Friday, 14 October 2016

Author Interview: Siobhan MacDonald

Earlier in the year I featured Siobhan MacDonald and her debut novel Twisted River in a spotlight feature and today it's my pleasure to welcome her back to the blog to find out about her second book The Blue Pool which was published in August. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey? 
Some years ago, with an engineering degree in tow, I sought out a career that would also allow me to write. I soon found myself working as a technical writer in the technology industry. This has provided me with many of the tools I find useful for writing fiction today – creating outlines, plotting, meeting deadlines, and editing. 

My fledgling writing adventures were not in the thriller genre but included experimentation with poetry, one-act plays, and short stories. Some of my warmest school memories are of time spent in English class. The English teacher didn’t always share my taste however, asking me on one particular occasion to stop reading a creative essay aloud as my descriptive paragraphs were making her ill! 

As I worked away in the technology industry, the whisperings in my head urging me to try a novel, became more frequent. With a rough outline for a novel sketched out in a notebook, I sat in the quiet of the study at home one night and started to write. My first attempt was a novel of two halves that started out as a romantic memoir but morphed into a thriller half-way through. Someday I may revisit it. 

Writing that first novel proved a valuable experience. Stories with a mystery at their core are what I like to read, but I also discovered that they were what I liked to write. Now, with two published novels to my my name, I can safely say that writing makes me feel at home. Some people hug trees. I write.

Four friends go to a remote cabin one summer. Only three return.

Life is good for university friends Sarah, Ruth, Charlotte, and Kathy: exams are over and they’re escaping to a cabin by the Blue Pool.

But when Sarah disappears without a trace, life for the others will never be the same again.

Twenty-five years later a man walks into a police station, claiming to know about the missing girl. Suddenly, the three women – now estranged – become suspects. Forced to revisit that horrifying weekend, they must confront buried memories and decades-old fears.

For not everything was as it seemed. And the greater the secret, the deeper it lies…

The Blue Pool features the disappearance of a young woman during a weekend away with her friends and then  follows the fallout twenty five years later when someone comes forward saying they know what happened, where did the inspiration come from? 
The Blue Pool was inspired in part by a number of young women who vanished in Ireland in the 1990s never to be heard of again. These women were mainly in their late teens and twenties. Many of them disappeared while they were travelling.  One 21-year-old vanished while hitch-hiking home from Dublin to Kilkenny one night in November 1995. A witness saw her using a payphone. She was never seen again. 

Another 18-year-old vanished without trace just yards from her parents home as she walked home in 1998. This particular case was very puzzling as the girl was almost home. Passing motorists witnessed her approaching within yards of her parents’ driveway, but for some reason, she never made it to her house. No trace has ever been found.

The most high-profile case involved an American student from Long Island. She disappeared in 1993. The 26-year-old woman was living in Dublin. She’d taken a bus to the countryside and was last seen outside the highest pub in Ireland – Johnny Fox's Pub on top of the Dublin mountains. Her disappearance became one of the most high-profile unsolved crimes in the history of the Irish State. 

If you had to give an elevator pitch for The Blue Pool, what would it be? 
The Blue Pool explores how far someone will go to protect those they love.

What attracted you to writing psychological thrillers as opposed to any other type of genre?  
I find mystery and suspense a most absorbing genre. Often, what you see on the surface is often not what lies beneath, and there can be many versions of the same story. This genre provides the thrill of the unexpected – those delicious and tingling ‘I didn’t see that one coming’ gasps. 

I’m fascinated by real-life mysteries and I think that my alter ego is probably a detective. As I’m naturally cautious, writing suspense allows me to enjoy the challenge and satisfaction of detective work along with the thrills and adrenaline from the comfort of my study. Suspense and mystery allows readers to become armchair detectives too. I enjoy the challenge of creating a story to capture and sustain a reader’s attention. But it’s difficult to compete in a world of touch-button entertainment. 

The Blue Pool is your second novel, did you find the whole writing/editing process easier second time around?
Second time around, I hope I’ve learned that breaks are important and sometimes a period of time apart from a project can ultimately be more productive than being too close. You can see your work with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s also very important to know what your ending is. Unless you know where you’re going, how can you get there?

What does a typical writing day look like for you? 
A typical writing day involves lots of coffee, plenty of staring out the window at the birds and sky, and a brisk walk when I need a break.

What essentials do you need to have close to hand when you are in writing mode? 
Coffee or sometimes herbal tea – when I’ve reached the target heart rate for the day!

Are you a plotter or a pantster? 
A plotter. 

What is the best piece of writing advice you have been given?
Leave your writing for a week and look at again with a fresh pair of eyes. Only for deadlines the editing process could continue indefinitely. A draft can always be improved. 

If you get a plot block during the initial writing phase, how do you work your way through it? 
I try not to overthink it. Sometimes an answer can come to me when I’m more relaxed. Some of my most brilliant solutions come to me in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, I can never remember them in the morning!

Do you treat yourself to something special when publishing each new book?
Seeing my work published is celebration enough. It really doesn’t get much better than that.

Finally what can we expect from you next? 
If all goes according to plan, I hope to build on the success of The Blue Pool and Twisted River and keep my lovely readers happy!

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