I am the biggest scaredy-cat in the world. But I understand fear. That is what gives me empathy with my characters.
I actually quite like all my killers. I deplore stereotypical good guys and bad guys. Everybody is capable of killing, it just takes the right circumstance, and that is what I want to explore. To explore humanity.
I grew up in Mount Pleasant buildings in Dublin. My mother was very protective, she didn’t want us going out to play after school, so she’d create swings and things inside the door of the flat. And my father, who I came to love deeply in later years, was an angry man back then. My mum was very entrepreneurial. She worked in the markets. My father was a roofer.
I remember getting up to watch the sun rise when I was very young and also, my love of books. I was trying to escape into a fantasy world but I was also acutely aware of my reality. I began writing in my teens and I kept a diary. Writing is full of surprises. The day you don’t feel like writing is the day when an interesting sentence will turn up on the page.
In my late teens I met the man I’m still married to, Robert, and life got very busy. He started his own business and we had three kids relatively quickly. I was working full time and there simply wasn’t the emotional space for writing. In 2006, when our youngest was 14, I decided it was my time, and I took a class in creative writing. That was the light bulb moment. I thought, why did I let this go? We were given a choice of three exercises on the first night and I knew I’d do them all.
Robert and I are very different in so many ways yet we work well as a unit. We come from a similar moral space. We are both kind people. Until I began writing, I was always the one with the safe job, But now I understand why Robert was driven to take risks and set up his own business. It is because he had a passion for it.
Growing up, there were always money pressures. When I finished my Inter Cert I worked in an architect’s office but I wanted more out of life and, as a mature student, I went back to do my Leaving Cert. After that, I worked in the bank and had lots of jobs — in accounting, human resources, and every odd job going.
Now, I work in the family electrical business, from home, which gives me the flexibility to write. I start writing at 6am to 9.30am and edit the work late in the afternoon. I usually give myself four months to write a first draft. It’s important to get the story down sooner rather than later.
An idea can get jaded. Once I have a beginning, middle and end I have something to work with. When I’m working on a draft, I’ve learnt to make myself move on. Getting stuck in the mire of rejigging can do more harm than good. Before I submit a draft to an agent or publisher I will probably have done six versions.
I do an element of research before I start the story. It is very important for creating an authentic world — but beyond the research is the story, so I don’t get bogged down by it. I didn’t set out to write crime. I think the best crime fiction isn’t about the crime but rather about the people who are involved in it. I felt a real fraud when my first novel was published as although I had read some crime fiction, I read across genres.
My biggest challenge has been coping with post-natal depression after the birth of each of my three children. It is a hormonal thing. Everything about your world slips and you are in quicksand.
Reading my work in public didn’t come easy. I made a mess of it at first, I was so nervous. But you find ways of channeling the nerves.
I didn’t have a huge amount of friends growing up which is why I value friendships so much now.
If I could change one thing in our society, it would be homelessness.
My biggest fear is my own vulnerability. When I start a new novel I’m terrified it may not be as good as the others.
LOUISE PHILLIPS is a bestselling author of four crime thrillers, all of which were nominated for Irish Crime Novel of the Year in the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards. She won the award in 2013. Her latest novel is The Game Changer.
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