In conversation with... Deborah O'Connor

Hi Deborah! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of The Dangerous Kind! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: It’s a thriller about a BBC journalist called Jessamine Gooch who hosts a true crime radio show called ‘Potentially Dangerous People’. When someone asks if she will help them investigate the disappearance of a young woman, Jessamine soon finds herself embroiled in a series of events that take her into the very heart of the British establishment.

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing the book or did it take an unexpected turn as the characters grew on the page?

A: I didn’t have my plot figured out at all. I had my main characters and I knew I wanted to write a story that explored recent real live events, most notably the Rotheram scandal (in which it came to light that young girls were being groomed and raped by gangs of men) and Operation Yewtree which revealed the crimes of a huge number of celebrities, and then I figured the rest out as I went along.

What kind of research, if any, did you have to carry out while you were writing this novel? In general, is research something you enjoy or a means to an end?

A: I do enjoy research very much as I love meeting and talking to new people and finding out about their worlds and experiences. For this novel I read a lot of first-hand accounts of girls who have been involved in the Rotheram and Oxford scandals. My background is in television, I’m a TV producer by trade, and so a lot of the BBC stuff was on my radar anyway.

If this novel was going to be turned into a film, who would you cast in the role of Jessamine?

A: Emma Thompson, without a doubt. I created and wrote Jessamine with her in my head the whole time, she’s an actress I admire enormously and always have done and I think she would make the perfect Jessamine.

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: All of the scenes with Rowena were very difficult to write. I think because I know that what happens to her has happened and is still happening to many girls up and down the country. I didn’t want to shy away from that but I also very much did not want those scenes to be gratuitous.

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

A: Yes! Lots! Jitesh’s story changed loads between drafts and that was the right thing to do, it’s a much better book because of it. I have a brilliant and very smart editor (Sophie Orme) who gives great notes and she helped me turn Jitesh’s journey into something much more powerful and plausible.

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 am indeed hard at work on my third thriller. It's very high concept and is about the relationship between a prisoner and a grieving widow.

What are you reading at the moment?

A: The Wayward Girls by Amanda Mason. It is incredibly creepy (I had a nightmare after reading the first 50 pages!)… Amanda is a master of suspense and I think the book will be a huge hit (it is published in September).

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: Yes! It is so tempting to have a quick look and then another look and then another and another… I’ve recently downloaded an app called Freedom that means you can schedule blocks of time on your computer where you can’t access the internet and I find that incredibly helpful. But I also love being able to chat with readers direct so I have a bit of love-hate relationship with all the platforms.

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

A: Keep going! The most important part of writing is about turning up and putting in that chair time as much and as often as you can. Also, never give up. Writing is so subjective and I faced a huge amount of rejection when I was trying to get a book deal. The first novel I wrote was rejected and so I wrote another (My Husband’s Son) and it went out on submission and every single publisher had rejected it… then Bonnier picked it up. That book went on to sell over 100,000 copies. So many writers I know have had a similar journey to publication, there’s a very good reason people tell you never to give up.

Thank you for your time!

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