The secret of business is to know something that nobody else knows. Aristotle Onassis

Tell us about your life and struggles.

My goodness! That’s rather a large question to start with. In fact, I have written a full- length memoir on precisely that topic. Not that my life is any more significant or interesting than that of anyone else, but I had a disease since childhood that resulted in a number of unexplained illnesses during adolescence and most of my adulthood. The illnesses got progressively worse and led to my taking retirement at the age of sixty. It was later discovered that I had a serious liver disease, and in 2001 I was given a year to live. However, I was extremely fortunate to receive a liver transplant before that year ended and, despite the fact that I recently celebrated my 79th birthday, I am now strong and healthy. I play golf three times a week, exercise regularly, do quite a lot of voluntary work, and continue to write books. During my life I accumulated a number of qualifications, including Masters and Doctorate degrees. I taught and lectured for number of years in further and higher education, engaged in research in the North and South of France, Germany, Holland, England and Northern Ireland on behalf of the Northern Ireland Department of Education, and at the time of my retirement, I was Assistant Director of a large Regional College of Further and Higher Education. I am married, have three children, ten grandchildren, one great grandchild.

How passionate are you about writing?

The word ‘passionate’ has emotional implications that I am not altogether sure apply to what I do. I enjoy the work (hard and laborious though it can sometimes be) and I write most days, sometimes for hours at a time. I suppose this implies that I am a dedicated writer, but my emotional state about it can be described as generally calm and businesslike (although occasionally there can be flashes of frustration, irritation, and the odd curse when difficulties present themselves.) But, even away from my laptop, by brain continues to involve itself with whatever I am working on at the time. I am all the time rewriting in my head, seeking improvements, planning new scenes. Does that constitute ‘passion’? If so, then I suppose you could say I am passionate about my writing.

How long have you been writing and what inspired you to become a writer?

I have been writing most of my adult life without any awareness that I could ever have been described as a writer. Much of my early writing was academic and, although most of it was published, I never actually considered research papers and academic reports as ‘writing’. It was just another facet of my professional life. I continued to do academic writing well into retirement, and followed that with a memoir about my liver transplant (A Spiritual Odyssey, published by Columba Press, Dublin, 2005.). A second non-fiction book followed a couple of years later, a biography called, The Miracle Ship (New Apple Top Medallist winner, 2014 Awards). I eventually tired of academic and non-fiction writing and decided to experiment with fiction, a secret yearning that I had been harbouring all of my life but never believed that it was something I could do. But when my first novel, an attempt at serious contemporary fiction, won a couple of awards, I was encouraged by this and followed it up with a couple of award-winning crime novels which have somehow become precursors to a series which will probably shape the direction of my writing over the next few years.

How did you get the idea for your first book?

I presume you mean by this my first fiction book? I had been writing memoirs at this time and a lady approached me to write her story. It was a horrific tale of how she had lived the early part of her adult life with a completely false memory of a loving childhood. When the memories of the truth of a childhood of vicious and appalling sexual abuse began to surface in nightmares and psychosomatic illnesses, her life fell apart. At the end of a period of weeks during which she revealed the terrible details to me, she lost her nerve, and asked me to scrap the project.(Much to my relief. It would have been a bleak and depressing work.) However, something of this story, together with problems that were coming to light about the priesthood in Ireland at the time, prompted my first novel, Fallen Men.

While choosing a name for your character, what aspects do you consider that determines what you finally call them?

To be honest, there is no great mystique about this for me. Every time I need a name for a character, I simply wander through the hundreds of books on my study shelves, looking at author names, and occasionally, the names of characters, until I see one that feels right for the character I want to name. I don’t know how to explain what I mean by ‘feels right’, but somehow, when I see a name that would fit, I recognise it and use it. For minor characters, I just mix and match Christian and surnames of the many people I have met over the course of my life.

Do authors in general and you in particular plan series beforehand or do they just happen?

I can’t really speak about authors in general except to say that they all have individual and personal ways of going about their business. What one writer would consider right and inevitable, another would simply say, “Well, that’s not how I would go about it.” I don’t even know if other writers start with the idea of a series or whether they find that a character has become so alive to them that they don’t want to let him or her disappear into the ether. My own series, The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries, came about because my publisher liked the police detective in my first crime book, The Doom Murders, and felt he could carry a series. She asked me to consider this, so now two books of the series are written and I am currently working on a third.

How do you choose which stories to tell?

Again, I have no idea how other writers choose their stories, but mine kind of fall into my lap. It’s a kind of serendipity. I might be not even be thinking about a new plot or story idea when suddenly something I notice or come across triggers a response in me and I think, “That might make a good story.” It happened with Fallen Men as I said earlier. It happened with The Doom Murders when I came across a fifteenth century oil painting of The Last Judgement. The 11.05 Murders came to me initially as simply a time, just like the title, and a story flowed from that.

Do you ever get writer’s block?

No. When I am involved in writing a book, there are always loads of scenes in my head that need to be written. What I do get is lazy, and sometimes I just take time out and rest, watch tv, or read. That said, I don’t have any ideas for my next book when I finish my current one (The Coven Murders) but I am hoping that when the time comes, something will strike me. Maybe writer’s block refers to that time when an author needs ideas and can’t find any. With an existing work, however, I believe that a decent plot with good characters, once started, should not run out of steam. Usually, once a book is properly started, the inevitable interactions between well-drawn, strong characters will keep the story going. All the author has to do at this point is to write about what the characters are doing. I don’t see where the writer’s block comes in unless, like me, a writer simply has a lazy period and uses ‘writer’s block’ as an excuse to take time off.

Do you have a “reader” in mind while writing?

Yes, myself. I know the kinds of books I like to read, and I write for people who might like the same kind of books. To pin it down a bit, I suppose I write for reasonably well-educated adults, with solid middle-class values, and who don’t seek unreal sensationalism in the stories they read.

Who is the first person to read the first draft of your books?

I suppose I do completely the wrong thing here. I read about other writers talking about their beta readers and their copy readers, but I don’t have any of those. I think it might be something to do with the fact that I am always going back, rewriting bits, introducing new characters in parts that might seem already to have been completed, reshaping the plot …all the kinds of things the I’m sure other writers do. But because I don’t like to share a book that is constantly being chopped and changed, until it is ready to go to the publisher, the first person to actually read the first completed draft will be my publisher’s editor. In my early days I used to show bits and pieces to family members but that didn’t work for me, so now I tend to fly solo. This time, however, I might send pdf copies to a few trusted friends for early comments, some of which I might be able to use in the blurb on the back cover of the paperback version.

How do you get reviews? Which was the best review you ever got?

I tend to rely on reviews from the Amazon readers, but from time to time I would join specific review groups or send gift copies to other writers with the hope of earning a review. It isn’t easy to garner reviews, although one of my non-fiction books, The Miracle Ship has earned 88 unsolicited reviews on Amazon.co.uk (81 of which were five stars) and The Doom Murders has received 64 reviews so far from Amazon.com (86% of which are 5 and 4 stars). I have been very lucky in that most of the reviews I have received for all of my books have been genuine and very positive, and it is therefore difficult to select one as ‘the best’. I suppose if I was pushed, I would have to plump for one written by Eugene Fournier, screenwriter for TV and Film. I append it below. [If I am not supposed to do that, please feel free to delete it]: By Eugene Fournier on August 19, 2013 Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase A disturbingly deep and satisfying Irish novel that pretends to be just an intriguing murder mystery set in Belfast. The setting is modern but with the often evoked backdrop of "the troubles" and the resultant daily hazards of being a cop in a shuttered, rebellious city, that world becomes timeless. Despite its dark topic and the gruesome series of almost medieval killings that form its backbone, The Doom Murders surprises the reader with its wonderfully warm yet constricted microcosm of police and crime scenes, victims and suspects. Everything is drawn with an acerbic pen - whether it's the city, its institutions, or the gaggle of fascinating characters that populate the novel - all are at once engaging and, at the same time, flawed. All have conflicted pasts and hidden sides but everything is authentic and thoroughly Irish. The Chief Inspector, Jim Sheehan, is drawn so deftly and with such genuineness, you can feel him breathing. The way he works a crime scene is much more human than the highly clinical approach so often portrayed in the American media. The give-and-take at the macabre crime scenes between himself, his investigators, and the quirky state forensic pathologist are off-beat and refreshing - not to mention, oddly funny. There is much of humour and insight as the plot unfolds, and much more to make you sad, and just enough to give you hope before the end. There are moments in the book that ring so perfectly true that you simply have to stop and admire Mr. O'Hare's craft or, as in my case, you have to interrupt your wife's activities in order to read a bit out loud to her. In summary, I suggest that this is a well thought out book designed to be savoured and not rushed through. The internal struggles of the main character are the heart of the novel. Chief Inspector Sheehan's personal journey is what sets this murder mystery apart and, in my opinion, sets it above its genre. Yes, the serial crimes are thought-provoking and the clues make sense and the motivations ring true and all is resolved in a very satisfying manner, but in the end, that's not what this book is about. At its core it is a surprising journey into the war for souls and the high cost of true faith in our secular age.

What does the word “story” signifies for you?

For some reason my mind shifted to Stephen King when you asked that question. King writes fascinating stories but always, when I would read one of his books, I would be filled with admiration for his skill in characterisation. His characters are always very believable, and can really lay claim a reader’s empathy. And then I am led to consider, too, the story’s location. Again, this is an area King is brilliant at. So, story for me must be imaginative, with sufficient interest in it to grab a reader’s attention, but nevertheless, without great characters and a convincing setting, story can fail.

Do you think an author should be bound by Genre?

I am not sure about the word ‘bound’. Most writers please themselves about where they would like their writing to go. In purely literary terms genre should not make such demands upon a writer that he cannot relinquish it to develop his skill by trying new things. In publishing terms, however, in terms of sales success, in terms of what a writer’s fans expect and demand from him, well, for a time, the writer will be obliged to give his public what they want. That could well mean being fixed into a specific genre for a number of books at least. My own writing was initially academic, then spiritual, then general fiction, then mysteries. Now I am fixed in the mystery genre because that is what my publisher wants. But if I ever get a sudden idea for a novel that has something special to say, I would go ahead and write it.

Are you currently working on anything?

Yes, I am working on the third book of the Inspector Sheehan Mysteries: The Coven Murders. This is a bit of a change in direction, however, because the good inspector finds himself enmeshed in battle with a group of Satanists, and thus a certain level of the paranormal is imposing itself on the story. That kinda came from left field since it had not initially been my intention to write anything other than my usual detective mystery. (There is a detective story here as well, of course, but I imagine the finished product will be described in dual genre terms.)

Do you have a special time or place for writing?

Definitely a special place …my study, with its two desks (L-shaped to accommodate my printers, my laptop and other writer’s paraphernalia.) The room is shelved to the ceiling, and filled with books which adds atmosphere. I have a comfortable office chair for when I am working, and an armchair for when I take a break to read, to listen to some music on the music centre that is here, or sometimes to just rest my head. I enjoy my time here and I am rarely disturbed. As for a special time for writing, I really wish I was disciplined enough to say that I do. But I play golf on three days of my week which takes me out of the house from about 10.00 am until 4.00 am on those days. I go out on two of those evenings as well and don’t get home until after 9.00. So pretty much no writing at all on the golf days (unless it is snowing or raining. Then the writing gets a wee bonus.). The other days inevitably fall victim (in part) to family demands, but I tend to get about four or five hours on the late afternoons and evenings of those days. I am fairly faithful to those times, so I (almost) have a special time for writing.

How do you promote your work? How will QuotesRain help you in your book promotion and sales? Would you like to refer this platform to your author friends?

I have tried to promote my book via Facebook, twitter, emails and all social media. I have paid several different companies to use their particular techniques (at considerable cost!) None of these attempts proved particularly successful, so I entered the books for various awards and was lucky to win some. I am hoping that the award logos on the front covers of my books will convince browsers that the books are not a total waste of time. I only recently came across QuotesRain but I was struck immediately by three things. One: The amount of promotion and coverage they offered for my works was infinitely greater than that offered by any other company, at unbelievably lower prices, and for a period of up to a year as opposed to two or three weeks offered by the other promoters. This was wonderful value that I immediately took advantage of. Two: QuotesRain go the extra mile in seeking out numerous different ways to describe my books as opposed to the single line description used by the more expensive, but to my mind much less effective, companies. Three: QuotesRain also seek other ways, apart from Twitter, to help their clients and I have been impressed by the interest they have shown in trying to bring my books to the reading public. My books feature on their home page, on facebook, on twitter, on the banner headings of some of their pages. Even this interview was sought with the purpose in mind of helping to make people aware of my work. And, yes, I will definitely (and have done a number of times already) refer QuotesRain to author friends and even new author acquaintances.

Would you like to share something with your readers and fans?

Yes, they might be interested to know that my police detective, Chief Inspector Sheehan has his own facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/inspectorsheehan/ I have written all sorts of stuff about writing, blogs about how my books came to be written, little vignettes about other subjects, that I would love others to read. These can be found on my website: brianohareauthor.blogspot.co.uk Finally, I referred earlier to The Doom Murders. This can be read free on Wattpad. I am publishing chapters on Tuesday and Fridays that can comfortably be read on i-phones during a lunch-break, waiting in a dentist’s or doctor’s waiting room, on the bus, or train, etc. https://www.wattpad.com/home