I live in a picturesque seaside town on the shores of Carlingford Lough – a hidden Northern Irish gem cradled between the northern, Mourne and the southern, Cooley mountains.
Straddling the border between North and South seems fitting as my siblings and I were born on both sides of the border. My father, following a family sea-faring tradition, was a lighthouse keeper and our family moved around a lot in the early days.
His tales of the isles he lived on, the people he met, whetted my imagination as a child. Cutting a dashing figure in his uniform – dark navy pants and jacket, with golden buttons – he’d arrive home with arms full of presents and a head full of stories to keep us children riveted (and me up all night writing them down).
I live with my husband and one of my two sons (the other ran off, bought a house and settled down with a perfectly lovely girl and provided us with the most beautiful granddaughter) and a rapidly ageing dog, Dexter, who has willingly taken over number one son’s spot in the house.
Being Irish, and coming from a family of seafarers and storytellers, it perhaps wasn’t surprising when I decided to put pen to paper. What was surprising was that I didn’t announce it to the whole world.
For many years, I wrote in secret, stealing moments, waking in the early hours to get ahead of my day. I may have gone on like that – quite happily – if not for two things.
One, I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylosis (AS) – an extremely painful debilitating spinal disease – and two, my teenage sister and her boyfriend were killed in a car accident.
Suddenly ego, fear, nerves, didn’t matter anymore. But the words did, and the desire to leave something, anything, behind.
And so I decided to submit my work, having absolutely no idea what I was doing. Which was painfully obvious when I submitted my first novel – a beast of a book at 400K words. It was (unsurprisingly) rejected, but I never forgot the kindness of that first editor who, when faced with a huge parcel (yes, this was in the days before email submissions were allowed and everything had to be sent snail mail) sent back the nicest letter with helpful hints and tips. (Thank you, Betty Schwartz.)
In between weeping about my lost opus, and writing another, I figured I’d try short stories. After all, how hard could they be?
Extremely, as it turned out.
But I wasn’t giving up.
This time I was careful to only submit when I felt my short stories were ready.
After a few (OK, double digit) rejections, my first short story won a national award and was broadcast on local radio. My next took second place in the University of Winchester “Reaching Out” competition. I also have works included in the 2009 and 2010 Anthologies published for charity by mywriterscircle.com.
My latest short story success was with Bridge House Publishing’s Crime After Crime Anthology, released December 2012
Spurred by the success of my short stories, I returned to writing novels, and after a few (more double-digit) submissions, my debut novel Where There’s Smoke was published by Fireborn Publishing in 2017 – a two-year contract that I terminated in 2019, deciding to bite the bullet and self-publish. *Gulp*
Where There’s Smoke – a mystery suspense set within the Fire service in N. Ireland – was inspired by the bravery of firefighters everywhere, but especially by those who gave so much on 9-11.
I have drawn directly upon my family’s experience in the fire brigade in order to bring realism to my story. My older brother may have followed the family tradition of going to sea, but my youngest brother stayed firmly on land and chose to use water as his tool – to fight fire. I’m incredibly proud of them both.
And to show I’m not playing favourites, I have based my next novel The Hungry Ghost at sea – and with a nod to my brother, dad (and their forefathers) I’ve placed my
victims … characters as far out to sea as I can possibly put them.
And then I threw a killer into the mix.
Just because I can.