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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

BLOG TOUR & #GIVEAWAY - Thicker Than Water by Mary O'Sullivan


When local teenager, Keira Shannon and her father, business man Gerard Shannon, go missing, the town of Ballyderg unites to search for them.

As the search continues rumours of domestic violence, extramarital affairs and criminal behaviour are rife. The crisis causes families and lifelong friends to doubt each other.

The only certainty left is that the town has been visited by evil. Or has it? Could it be the evil one has always lived there sharing history, laughter and tears? And if so, who could it be? 

Here, in Rainbow Cottage high up over Ballyderg town, Jan had found relaxation.  Ever since she could remember, possibly since she had been born, she was driven by an inner spring of energy that constantly bubbled up. She was always on the go. Tasks to be completed, decisions to be made, energy to be burned up. It was these hills, the still and brooding giants with wispy cloud hair, which first soothed her into sometimes slowing down. Changes swirled around them, the seasons, the weather, light and dark, but their core stood firm against outside influence.  Eventually she had absorbed that lesson. 

From the   plate glass window of the lounge she watched a car wind its way up from the valley. She went into the kitchen and switched on the kettle, knowing from experience that the green tea they both enjoyed would be brewed by the time he arrived at the cottage.

Gerard Shannon parked in his usual place ten minutes climb on foot to Jan’s cottage.  He stood and inhaled deeply before striding out.  He always enjoyed the exercise but today he felt breathless, tormented, an iron band of tension squeezing his chest. If only the success and control he had in his business life applied to his private life also. If only he had been honest all those years ago. If only he could be honest now.

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Location, Location, Location

You cannot decide where you are born. Perhaps just as well, since the seven hundred islands of the Bahamas might tip into the ocean with the weight of babies wanting to start life in the sunshine there. Even though you have no control over where you take your first breath and spend your formative years, these factors are hugely influential on the rest of your life. Your location dictates the language you speak and the educational system available to you.  It also requires that you adopt the culture of the society where fate has decided to place you.  Whether you hail from the Orient or Occident, from rural or urban background, from a rich society or from a poverty stricken slum, you carry the influence of the fateful circumstances of your birth with you all your life. And so it is also with fictional characters.

When the idea for a story begins to nag at me, I imagine a theme. Usually something dramatic or tragic. I believe our true qualities, both good and bad, are most apparent when there is a crisis in our lives. How often have you looked back on a challenging event and wondered where you found the strength to deal with it? Or maybe you wish you had handled it with more courage. In the course of my eight novels my characters have had to cope with situations as diverse as protecting a newly discovered cure for cancer against exploitation, to dealing with alcoholism, infertility, a hurricane, and, in my latest novel, Thicker Than Water, dealing with murder and its tragic aftermath.

The fictional events need characters to make them happen and to react to them. So they begin to emerge from my imaginings – these people who will be with me, day and night, for at least twelve months, or for however long it takes me to write and edit and rewrite their story. While none of my characters are based on me , I pen their opinions and attitudes  , so I can’t deny there is some of me in each of them. I notice in editing, that they do things like drink coffee a lot, eat chocolate, are opinionated and dither about decisions – a quick self-portrait! But then, as characters develop through the story they do things I never would, even if I had ended up in the same situations as I subject them to. That is the magic of creative writing. Pretentious as it sounds, there comes a stage in a book when the characters do indeed seem to take on energy of their own. Unfortunately for me, I find this does not happen until near the end, when all the hard work has been done.

Having settled on the ‘why’ and the ‘who’ of my new novel. Next comes the ‘where’. Because I was reared by the sea, I find it difficult to be any distance away from the sight, the sound and the smell of it. In fanciful moments, of which I have a few, I imagine that everything about me- the blood in my veins, my emotions, the pace and rhythm of my life - is co-ordinated by the ebb and flow of the North Atlantic tides. And so, especially in my first novels, my characters had to live within a reasonable distance from the sea so that I could empathise with them. Also because I was reared in a rural area and now live in a suburban town, the majority of my stories are set in similar places. There are exceptions- some of the action in As Easy As That takes place in Budapest, a city I know and love. Likewise in Parting Company, some scenes are set in Bonn, a city I also know as my sister lives there. Cork, my native city, features in Inside Out, as did Portland, in Maine, USA. I have never been to Maine but my research taught me it’s a beautiful place. It’s where John Connolly and Stephen King weave their literary magic, so a visit there is top of my bucket list.

While I do mention real- life cities in my novels, I decided very early on, that the local areas where the loves and hates, triumphs and tragedies of my characters played out, would be fictional. I made this decision for several reasons. Firstly, as I explained at the outset – my belief that where you are born and reared shapes who you are. To fully understand my fictional characters in their fictional world, I am obliged to give them their very own fictional home place. Secondly, no matter how thoroughly you research an area, or think you know it, some eagle-eyed reader will find you had your character turn left at the chemist shop, when everyone knows there is only a right turn there. An incorrect detail like that can spoil the story for a reader. As an author, that is the very last thing you want to happen. Thirdly, and for me the most important reason, is that I am passionate about creative writing. While a work of fiction must have a basis in reality so that both writer and reader can relate to it, it must also be the entertainment, the uplift, the joy, the escape from reality that novels can bring. When the imagination of reader and writer, travel the path of a story together, then the magic of fiction is unleashed.

So, yes, the town of Ballyderg, where Thicker Than Water is set, is fictional. As is the river Derg, the bookshop, Hawthorn Estate and all the other landmarks mentioned. But so then, are the murders. And the murderer.

Thank you to Merissa and all the gang in for hosting me today and thanks also to Lucy Felthouse (Writer Marketing Services) for organising my visit here. 

£40/$50 Amazon Gift Card

Make sure to follow the whole tour—the more posts you visit throughout, the more chances you’ll get to enter the giveaway. The tour dates are here

Mary worked many years as a Laboratory Technician. Her hobby, her passion, has always been writing. Busy with family and career, she grabbed some moments here and there to write poetry and short stories. She also wrote a general interest column in a local newspaper.

 As the demands on her time became more manageable she joined a local creative writing class. It was then, with the encouragement of tutor Vincent McDonald, that the idea of writing a novel took shape. She began to expand on a short story she had written some years previously. It was a shock for her to discover that enthusiasm and imagination are not enough. For the first time she learned that writing can be very hard work.

Mary now has six traditionally published novels, nine eBooks and hopefully more to come, inspiration permitting.   

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