again, ‘polite’ no’s. There seemed to be a very real chance of Dad’s Red Dress being published by a traditional publisher in 2016 but when that fell through at the last hurdle, I decided to self publish in 2017. I self-published Dad’s Red Dress when I was Screenwriter in Residence in Maynooth Uni & Kildare Co Council Library & Arts Service because I had the time to focus on it. Then came The Angelica Touch in Feb 2018 and Write That Script in May 2018.

Do you have an agent, Lindsay? 

I had one as a screenwriter from 1998-2012. The first ten years were great but in the end he was frustrated with the deals he was able to make with Irish producers. Since he wasn’t sourcing work for me or able to make better deals, I suggested we part ways for a year.15% is a lot to hand over unless they are actively earning you more in the deals you get. He was also only ever interested in dealing with TV and film work and I was also writing books and plays. Now, when I have a number of book projects at different stages, plus some TV series that seem to be of interest and a new play, I’m looking for an agent again. I want someone who is able to cope with the range of material I write and direct my energies!

How much of a contribution do you make to the marketing and PR of your work?

All of it. Trouble is I concentrate on it for a while but once I start writing, it gets put aside. This is definitely a mistake because then I lie awake at night thinking of all the opportunities I am missing by not sending the books here and there, not pushing them properly. I keep promising myself that I will organise my time better – put certain hours aside to do marketing and nothing else, but it hasn’t happened yet. When I do focus on it, it seems to take up the entire day and I go to bed frustrated at not getting enough creative work done!

Did anyone – famous or not – inspire you to write?

Eilís Dillon. I did a short course of hers in Listowel during Writer’s Week, in the late ‘80s or early 1990s. I missed one class – food poisoning – and when I came in the next day, I was greeted with, “So does anyone know who this Lindsay Sedgwick is”. Turned out they’d discussed my work at length the previous day, mostly flash fiction, possibly a play and she had been raving about it. When I told her I’d written for TV too, she turned around and said that basically the novel was all that was left and why didn’t I write one? I started two while I was there for the week but neither of them were strong enough to finish.

Have you formed any structure to your writing time? 

Not really. Everything begins longhand. Then I’ll print it out and edit those pages. If I can’t settle into it or haven’t slept well (which is often), I sneak down to a local cafe with a chapter or two and scribble over a flat white. Then I find I’m itchy to get onto the computer and type it up and that gets me back into the world. I need chocolate nearby and walk the dog when I’ve been sitting too long. If it’s going well, I forget to eat and end up ravenous. That’s when pizza becomes the reward! I’m always burning food because I get wrapped up in work so I’ve learnt to put the timer on my phone. I can remember my daughter, when she was still quite young, maybe 8 or 9 appearing at my office door – at that time I worked in a shed in the back garden – asking me shouldn’t I have told her to go to bed. I’d lost track of time. But those are magical days when the work flows. A lot of time gets taken up with marketing, emails or trying to break the work I want to do into small chunks so that I can feel I’m making progress. Editing and re-editing seem to take so much more time than fresh writing. I have really productive days and days when I’ve achieved nothing. If I’m teaching, prep time for that will eat into the day too. I can be distracted easily most days and a good book will steal hours from me too! I often tend to take a bit of work that’s proving tricky to bed and force myself to brainstorm or edit it. It’s often the clearest time to work things out. On a good day I could be working at 8 and still working at 11 but there will be big glumps of time when I’m not doing anything remotely connected with writing in between and I only really have those days when my husband is away!

And on average, how long does it take you to complete a book?

Write That Script took a year, from the day I began to the day I received my proof copy. Dad’s Red Dress, which had been around in an earlier draft, I think I worked on it for about 6 months but then I had spent a few months on it earlier in 2016 and in 2015 so that’s not very accurate. The rewrite of Angelica, which had also been around in a very basic draft, took about 8 months but I was working on a lot of other stuff at the time. The current book, Moving On, is the sequel to dad’s Red Dress. I’ve been it at since July 2017 but I had the ending of it for about a year before that. I brainstormed ideas for it until September or so because I was working on Candlemist but I’m hoping to have the first draft finished by September 2018. Candlemist is my other book – and that goes back to 2005; I get a few months to work on it intensively and then something else comes up and I put it aside. At about 110,000 words unfinished, it has a dozen of more threads and I know that each of them needs to be tracked and traced through the book to make sure it all holds together. I worked on it from September to December last year, and now it’s like a sweets jar I can’t wait to dive into when I have a reasonable space of time to do so. So it varies, I guess. Another book, part memoir, has been around in some form from 2008 but I haven’t found the right narrative structure to underpin it yet.

In terms of genre, how would you describe your writing?

My first two novels don’t seem to fit a genre. I’d describe them as general fiction/ humour but because the main characters and 13 and fourteen respectively, bookshops have chosen to categorise them as YA. I think you have to write the stories you are passionate about. I do feel life would be less complicated if I wrote genre, just from a marketing pov but so far it hasn’t happened and I don’t think you can force it – unless someone is offering you payment; then you can write in any form and with passion, as I know from being a professional writer for 30 odd years! I do have two TV series that would make good genre novels/series and I’m actually really curious to know if I could make them work in prose because I love the characters and stories, but there are about five books in between waiting to get finished.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Writing is a muscle you have to keep using. Even when you don’t feel like it. Grab ten minutes here and there and make yourself write. On the bus, during a tea break, waiting for someone. Deliberately arrive early for a meeting or to pick your child up and write while you wait. Don’t expect to write brilliant or even good stuff each time you sit down – you have to write the bad stuff too but at least then it’s not in your head anymore.

Last question, Lindsay – is there a book by another writer that you wish you had written?

Love in the Time of the Cholera by Gabriel García Marquéz.

 

You can find Lindsay’s books HERE, her online store, and with Irish Library Suppliers. Read her Blog HERE

 

Writers In Ireland: Derek Flynn

This week, I’m chatting to Derek Flynn, an Irish writer and musician with a Masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. THE DEAD GIRLS is his second novel. Readers called his debut novel BROKEN FALLS “a gem of a book”, and “a perfect crime drama”.

Derek’s short story “The Healer” was featured in “Surge”, an anthology of the best new Irish writing published by O’ Brien Press. His non-fiction has appeared in a number of publications, including the Irish Times. He is also a regular contributor to Writing.ie, where he writes his “Songbook” column. Like most writers, he is fuelled solely by caffeine and self-doubt…

Welcome to the series, Derek, and I’ll start with a question we writers are often asked – when you first began to write?

When I was twelve/thirteen, I was obsessed with comics. I would write comic scripts and either draw them myself or give them to more talented artistic friends who would draw them for me. Eventually, I moved on to writing stories. But that took a back seat from about the age of 16, when I joined a band. Music became my main passion for the next few years. I moved to New York in the late 90s and played music there for five years. It was while I was living there that I got an idea for a novel.

And how did you get your first publishing break?

After I moved back from New York, I started to write the book that I’d gotten the idea for over there. This was around 2004. But it was another 10 years before I published anything! I wrote a couple of novels in that time and submitted them to agents, often coming tantalisingly close. My first publishing break came in 2014, when one of my short stories was published in an anthology of the “Best New Irish Writing” by O’ Brien Press. Then, in 2016, I was offered a bursary from my local arts office to self-publish one of my novels. So I decided to take the plunge!

As a self-published author then, you must contribute to the marketing and PR of your work?

I have to – there’s no one else to do it for me! Being an independent author brings with it a lot of work when it comes to marketing and so on. But, at the same time, I love being in control of that side of things and trying to come up with new and innovative ways of getting my books in front of readers.

Do you find social media useful for marketing?

I can only speak as an independent author, but from my point of view, it’s essential. There are so many books and authors out there, that it takes a lot to cut through the noise. And social media is a great way of speaking directly to readers. I published my first novel, Broken Falls, during the Waterford Writer’s Weekend 2017 which was curated by Rick O’ Shea. There were some members of The Rick O’ Shea Book Club there and they happened to pick up a copy of Broken Falls. They went on to post some very lovely comments about it on the ROSBC Facebook page and word of mouth spread from there.

Is there anyone you would credit with inspiring you to write?

As I said, I was a huge comic’s nerd, and the one comic that made me want to be a writer was the science fiction comic 2000AD. And the 2000AD writer who inspired me the most was Alan Moore, who would later go on to write Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell, amongst others. For me, Moore was – and is – a genius. And he’s a magician! What’s not to love?

Do you write every day, and if so, how is your writing day structured?

What is structure!? I aim for structure but it usually descends into farce! Having said that, when I’m working on a book, I do try to write every day, even if it’s only a few hundred words. Every little helps, as they say!

Tell me a little about the genre of your work?

I think of my novels as occupying the territory somewhere between crime and thriller. And the great thing about those genres is that it gives you the opportunity to explore issues that might not necessarily be associated with them. So, in my first novel, Broken Falls, I looked at the legacy of the Magdalene laundries and the “Mother and Baby” homes in Ireland through the lens of a crime story set in Newfoundland. Likewise, my second novel, The Dead Girls, looks at the horrifying story that has recently come to light in the US of hundreds of women who were murdered, their bodies dumped by the side of the highway. Forgotten women who slipped through the cracks. Being able to explore those kinds of issues while telling a good story is what attracts me to these genres.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers, Derek?

Just go for it. I was asked in an interview recently what my biggest fear was. My answer? Not having tried. You’ll hear a lot of naysayers telling you you can’t do things. I say ignore them. I’ve recorded albums; I’ve written books; I’ve just staged my first play. And it’s all gone pretty well. I’m not buying a house in the South of France, but I’m doing what I’ve wanted to do my whole life. People think the worst thing is to fail – I think the worst thing is to never have tried.

I couldn’t agree more! Now, a fun question – is there a book by another writer that you wish you had written?

The Sandman comic series by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is mostly known now as a novelist (and the husband of Amanda Palmer) but he got his start in comics and The Sandman is his magnum opus. Incorporating fantasy, horror, historical fiction, and just damn good storytelling, it is stunning.

Final question, Derek, can you share with us what you are working on now?

I’m about to start work on my third novel in my Detective John Ryan series. I’m also working on a Young Adult novel which I’m very excited about.

 

Check out Derek’s Facebook Page HERE

THE DEAD GIRLS is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US Or from the author’s Website HERE

Writers In Ireland: Sharon Thompson

This week on my Writers In Ireland series, I am delighted to welcome Sharon Thompson, author and co-founder of #WritersWise tweet-chat on Twitter. Sharon has also recently set-up an exclusive, online writing group (indulgeinwriting.com). Her short stories, articles and other writings have been published in literary magazines, newspapers and online resources such as writing.ie. She writes a regular column, Woman’s Words on donegalwoman.ie, as well as recommending new book releases on indulgeme.ie (#indulgeinbooks).

Sharon’s debut crime novel, ‘The Abandoned’ was published by Bloodhound Books UK in January, 2018, launching at #1 Bestseller in Kindle Irish Crime Fiction. She has signed for two more crime novels, and has a further two manuscripts on submission through her agent.

Welcome to the series, Sharon, and congratulations on co-creating #writerswise, such a valuable resource. It is so nice to see writers encourage others on their journey, and with that in mind, how long were you writing before you were published for the first time?

I was writing in a sustained way, for five years, before my debut crime novel ‘The Abandoned’ was released. I entered writing competitions and joined online writing groups. I practiced. My short stories were accepted into literary magazines and this helped me go on to try novel-length pieces and to have them read and subsequently submitted to agents and publishers. It was a long road with lots of words and many stumbling blocks along the way. It feels like it was a longer process.

Did anyone inspire or encourage you? 

Carmel Harrington, the Irish Times bestselling Harper Collins author is my writing, fairy god-mother. She is called @HappymrsH on twitter and she is my leading light in the writing world. We found each other many years ago now and she lead me to start taking writing seriously and she has helped me every step of the way. I cannot thank her enough for all of her support. Carmel changed my life.

I see from your bio that you have an agent. Do you think it necessary for writers to have one?

Tracy Brennan from Trace Literary agency, is my agent. It also feels like I fought long and hard to get my great agent. For me, an agent is necessary. It is a lonely enough road sometimes. I like having someone in my corner, who works in my best interests. I don’t annoy Tracy (I hope I don’t) but we communicate regularly and I would be lost without her.

From my experience in talking to authors, marketing is often the most daunting aspect of the work. Do you contribute to the marketing / PR of your writing?

My life is full of social media and what I consider marketing. Outside of actually writing the manuscripts, all of my work is connected to writing and being immersed in the industry. All of the platforms I contribute to, hopefully extend my readership and support other writers.

Last question, Sharon. What are your thoughts on writing in multiple genres?

I hope that we can write anything that takes our fancy? I love to write across genres. I am drawn to dark crime or historical fiction, but I also write fun pieces. I try to write contemporary romance or ‘lighter’ fiction. I tend not to worry about the genre or the box I fit in, but merely write. I love what I do and write whatever I enjoy. I need to explore and read across even more genres and see if I could write in them as well. I am thinking on a project a fellow writer asked me to collaborate on – a script for a play. This is all very exciting!

That is lovely to hear, Sharon. I wish you the very best of luck with all of your projects!

Find Sharon on Twitter at @sharontwriter and on her website HERE

Link to The Abandoned HERE

Writers in Ireland: Niamh Boyce

Today, I am delighted to welcome Niamh Boyce to the ‘Writers In Ireland’ series. Niamh’s first novel, The Herbalist, won Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2013, and was long listed for the IMPAC Award. Her stories have been adapted for stage, broadcast, published in literary magazines and anthologized, most recently in ‘The Long Gaze Back- Irish Women Writers’ and ‘The Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction. ‘ Niamh has just published Inside The Wolf, her first collection of poems.

Niamh, congratulations on the publication of Inside The Wolf, a collection I am thoroughly enjoying at the moment. The poems feel interconnected, exploring issues such as death, memory and transformation. Did you plan to write this collection, or have they been gathered over the years?

Yes, that’s true Caroline, those themes – especially transformation – reoccur throughout the collection. I was always interested in reclaiming forgotten voices, and in subverting fairy tales, especially the wolf and Red Riding Hood. But there was no plan to concentrate on certain themes in any way. The poems were just written over the years, reflecting my interests, or my life – some go way back. Night Feed is sixteen years old, written during a wakeful night with my baby. Poems from that time are short, echoing the conditions under which they were written, baby in one arm, pen in the other. I felt very close to the elements then, very primal. It was a creative time, despite the exhaustion!

The rest of the poems were written over the years since then, and I wasn’t aware of the themes until I had laid them all out on the floor in front of me last year. That’s when I saw that there were art poems, ghost poems, fairy-tale poems, transformation poems and so on. The interconnectedness was not immediately obvious to me, it took a while to figure out how to shape the book; in which order to place the poems – some fitted together naturally – the ones about The Beast, Bluebeards Wife, Sleeping Beauty and so on – but seeing exactly how the others spoke to each other, took some time. At that stage, I sought out Grace Wells, as I needed a fresh perspective, someone who could see what I was too close to the work to see. That was very fruitful, as Grace has a very clear eye and was very honest. Its only now, looking back that I realise that what I thought of as the end stage, was actually the beginning of a potent process of transformation itself – any number of editorial decisions about placement and inclusion, could have led to many different types of book.

You also write novels, but what is your first love, poetry or prose?

Poetry is my first love, and I find poems most satisfying as a writer, closest to the bone. Sometimes they come in an organic way, unbidden – poets often refer to poems that come that way as gifts, and they are. They are pure joy. Others require a lot of redrafting, I was Swallowed by a Harry Clarke Window, a pretty short poem from the collection, was originally four pages long. But I enjoy working like that too – whittling away at the words, trying to find the poem within the poem.

You are traditionally published, with a great deal of success. Why self-publish Inside The Wolf?

Yes, my novel The Herbalist was published by Penguin, and I was very happy with that. When it came to the poetry collection, a poetry press that I greatly admire, told me it would take two years; if they were to decide to publish my work. That was one of the main reasons I went ahead and set up Red Dress Press. My collection was ready, and I didn’t want to have to wait till 2020 – not if I didn’t really have to – before publishing it. I wanted to go to print this summer, and without being flippant, why not self-publish? I enjoy all aspects of creating and love a challenge – plus it gave me full control over the timing, the cover, the contents. So, I found it a relatively easy process, and will probably publish my next collection under that same imprint.

It is a beautiful publication, and the cover is very evocative, and eye-catching. How much input did you have on how it would look?

Thankyou! I am so happy with the cover. I commissioned Jessica Bell to design it. She asked me to fill in a detailed questionnaire about the book and read some of the work. She responded to the information with three different cover ideas, one of which I loved immediately. We exchanged ideas back and forth, and she tweaked the image until it became the one on the cover. It was a very smooth process as Jessica really ‘got’ what the book was about.

Well congratulations, Niamh, I wish you every success with it. Also, you have a second novel in the works, I believe. Can you tell us anything about it?

I can yes – the novel is called Her Kind and was inspired the Kilkenny witchcraft trial – an event which occurred after a bishop called Ledrede accused a local moneylender, Dame Alice Kytler of sorcery. It was a 14th century case which required all sorts of fascinating research. It will be published in April 2019 by Penguin Random House.

 

You can check out Niamh’s Blog HERE. Inside The Wolf is available to purchase HERE

Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Niall Queenan

Niall Queenan is a screenwriter from the North West who currently lives in Dublin and graduated from the National Film School at IADT in 2012 with a Masters in Screenwriting. He was recently awarded an emerging screenwriter talent development mentorship from the Irish Film Board, won the gold prize in the thriller/horror category of the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards for his feature thriller script NEXT OF KIN, and the bronze prize in the thriller/horror category of the World Series of Screenwriting Awards for his feature thriller script SHADOW OF THE BLACKBIRD. He was consequently signed by manager/producer Peter Katz of Story Driven in Los Angeles. His feature debut, THE HIT PRODUCER, an independent Irish crime thriller, screened and won awards at a number of international film festivals and recently had a limited cinema release in Dublin. He has worked with Irish director Cathal Black under his Nightingale Films Ltd production company in a script development capacity and also co-produced his recent short film BUTTERFLY. He has completed feature re-writes for Propaganda Italia in Rome, Bee Holder Productions in Los Angeles, and is currently developing a slate of spec genre thrillers.

Impressive work, Niall. So, when did you first begin to write for screen?

Six years ago. My initial forays were a total disaster. I wrote two scripts without knowing a thing about the craft, thought they were gold, and paid a professional screenwriter to critique them. To say he hated them would be putting it mildly. That said, he was very understanding and gave me some really solid advice. Three months later I still felt like it was something I wanted to do, so I started over, read pro screenplays and began to study the craft. The learning continues and I can’t imagine it ever ending.

Did anyone, famous or otherwise, inspire you?

Well, they’re famous in our house, but my father always made up stories when we were kids and it was time to shut us up for the night, and my mother got me hooked on mystery novels, so I imagine the seed was planted there. But it wasn’t until I saw ‘Catch Me If You Can’ that I knew I wanted to write screenplays. Something about that film really captured my imagination and in that case, for whatever reason, I quickly came to the conclusion that the magic had started on the page. From then on the desire has been to write something that will ultimately result in an audience being as engrossed and involved in a story as I had been that evening. So, I suppose you could credit Jeff Nathanson, and also – shocker – Steven Spielberg.

Do you write every day?

When I’m working on something new I write every day. I believe that it’s important to keep your head in the same space while plotting and writing the first draft. If I’m between things or planning to re-write I’ll leave it alone, or work on something else, and let the subconscious mull over whatever it needs to, which I find productive in the long run… plot holes, inconsistencies and bad dialogue always seem to spring to mind during down time. I don’t have a specific daily structure, but I tend to write a lot at night and into the small hours.

Do you have a preferred genre?

I usually write thrillers, be they crime, conspiracy, supernatural etc. I just love being in that headspace, where there’s a sense of mystery, danger or intrigue, and working out how to assemble the pieces of the story into a compelling read.

How long does it take you to complete a script?

Usually somewhere between three and four months to outline it and get a solid first draft down.

And on your first production break? How involved in the process were you?

I’ve had just one film produced, an indie crime thriller called ‘The Hit Producer’, which had a very limited Irish release a few weeks ago. I met the director at a pitching event set up by the writers’ and directors’ guilds, and after swapping scripts/ideas he sent me his treatment for it. We unsuccessfully pitched it as a Storyland project, but by then had come up with enough material for a feature so I wrote the script. The budget (€18,000) came from a lot of blood, sweat and tears on the crowdfunding campaign, which I was heavily involved in, and after that I was on set as and when bodies were needed to chip in during the shoot. I sat in on the edit for a time during post-production and once that was done so was I. So, very much a DIY break, but it has led to other opportunities and was absolutely worth the effort. Big thanks again to all who backed the campaign and in fact gave us that break!

Do you have an agent, or think one is necessary?

I don’t have an agent, but as of very recently I have a manager! I think when you’re an unknown you have to prove yourself, which means writing strong spec scripts, completing assignments and getting your name out there. I expect that once work generates positive word of mouth, and assuming there’s a demand for the writer, an agent gets involved. I think if a writer was in serious demand an agent would absolutely be necessary. The contractual/negotiation side of things alone is a headache that I’m sure few writers want to spend their time dealing with, but want to make sure their best interests are served, so an informed manager/agent is likely vital in ensuring things get done right.

Thoughts on social media and marketing for filmmakers?

It’s absolutely necessary where you’ve made an independent film or you’re looking for backers for your crowdfunding project, nobody else is going to talk you up, but with hashtags and viral marketing tactics it’s possible to build buzz. That aside, when writing, or developing ideas etc., the less time spent on social media the better… it’s a total time suck unless you’re incorporating social media into the progress of your project in order to engage.

And do you contribute to the marketing of your own work?

I use a few social media platforms like Stage32, Twitter and LinkedIn, and post updates if I feel like something is worth sharing, but outside of that I don’t really “market” myself. To be honest, I’d rather be writing, but if there’s a project I’m involved in out there then I’ll absolutely help the team get the word out.

What’s your opinion of the current world of film? National? International? Indie Film?

Where indie film is concerned, I expect that there are tonnes of gems going undiscovered that word of mouth and cult status in their respective countries will eventually bring to a wider audience. Indie film in the US seems to be defaulting toward a Sundance style formula but there’s still plenty of really interesting stuff being made. In the mainstream, I’m a bit tired of the superhero films because they all play out in the same way – more or less – and few risks are taken. Similarly, everything these days seems to be based on book franchises, or is inspired by true events, and it feels like spec scripts are for writing sample purposes only, which is borderline a crime. Where Ireland is concerned, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2020’s prove to be our golden age. A widespread confidence in craft is emerging on all levels, which is very exciting, and will hopefully result in greater funding for the respective bodies and lead to more opportunities for Irish writers and filmmakers.

Having just won a PAGE Award – and mighty congratulations on that – what is your opinion on the importance of screenplay competitions?

I think they’re a useful way to judge where your writing is at, and if you win, or place, or make the finals, it definitely justifies contacting producers/managers/agents – or will see them contact you. That said, I think a lot of aspiring screenwriters make the same mistakes I made before and submit scripts that just aren’t ready, in hope of magically hitting the jackpot. Even if you’re confident that the basics of the story work, I would suggest taking additional time to be brutal with your dialogue, and to work the hell out of the descriptive passages. There are tonnes of ways to describe a room, but maybe only a couple that fit the tone of your story, so print it out, red pen it, grab a dictionary and don’t just settle for the easy option before you shell out your hard-earned cash.

And since you have been heavily involved in crowdfunding – what has that experience been like?

I’ve worked on two crowdfunding campaigns, the first was for ‘The Hit Producer’, and the second was for a short film called ‘Butterfly’ – both were hosted by Fund It and, fortunately, both were successful. Crowdfunding is tough, though, and while my experiences of it were ultimately worthwhile, they were extremely time-consuming and exhausting. Engaging your audience on a personal level and putting in the time to talk about their projects is just as important as promoting your own, and it’ll pay dividends when you’re looking for likes/shares/re-tweets. What’s even more key is beginning the process of building your audience a long time in advance of the campaign launch. Trying to get people to notice you when the clock is already ticking is a stress you don’t need, so my advice to anyone considering it down the road is to set up your Twitter/Facebook pages now and start communicating. Talk about the development process, ask opinions, basically involve people so that they’re invested in its progress. I’ve a lot of admiration and respect for those who stick their necks out and decide to crowdfund, and even more respect for those who pledge and green light aspiring creatives. It’s a huge leap of faith and the hope for those who get to move forward is that your backers will ultimately be proud of the work.

Any advice for aspiring film writers, Niall?

Well, I’m still one of them, but from my limited experience I think writers should write the ideas that they personally connect with and can’t stop thinking about, as opposed to writing what people tell them is more suitable for the market/funding bodies. Getting to the end of a script is hard enough, but if you’re not engaged in it, or just doing it for the sake of it, then that’s what will come across on the page. Also, trust your instincts. If something’s bothering you in the script and you just can’t shake it, then cut it or re-write it. For me, re-writing is the best part of writing screenplays… it’s like being given back a test paper and getting to change the answers to something “correct” or at least closer to it, with the benefit of perspective and hindsight.

Is there a film script by another writer that you wish you had written?

There are hundreds. ‘Taxi Driver’ by Paul Schrader, ‘Once Upon A Time in the West’ by Sergio Leone & Sergio Donati, ‘The Usual Suspects’ by Chris McQuarrie, ‘Catch Me If You Can’ by Jeff Nathanson … those are the first that come to mind.

Can you share with us what you are working on now?

I’ve written a very rough first draft of a psychological thriller which I’ve been working on with the assistance of script editor appointed by the Irish Film Board as part of their emerging screenwriter talent development initiative. I’m also developing a high-concept single location thriller that I’m very excited about, and a handful of other genre ideas.

Would you consider directing your own work?

Yes, at some point, but I think before trying I’d like to shadow someone else just to get a better idea of what to expect, and maybe make a really cheap short or two, just so it’s not all new. Even at that, I’d definitely be dependent on the crew’s technical expertise, but I love the idea of working collaboratively with a creative team to achieve a particular vision with a view to ending up with something unique that holds up over time.

And just for fun…six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with?!

For the sake of seeing just how crazy things would get… Charles Bukowski, Oliver Reed, Jack Nicholson, Richard Pryor, Elizabeth Taylor and Chris Farley – all while at the height of their infamy.

 

You can find Niall on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Stage32