Wednesday, 4 June 2014


One of last month’s top reads was R.C. O’Leary’s self-published debut Hallways in the Night, which I reviewed here. Robert was kind enough to humour when when I asked him if he would be willing to answer a few questions about his reading and writing.

As someone who reads only, I’m always interested in how writers approach the somewhat daunting process of constructing a compelling piece of work that when does well, provides me and others with an escape from the day to day mundacity of everyday life. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life; I love my family; I don’t dislike my job; but I do enjoy being taken to other places to observe and understand other people’s trials and tribulations. I think all readers are voyeurs at heart and I’m no different.

I’m also a bit nosey and so I always want to know what everyone else had read and recommends. If you're reading on the bus or train, I'll be the guy peering over your shoulder, concerned with what you're immersed in.

Our Q + A session is below……

Is the writing a full-time or a sideline-passion-hobby? What’s the day job?

I’m a part-time writer who tries to fit in writing time between my job in hotel real estate and family responsibilities.

I stared writing in 2008 when the financial bubble burst and I realized that my job in real estate was going to be severely impacted. As the market crashed and work slowed down, I decided to write a book that I had been thinking about since the late 1990s. My goal was to turn the negative period of recession into something positive.

I was in my late 30s and had never written a book (or even taken a creative writing class), but I had what I thought was a good idea for a story and was optimistic enough to think I could finish it within four or five months.

I had once read that John Grisham writes a book within a three or four month period, so I figured I would follow his template. LOL at me. Suffice it to say, when the book was finally ready for print in December 2013, I was a lot less naive about the process than when I started.

What’s on the horizon book-wise or writing-wise currently?

My next project is the sequel to Hallways in the Night 

While HITN is primarily a legal thriller, the sequel will be more of a political thriller as it will involve a Presidential election and have multiple scenes that take place in and around the White House.

The beginning of the sequel—a small town cop finds the body of a dead widow who looks to have been murdered by someone tied closely to a Presidential campaign—was the story I originally started to write.

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

This has been the toughest question to answer because there have been some big moments for me: Reading some of the book to my father as he entered hospice, completing the book and seeing it available for sale, and the chance to interact with readers and reviewers who have read the book. More great experiences than I would have ever expected.

From start to finish how long did Hallways in the Night take from conception to completion?

I had the original idea for what will be the sequel back in 1999. It took me ten years to get serious about writing the book. When I did, it took another 5 years to complete the book while writing on nights and weekends.

What’s your typical writing schedule?

90% of my writing takes place after my wife and kids are in bed. I usually write from ten to midnight, as well as some weekend days. Ironically, I had plenty of time to write during college and graduate school but never took advantage of it. Instead, I waited until I was married with three active kids. And yes, as a matter of fact, that is just as dumb as it sounds. LOL.

Do you insert family, friends and colleagues into your characters? Would they recognise themselves?

My father-in-law was an Atlanta police officer, so a couple of his stories are fictionalized within the book. That being said, none of the characters are based upon anyone I know, however, many of them have elements from people I have met or known during my life. For example, there is one motorcycle chase in the beginning of the story that’s based upon an incident I saw when I was a little kid.

Are there any subjects off limits as far as your writing is concerned?

Not that I’ve found, however, I don’t think E.L. James has anything to worry about.

You’re self-published so far, have you been knocked back in your efforts to find a publisher, or are you content to continue this route?

I had some interest from agents and still believe that traditional publishing can offer tremendous upside, but I chose to self-publish primarily due to the speed of getting my book to market. Once Hallways in the Night was done, I was ready to release it into the world. I also thought by self-publishing it might, eventually, give me a better opportunity to attract a publisher if they were able to see that readers enjoyed the story.

Self-publishing was a much easier process than I expected, and one of the most enjoyable aspects of self-publishing has been the chance to interact with readers, reviewers, and book bloggers while promoting my book.

Five years ago I would have felt compelled to pursue a traditional publisher, but the landscape has undergone such a fundamental change that I thought going to market with a self-published book was the best choice for me at the time.

As a self-published author, how do you edit your work? Do you have a close circle of readers who you can rely on to objectively criticise?    

Once Hallways in the Night was done, I did close to ten rounds of proofing and editing. It took me almost three months. By the fifth round of edits, I felt like I was in the movie Groundhog Day.

The most valuable thing I did was a read-aloud of the book which helped me catch several errors that I missed while simply reading to myself.

As far as the overall story, I benefited greatly from several beta readers who gave me some guidance on the plot. I made some significant changes (and deletions) based upon their feedback.

I also had one New York based literary agent who gave me some great advice regarding the book. I ended up changing the ending and came up with the “elevator” scene at the end after listening to his feedback.

What are the last three books you’ve read?

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews
Not a Penny More or a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer
And then There were None by Agatha Christie

Who do you read and enjoy?

From my perspective, there is nothing better than being in the middle of a great book that has taken you to a different time or place. A few of my favorite writers are John Le Carre, John Grisham, Dennis Lehane, Jack Higgins, Michael Connelly, Frederick Forsyth, Mary Higgins Clark, Robert B. Parker, J.K. Rowling, James Lee Burke, Ben Mezrich, Kathy Reichs, and countless more.

My father was a prolific reader and introduced me to many of the above writers.

Do you have any literary heroes?

I’ve always pulled for the underdog trying to overcome great odds to achieve something bigger than his or herself.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

The Count of Monte Cristo. I loved every page of it and reading it felt like being transported back in time.

If I call back in a couple of years’ time, where do you hope to be as an author? 

My dream scenario would be that our meeting would take place over drinks in a great London hotel. It would be around Christmastime, and I would be working on my third novel.
Many thanks to Robert for taking the time to indulge me.

He has kindly offered 5 free kindle copies of his book to interested readers. If you would like to give the excellent Hallways a go – please leave a comment below.

Robert will hopefully be checking in on the comments during the next few days, so if there is anything else you’d like to ask him, please feel free. 

His website and blog is over here.

I'm off to look up The Count of Monte Cristo.


  1. That was extremely interesting! And I had already noted your review of this book and put it on the list, so perhaps I'll get lucky....

    1. Moira, thanks. Another departure for me!

    2. Clothes in Books, really glad you enjoyed the Q and A. Col was extremely gracious in asking me to participate on his great blog. Please send me the email address you would like to receive the book and I will send out to you. You can reach me at rcowriting at gmail dot com Thanks and I'll keep a look-out for your email. Best Regards,

  2. Really interesting Col! Thanks for sharing. And I know all about trying to write when one has a 'day job.'

    1. Margot, I'm full of admiration for all writers. I know for a fact I don't have the self-discipline to even attempt anything of this nature (dis-regarding any talent or aptitude or lack thereof)!

    2. Definitely tough as you mention. One thing that self-publishing does is at least authors know there work can be released into the world once it gets finished. Must have been devastating for writers of an earlier era to never see work into which they poured their heart and soul published.

      LMK if you would like a copy and have a great summer!

  3. Wow, for a first interview you did well. Very interesting interview and informative. Thank you both. I enjoyed reading it.

    1. Thanks Keishon. I don't think Oprah need worry just yet, but I think I'll persevere with the Q+A for a while at least on willing victims!

      I wonder if I can find a contact address for Mr Pizzolatto?

    2. He's on Twitter (I think since it's not a verified account). He has a website as well. It would be AMAZING if you could get an interview from him. However, I think he might be a little busy with you know writing the second season of TRUE DETECTIVE which from what I can tell promises to be a pretty good follow-up with strong women characters. Who knows so go for it. I did interviews at one time, well, two - nabbed one with Chelsea Cain. She writes thrillers and she was kind to an random no name-no- influence-blogger. The other one was with Patricia Briggs who writes urban fantasy.

    3. I'll have a look around......obviously more in hope than expectation, but stranger things have happened.

      On my previous blog, which I deleted rather rashly, I had a Q+A with Ken Bruen and Sandra Ruttan and got turned down by Tim Dorsey.....something I never quite got over! How dare he, snub me - also a random-no-name-no-influence-blogger!

    4. I might be a bit harsh on ol' Tim - he did reply to the invitation declining and citing that he was a bit busy. I would perhaps have been more upset if maybe I hadn't heard from him - he could have just as easily hit the delete button instead of replying. So I'll still be reading him, when time allows.

    5. Thanks Keishon, Col sent me some great questions and it was fun to answer them. Very gracious of him and all who took the time to read it. As mentioned in the QA getting back to the UK is one of my goals. The older I get the more I feel drawn to it. One of the reasons I love English writers.

  4. An excellent interview, Col. As I have said before, I enjoy reading about writers at work and you have covered a great deal about that part. The big takeaway from the interview is the author's perseverance over five years and finally seeing his debut novel in print. I was also tickled to read that Mr. O’Leary reads Jack Higgins, Frederick Forsyth, Mary Higgins Clark, and Jeffrey Archer, all popular authors of the eighties and nineties. Not many people do these days.

    1. Prashant thank you. I am glad I am firmly entrenched on the reading only side of the fence! I was mentally ticking off Robert's authors as I read his list. Connelly, Parker, Lehane, Forsyth - I've read and enjoyed over the years. Archer, Mary Higgins Clark and Jack Higgins - not so much.

    2. Prashant---in many ways it was a gift not knowing how long it would take because I'm not sure I would have started if I knew it was a five year process. Sticking with the process, not giving up and putting in the time to make it as good as my ability would allow has had the added benefit of helping me persevere in other areas of my life which was not something I anticipated. It was also interesting/fun to find a dimension of myself that I did not know I had for the first almost 40 years of my life. If you would like a copy, just send me an email to rcowritng at gmail dot com Best Regards,

  5. Mr. O'Leary sounds like a very nice man (and I checked out his blog and he sounds nice there too). No need for a free copy, I have bought the Kindle version already. I am sure I am going to enjoy it. Great interview, Col, and I wish Mr. O'Leary the best in his future writing.

    1. Tracy, thank you. I hope you enjoy the book whenever you get around to it. I want to read my legal mysteries now my appetite has been whetted.

    2. TracyK...thank so much for the kind words. I hope you enjoy the story. Also hope you have a summer full of wonderful books! Best Regards, RC

  6. Col, it took me about a week of nights to read Count of Monte Cristo and I couldn't wait to get to it each night. A true epic and I hope you enjoy it!