When I need inspiration, I don't need to look further than Darryl Donaghue, whose debut Crime Fiction novel "A Journal of Sin" has just been released. I not only look up to him in regards to his discipline and focus (you can read about his ten-point publishing campaign plan on his website www.DarrylDonaghue.com), but also his amazing way with words and his skill to build tension in any scene.
What's more? Over the past few months, Darryl has been an indispensable resource for my own writing when I needed a reality check on my male FBI heroes. With ten years of detective work under his belt, Darryl knows a thing or two about the realistic ways to blow up a soda can--and hide evidence when the liquid that splashes all around leaves more than just bubbly fluid.
He's got a twisted mind that he uses to create an intricate plot to keep readers on their toes until the very last page; in "A Journal of Sin" he transforms us into the chilling world of an isolated little town with a murderer on the loose. The novice detective Sarah is forced to solve the case on her own, bringing in a very exposed and realistic portrayal of still-inexperienced police force at work. There's something very creepy in that description of what she finds in the murdered priest's home ... and that will just get more disturbing as the novel progresses.
A strong, yet vulnerable heroine working on her own to solve a case? Check. Tricky plot that gets thicker with every page? Check. Beautiful, descriptive prose and dialogue that showcases the complexity of each characters' dilemmas? Unexpected ending? The beginning of a promising career for the new Crime Fiction author? Check, check, and check.
So you could say I've been more than a little bit excited about his upcoming release. It's finally available on Amazon, waiting to submerge you into its web of lies, crime, and deceit.
Below is the interview with Darryl Donaghue, written whilst reading "A Journal of Sin".
Q: "A Journal of Sin" is your first published novel, yet you're not a novice when it comes to investigating series crime. Tell us about your transition from a bad-ass detective to a Crime Fiction novelist.
A: I guess it came down to that single decisive moment. Am I going to write a novel or not? As you can imagine, policing demands long hours and it’s hard to find the time to write. I had some short stories published, both online and in print, but couldn’t develop the momentum required to produce a novel. I’d still be in the same position had I stayed, but here we are ten months later and my first book’s out. That’s not to say it was an easy choice to make. It’s an excellent job and although I miss it, writing is where my heart is.
Q: Where did the idea for "A Journal of Sin" come from? There're so many crime fiction novels out there, some even written by ex-detectives, yet your work is very fresh and unique.
A: To me, good crime fiction shines a light on society. When a fictional murderer kills, what they are really doing is asking questions. Questions about the norms and values the deceased represents. With the world disrupted, in come the Detectives to try and restore the status quo and makes sense of it all.
I wanted to write a book with relevant modern themes. Journal of Sin asks questions about rights to information and privacy in the digital community, and explores these ideas using the metaphor of religious confessional secrets. The parallel of 'Googlisation' and religion is one worth thinking about. We used to go to oracles for divine knowledge; now we have instant omniscience in our pockets. Human beings have worshipped Gods throughout history and I’m certain one day we’ll look back on Google as being the early 2000’s incarnation.
A lot of people have described the book as having a fresh, unique take on the genre and I think Sarah herself is mostly responsible for that. I didn’t want to rehash the horribly defunct aging, alcoholic, bitter, ex-army Detective. Those stories have been done very well over the years, in far better ways than I could manage I’m sure. I’m not saying that’s not realistic; I’ve worked with a few that fit snuggly into that category.
Sarah is a reflection of the modern world. We’re all a little anxious in ways we don’t often admit. Big decisions scare us as we wonder what to do, what people will think and how our choices will affect the people we love. We’re overwhelmed with information from all sides telling us how to live, how to look, what to do and how to do it; most of it so conflicting that it’s no better than having no guide at all. The modern world can be a confusing and frightening place. Sarah helps us make sense of it all with an honesty and vulnerability that can’t be found at the bottom of a bottle.
Q: What made you decide to write from a woman's perspective? Do you really think you can understand the opposite sex that well? (if you say yes, I'm going to have to speak with your mother.)
A: She just kind of came out that way. I’ve been told since that it’s notoriously hard for men to write female characters.
Sarah's received some really positive comments from both editors and some readers. It was one of those real moments of relief. Most things are fixable, but when someone says they don’t like your main character, it puts you right back to square one.
What I really didn’t want to do was write a male character in a woman’s skin. I think the term ‘strong female character’ has become a little diluted and is in danger of becoming a cliche marketing phrase. We often still interpret ’strong’ in the masculine sense, so we sometimes find ourselves reading about characters called Andrea, but acting like Arnie. I also want to get away from the idea that strength means doing everything alone – The lone wolf Detective or the maverick cop breaking all the rules. There’s room for that, of course, but there’s also a lot of literary space out there to explore what it means to be strong in the modern, everyday world. Working a tough job to do the best for our kids is a strength. Accepting we need help rather than struggling on our own is a strength. Exposing our vulnerabilities when we don’t know whether we’ll receive a hug or humiliating comments is a strength.
She belongs to the readers now. We all see different things in the character we enjoy spending time with and love them for different reasons. Your discerning followers will hopefully have plenty of feedback for me on this particular subject.
Q: What was the most difficult scene to write and why?
A: Good question! I won’t go into too much detail in case people haven’t read it yet (you may need a little spoiler alert here).
There were two particularly tough scenes. The scene towards the end involving Sarah, Tom and Anne. It’s the culmination of a domestic violence story arc involving an elderly lady. We’ve still got a long way to go with attitudes and how the justice system reacts towards domestic violence. Some elderly people have strongly ingrained, old-fashioned beliefs, about their entitlement to speak and be heard, especially within a marriage. Elderly women especially can suffer based on beliefs society drilled into them at the time about how to be a good wife, how not to complain and the shame of stepping outside of your role. This scene, and you’ll know it when you read it, highlights a particularly dark aspect of a horrible crime that still affects far too many women today.
The second was Sarah’s phone conversation with her husband about quitting. She’s at her most vulnerable here and I found the healing power of the relationship with her family to be very moving. The contrast between Sarah’s family life and Anne’s warns us about the power and responsibility that comes when somebody loves us – it can be used to rejuvenation or destruction. It took weeks just to get those few paragraphs right.
Q: What's next? Is there a new story brewing in your brilliant mind?
A: I’m working on the second book. It picks up a couple of months after Journal of Sin and introduces us to some new permanent characters for the series. I won’t spoil too much here, but I’ll reveal more over the next couple of months.
Q: Finish the scene. "He wasn't at all sure if his waitress has been the murderer this entire time, but there was only one way to find out . . .”
The bill was £4.86. If the thick, grey clouds and constant drizzle wasn’t reminder enough that he was back in London, paying £4.86 for a coffee certainly was. He opened his wallet, ignored the five and ten pound notes, and took out his card. He wiped it with a clean napkin before handing it to her.
‘Sorry. The kids can’t keep their hands off my wallet. It’s best I don’t tell you the kind of places I’ve found that thing.’
She turned the card around in her hand, inspecting it for any obvious stains it seemed, and swiped it through the machine. She didn’t smile or say a word. It may have just been poor service; the result of hours on her feet pandering to every customer’s whim. Or maybe it was a well-practiced stoic demeanour, employed to suppress any glimmer of guilt that may, if left unchecked, rise to the surface. Silent ones were the hardest. He read the loudmouths with ease and the quiet ones, the quiet ones gave away more with what they didn’t say. But silence and blank expressions left him to rely on assumptions and gut feelings. He needed facts, facts he could pin a case on.
She held out his card and he wrapped his hand over hers. ‘You know, I’d really like to thank you. I’m new around here and you’ve made me feel so welcome,’ he said.
She looked perplexed. He was certain his unearned compliment distracted her from noticing him nudge her thumb from the raised numbers onto the smooth surface of his Mastercard. He shook her hand, gently pressing his thumb on top of hers and giving it an almost imperceptible roll from side to side.
When he let go, she wiped her hand on her black pencil skirt. Probably worried about picking something up from the card, he thought, and not realising what she’d just left behind.
You can follow Darryl on Twitter or check out his website.
"A Journal of Sin" can be ordered on Amazon.