Saturday, 8 March 2014

Debut Spotlight: Clare Donoghue

Under the debut spotlight today is crime writer Clare Donoghue and her debut novel Never Look Back which is published this Thursday.  

After ten years in London, working for a City law firm, Clare Donoghue moved back to her home town in Somerset to undertake an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University.  Never Look Back is her first novel and in 2011, whilst still an unpublished manuscript, was long-listed for the CWA Debut Dagger. 

Three women have been found brutally murdered in south London, the victims only feet away from help during each sadistic attack. And the killer is getting braver . . . 

Sarah Grainger is rapidly becoming too afraid to leave her house. Once an outgoing photographer, she knows that someone is watching her. A cryptic note brings everything into terrifying focus, but it's the chilling phone calls that take the case to another level.

DI Mike Lockyer heads up the regional murder squad. With three bodies on his watch, and a killer growing in confidence, he frantically tries to find the link between these seemingly isolated incidents. What he discovers will not only test him professionally but will throw his personal life into turmoil too. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your debut book Never Look Back?
I find it quite difficult describing the book without rewriting it but I’ll give it a go. Never Look Back follows Detective Inspector Mike Lockyer and his ‘murder squad’ team as they try to catch Lewisham’s first ever serial killer. We also meet Sarah Grainger, a freeland photographer whose life is being dismantled by a stalker. When she finally goes to the police, Detective Sergeant Jane Bennett is assigned to her case. Jane is DI Lockyer’s right hand and she soon realises that there is a crossover in the two investigations. Mired down with his own personal demons Lockyer has to find the link and discover why these girls are being targeted and stop the body count rising. 

Are you currently working on a new book? If so, are you able to tell us anything about it?
I recently finished book two, No Place to Die, which is going through the editorial process at the moment. It follows on from Never Look Back; however the focus shifts to DI Mike 
Lockyer’s Detective Sergeant, Jane Bennett. A young woman’s body is found buried in, what 
looks like, a manmade tomb. The manner of her death suggests premeditation but the motive is unclear. DI Mike Lockyer is facing disciplinary action after his last case, so Jane is left to handle the investigation alone, as well as dealing with the suspected abduction and murder of an old friend and colleague. 

Have you always been interested in writing crime fiction or are you tempted to try writing in a different genre at some stage?
I’ve always been interested in reading crime fiction but I never dreamt I could write it. I would certainly enjoy trying other genres but would be very nervous of the results.

How long did it take to get a publishing deal?
I was extremely lucky in that it didn’t take very long. I did a creative writing MA at Bath Spa in 2011/12. At the end of the year the students arranged a launch of their work, putting 
together an anthology which was sent out to agents. We then had a drinks party in London 
to allow students and agents to mingle and chat. I was fortunate to gain an agent at this 
stage, Hellie Ogden of Janklow & Nesbit (she was with Greene & Heaton at the time). We 
worked on the manuscript together for a few months before Hellie decided it was ready for 
submission. Amazingly, two publishing houses were interested. I met with them both to chat 
about their vision for the book and then accepted a two book deal with Pan Macmillan. I 
couldn’t have been happier. 

Do you have a set daily writing routine?
No, I have to admit I don’t. When and how long I write for, depends entirely on where I am in the process. The writing new material part is definitely the hardest as you have to find 
inspiration and motivation. However, if I’m editing I am quite disciplined and will work every day, weekends included, to ensure I can keep the plot twists in my mind as I tidy up the 
manuscript. I often work with a friend; either she comes to me or vice versa and we sit in the 
same room and write. Just having her there is a massive help with motivation and support too. 

Having deadlines is also a big help. On a good day I’ll write for four to six hours…on a bad 
day my laptop doesn’t even make it out of the bag!

Are there any writers that have influenced you as a writer?
Lots. I absolutely love Stephen King. His character development is amazing. Other crime 
authors I admire and aspire to be like are Mo Hayder (she inspired me to take the MA at 
Bath Spa as she had done) Tess Gerritsen, Karin Slaughter and Mark Billingham. There are 
so many others, David Baldacci for one. The way he creates pace using plot and chapter 
structure is brilliant. I don’t think it’s ever taken me more than a day or two to read one of his 

If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
Now that I am a writer I don’t think there is a career that could suit me better. It’s perfect for me in every way. 

Having you got anything exciting planned for publication date? 
I’m having a launch in Waterstones in Taunton just before the book comes out but other than 
that I’m preparing myself as I simply don’t know what to expect.

Are you going to treat yourself to anything as a reward for publishing your first book?
I am and in fact, I already have. When I finished writing the book I bought myself a Quentin 
Blake ‘Matilda’ print, which I love. Then when I got the publishing deal I got myself some 
lovely earrings and a bracelet and I’ve already bought myself a ring for the publication date. I 
was too excited to wait! I think it’s very important to mark each milestone as it’s a very long 
process and treats along the way remind me I’m on a path to something amazing.

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