In conversation with... Darren O'Sullivan

Hi Darren! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the paperback publication of Our Little Secret. Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Our Little Secret is about a man named Chris, who on the 5th of May is going to step out under a cargo train and take his life. Something has happened to him, something tragic, a secret he cannot share, and he feels this is the only solution to his grief. He has planned it to perfection but, minutes before, Sarah steps onto the platform and he cannot finish what he started. Leaving the station, he has to wait for another date that matters.

So, consumed with the knowledge she has accidently saved a man, Sarah begins a journey to find him and save him again. But the more she finds out about Chris, the more dangerous it becomes, because some secrets are meant to stay buried.

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing or did it develop before your eyes as the characters grew on the page and did something that you were not expecting?

A: OLS began life as a very different concept. First it was a play and when completing it I realised it was terrible, but I really liked the characters so figured it wouldn’t hurt to try turn it into a book. (Although I had no idea if I could even write a book, I mean, it’s a lot of words!) It took about 3 years to write, and that version of the book I had entirely mapped out. I knew exactly where it was going, how it was going to end. But that book didn’t work either, and I was advised to try turn it into a thriller. So, after cutting about 70000 words I started to write the thriller and had absolutely no idea where I was going. Luckily, because I had lived with the characters for so many years I knew them like I know my family, so they pretty much looked after themselves on the page.

If this novel could be turned into a film, who would you cast in the roles of Chris and Sarah?

A: I haven’t thought that far ahead. So, Chris would be maybe Henry Cavill or Benedict Cumberbatch, good looking men, but I think they would both play dishevelled really well. Sarah would be Emily Blunt, she’s brilliant. 

How did you choose the locations that are featured in the novel? Would the story have been different in another city?

A: I live in Peterborough where the novel is set, and I used to work in March where the train station scenes are. For me, the city is just as important to the plot as the characters, in fact, I would go as far to say the city is a character in itself. Peterborough is important, I really wanted to get a sense of intimacy across through the characters and because the city is small it lends itself to that beautifully. I originally looked to set it in London, but found it was too easy for Chris, Julia and Sarah to never find one another. Keeping it small ensured that fate wouldn’t have to be a factor in them connecting. Also, when I say I’m from Peterborough most don’t have a clue where it is… almost like the city itself is a secret.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: I loved writing it all and all of it was bloody hard work too, but it’s the most freeing feeling in the world to create a story. But, one moment stands out. In the book there's a small moment with Chris and a spider. It only took about 20 minutes to write, and it was one of the first things I wrote after the 70k cut. But when reading it back I was shocked I had managed to write it! I had that ‘I might just pull this off’ moment. That spurred me on.

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: About 12 characters, 40 chapters and a completely different ending! So not a lot.

If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: I’m so excited for what’s next. In a few weeks my second novel, Close Your Eyes, is out in the digital world and I’m currently a dozen or so chapters into my third novel. Although I’m not quite in a place to define it yet. All I can say is I’m loving the journey. The fact I get to write this, and my work is primarily now sitting and crafting stories makes me the luckiest person in the world!

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: I’m really pro social media. A lot of the success of OLS has been because of things like twitter and FB. I met HQ Digital through Twitter, as well as some incredible authors who are all so lovely and supportive. It can be demanding at times, but it’s such a first world problem, isn’t it? I’m lucky that people care enough to want to engage on social media. When OLS first came out it did completely consume my life, but now I’m slightly more structured to my day, and social media is an important part of that. 

Your second novel, Close Your Eyes, is going to be published on May 5th. Do you feel any different – more confident perhaps – than when you were waiting for Our Little Secret to be published in July 2017?

A:  I am truly very proud of Close Your Eyes. OLS is my first baby but writing it I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. With Close Your Eyes, it was lovely to approach knowing what I wanted to achieve. Being someone who is all heart I set out to write a pacey thriller that had emotional connection, and from what early readers have said, I might have pulled it off. Although the writing has been more enjoyable (if that’s even possible), the anticipation of release is harder to manage. With my debut I had no expectations, and no-one cared. Now, a few people are waiting for CYE and the pressure is on! I was always warned book 2 is the hardest and writing I didn’t believe it. But, a few weeks from publication, I know exactly what they meant!

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Doubt will regually tell you to stop, because you're not good enough or lucky enough or well-known enough… my advice, when doubt does its little dance on your shoulder, head butt it!

Thank you for your time!

In case you missed it, you can read my review of Our Little Secret here, where you'll also find an opportunity to win a copy of the book.

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