My guest today is author Valerie Keogh
Welcome Valerie, let’s start with your telling us a little about yourself including where you are from.
I’m from Dublin but have lived in the UK for the last fifteen years, in an old house about ten miles from Bath. I share the house with a husband and two cats who think the house belongs to them. I’m a registered nurse and still work three twelve hour shifts a week which leaves me four days free to write. For my last novel, I set myself a 2k a day target which worked very well – it’s not working so well with the current one . I took time out from nursing and went to university in Dublin where I obtained a BA in English and an MA in American Literature. We love to travel but so far my novels have been based in Ireland or the UK but I do enjoy people watching and adding quirks and mannerisms I see to my characters.
Can you Tell us about the books you want to promote and how did they get started?
I write two crime series. One is based in Ireland – my Garda West series – the main character is Detective Garda Mike West. There is crime and romance in this series and the romance develops over the first couple of books. In the third novel, Murder on Clare Island, I wanted to use a lighthouse that has been converted into a boutique guesthouse. The owners kindly agreed to allow me to use it. (http://www.clareislandlighthouse.com) They’ve kindly invited us to go for a visit and we hope to do so next year. Currently, there are three in this series and I am planning more.
My other series is about a woman, Nicola Connolly, who is a nurse and also a serial killer. Because I still work as a nurse, I decided to write under a pen name – just in case people got the wrong idea! This series, my Nicola Connolly series – is much darker, grittier and more violent than the other. There is an element of romance but it is definitely a sideline and doesn’t occur until book two. There are currently three books in this series and I’m working on the fourth. For each of the covers in this series I have used a skull – it is actually a garden ornament and my cover designer has made a very good job of making it look creepy.
I’ve also written one stand alone novel, Exit Five from Charing Cross which is based in London. It started off to be a crime novel but changed into more of a psychological thriller.
What made you decide to write books?
I’ve always wanted to but, after a while, the dream became so important that I was afraid to start in case I was a failure. Finally, I decided it was now or never and haven’t looked back. Fear of failure stopped me for so long, I’m desperately trying to catch up.
What was your inspiration for your books?
My mother was a keen Agatha Christie fan and had all her novels so I read them from an early age.
How do you create your characters?
I think, for me, the story comes first and then I make up the characters to fit. I often add details I see on my travels or quirks and mannerisms of friends and family. I try to jot down things as I see them and then use when I have a place. On a recent trip to Venice there was a very strange couple in the hotel – definitely going into a novel some day.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
Sometimes when I’m trying to fall asleep an idea comes to me and then I can’t sleep so have to get up to write it down. Sometimes, it’s just a word or a name, and it will trigger something that grows into a story. When I came up with the idea for Exit Five Charing Cross, I was waiting outside the tube station in London, having a coffee, and a man passed me by – I instantly thought. ‘what if’. When I got home I wrote a whole chapter which turned out to be the last chapter in the novel.
I came home from my holiday in Italy with the idea for another stand-alone novel that just popped into my head.
If you have a publisher, what has it been like working with them?
I tried for a year to get a publisher and then decided to self-publish with Amazon. It’s working very well for me but I would love to be traditionally published. I suppose it’s a form of validation. But, for now, I’m happy with my sales and love to hear from satisfied readers.
Do you have an agent?
No, again, I’ve tried but with no luck as yet. I read somewhere that you need to submit to a hundred before you get one. I haven’t counted but I’m not even half-way there yet!
What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?
Each book is a challenge. It takes a lot of discipline to sit in front of a computer for hours at an end, wondering if what you are writing is any good at all. Even now, with many five star reviews, I still wonder if what I’m writing will appeal to people. I’m lucky to have a wonderful editor and she tells me if it is working and points out places that need rewriting. My Garda West series sells far better than my Nicola Connolly one so there is an added challenge to keep writing both.
And of course, as well as my two series there are the other stories that want to be written – the one I thought of in Italy, I’ve already started to do some research on plus there is another…I suppose I’m still trying to play catch-up for the years I wasn’t brave enough to write.
What is your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?
I have 4 days a week when I try to write – for Murder on Clare Island, I set myself a 2k a day minimum and that certainly did help focus me and I got it written withing four months. It’s not working so well with my current novel but I do write at least something every day that I’m not working.
How do you cope with writer’s block?
I hate to tempt fate, but so far I’ve not had this problem. Sometimes, a story might get tangled or I’m not really sure what my character’s next step should be – I find going for a walk always helps and when I come back I know exactly what to write.
Which writers influence you the most?
I suppose Agatha Christie was the earliest influence. Of current writers, I love novels by John Connolly and, in fact, paid homage to him by using his surname for my serial killer, Nicola. When I’m writing, though, I tend to avoid reading crime novels as I find they influence my style too easily.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks)?
I have a spare bedroom that I use as an office – I bought a lovely desk for £40 in Dorothy house that fits perfectly between two windows so there’s a lot of natural light, and trees for me to stare at when I’m trying to think what to write. I don’t need anything to write – never mind if it’s noisy or quiet – I get lost in my characters and their stories so the world could be falling apart and I wouldn’t notice.
You have told us what you like to write, but to relax what do you like to read?
I often read other independent writers, sometimes because they’ve asked me to, sometimes because I’ve read them before and know I will enjoy them. I have a lot of old favourites that I will read and reread.
What plans have you got for future books?
I‘d like to continue with both series – book 4 of the Nicola Connolly series will be out later this year. Ag=fter that, the one I thought of in Italy will probably be next, then the fourth in my Garda West series and after that there’s one about twins…
What is the hardest part of being an author?
As an independent author, the hardest part is doing it all yourself but I’ve built up a good network now and have a great editor and cover designer and have made a number of really supportive friends within the independently published community, people like Jenny O’Brien, Leslie Bratspis, June Moonbridge, Susan Godenzi and many others all of whom write but are happy to take time and offer support and encouragement.
Can you describe the feeling when you saw your published book for the first time?
It was amazing. I had spent so many months trying to get an agent/publisher so when I published on Amazon and saw it out there it was just great. The feeling has never worn off either!
Lastly is there anything else you would like to add?
Only that I love to talk about my writing and rarely get the opportunity – so thanks!