Monday, 2 April 2018

Debut Spotlight: Olivia Kiernan

Today I'm thrilled to be kicking off the Too Close to Breathe blog tour by shining the spotlight on author Olivia Kiernan and her debut novel which is published this Thursday.

Olivia Kiernan is an Irish writer living in the UK and author of crime thriller, Too Close to Breathe. She was born and raised in County Meath, near the famed heritage town of Kells and holds an MA in Creative Writing awarded by the University of Sussex.  Olivia’s second book, The Killer In Me, will publish in April 2019.

Olivia will be appearing at Crime Fest and Bloody Scotland as well as a whole host of bookshop and festival events in 2018.
Follow Olivia on twitter @LivKiernan 
Join in the conversation using #TooCloseToBreathe

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey?
Somewhere in the attic of my childhood home there is a diary. A diary that belongs to seven-year-old me. It is filled with one-line summaries of days’ events. A celebration of brevity. Lines like: Today my granny died or today we played outside. It rained. It’s probably the earliest record of my writing, or writing that was not part of some homework exercise. And I’ve written in and around life since then. In 2010 I signed up for an MA in creative writing, I wanted something to help guide me through the process of writing a novel and it did. I completed my first novel in those years, writing in the small hours after work. It was a novel born of all the stories I’d collected during my youth, steeped in Irish lore and legend, a collection of darkness if you like and a signal of where my writing would take me in the following years.

The thought of writing a crime thriller was always at the back of my mind but creatively I didn’t feel ready. But in 2015, something changed. I had my daughter and I wanted to up my game. To make all those words count. That year I really began to pursue my dream. I asked a lot more of my writing and I think it showed. Slowly, the industry began to take interest and in November that year, I embarked on National Novel Writing Month with a vague theme I wanted to explore that fit nicely into the crime genre. Once the month was finished, I had almost fifty thousand words and I felt they were good. Over the next six months, I returned over and again to the manuscript, always challenging myself and asking more of the plot. When it was ready, I sent it out to agents and within a few days I sensed this novel might have a shot at publication. And indeed,I signed with my agent, Susan Armstrong that December. In the months after, TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE sold in the UK, US, Germany, France and many more territories. It’s been a whirlwind since then and I’ve loved it. 

If you had to give an elevator pitch for Too Close to Breathe, what would it be?
Driven. Polished. Perfect. Dead. Eleanor Costello is found hanged in her home. There is no note. And her husband is missing. The suicide turned murder investigation soon spirals outwards leading Detective Frankie Sheehan and her team onto a dark canvas of deceit, lies and murder in a hunt to find the killer who likes to dead.

Where did the inspiration for Too Close to Breathe come from?
The idea came more from an interest in a theme. I wanted to explore our perception of victims and predators, who might fit those roles from a male/female perspective. I also wanted to tear down our tendency to push victims into the ‘perfect’ box. Somehow we expect our victims to be good and all round nice people otherwise they are undeserving of sympathy. I wanted to challenge that idea and Eleanor was definitely a good place to start.

Describe Eleanor in three words.
Complex. Enigmatic. Enthralling.

What lessons have you learnt during the whole writing/editing process?
I’m going to quote Marc Chagall here:
“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing”
Writing and art is all about the human experience. And that boils down to emotion. We can’t write emotion unless we’re prepared to go deep with our characters and connect emotionally with the prose, it can be an exhausting experience but also very rewarding. 

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors who are thinking about writing a novel?
Nose down, be brave and put word after word. Also, NEVER GIVE UP.

Did you treat yourself to something special to celebrate your publishing deal?
My publishing deal felt celebration enough. It was a dream come true for me, I’m still pinching myself.

Are you going to do anything exciting to celebrate publication day?
I’m sure there will be some beverages consumed with some good friends.

Finally what can we expect from you next?
I’m working on another crime thriller. The next in the series of Detective Sheehan novels. This one is titled, The Killer In Me and like Too Close to Breathe is set in Dublin with some familiar characters.


Polished. Professional. Perfect. Dead. Respected scientist Dr Eleanor Costello is found hanged in her immaculate home: the scene the very picture of a suicide.


DCS Frankie Sheehan is handed the case, and almost immediately spots foul play. Sheehan, a trained profiler, is seeking a murderer with a talent for death.


As Frankie strives to paint a picture of the killer, and their victim, she starts to sense they are part of a larger, darker canvas, on which the lines between the two blur.

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