I’m guessing the book writing’s maybe not full time. If not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?
I am writing most of the time now. I was a journalist for 13-years and still dip my toe in the odd time when I feel an article needs to be written. I also used to lecture – and again, I dip my toe in there every now and then. Just last week I lectured on crime fiction at Coventry University and really enjoyed it. However, I wouldn’t like to lecture full-time, nor would I like to be a full-time journalist. I’m enjoying the balance I have at the moment and it’s taken a long time for me to achieve this kind of balance. But my priority right now is completing my second novel – which should be due out in the autumn of this year.
Do you have a typical writing schedule?
I do – but it’s very recent. This wasn’t the writing schedule for Midday; but right now I try to write a new chapter every day, five days a week. So I begin with the end of my story I always conceive a story based on the end twist. Then I build some characters and begin to draw a narrative with those characters that will lead up to that twist. This can take a month or so. As soon as I have all of my plot planned (in mostly bullet-point form) I begin the first draft of a chapter at about 8am in the morning, which takes about three hours to complete. I then go off and have a bite to eat and come back to that same chapter with fresh eyes. I’ll clean it up before lunch, then after lunch I will add to my bullet points as things becoming clearer in my head. So every day I am writing a new chapter and adding to the plot for the rest of the book. When I have a first draft complete (which normally takes about five months) I then go back over it, taking it one character at a time until I feel I have nailed an authentic voice for each character. I use music to do this. I imagine what sort of music that character would listen to and I play that kind of music for a few weeks until I nail that character voice.
Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?
I think it’s hard not to. You do write what you know. But no one character is ever fully a person I know. There’ll be just parts of his or her make-up that I may have gleaned from a friend or a relative. However, I must stress, that I don’t know anybody as dark as the characters in Midday. I had to stretch the imagination somewhat. However, their views on life are similar to either mine or people I know.
Are there any subjects off limits?
Absolutely not. I don’t think any subject should ever be off limits for somebody creating an art form. I don’t want to sound pretentious suggesting I’m an artist. I’m not. I’m just a lucky idiot. But for any person charged with conceiving any art form, nothing should be off limits. Real life is real life. And I go really dark in Midday.
How long from conception to completion did Midday take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?
Midday took two years to complete. But I was holding down a full-time job at the time. I was also trying to complete a BA Degree in Creative Writing. I originally set the story in Boston because I thought a bank robbery such as the one I conceived for this novel would sit well in Boston (there’s a bank robbery in Boston city every day) but the feedback that I got from some friends and indeed publishers suggested I hadn’t nailed the character voices, so I set it where I know best – Dublin. It took almost nine months to reset the whole manuscript.
How difficult was it to find a publisher for your book?
Very difficult. I tell my students that writing a novel is the first part of two really difficult cycles. 1) Write a 90,000-word manuscript. 2) Try to get it published. Point number one is easier to achieve. I sent the Boston version of Midday to about 40 publishers and agents and all 40 rejected it. When I rewrote it, set in Dublin, I started to get pinches of interest from a couple of publishers and agents. But when Bloodhound showed interest I was determined to get a deal from them. They are an incredible company, run by the nicest people I have ever met. They told me they loved my book one Friday morning in an e-mail. The following week I was in Cambridge signing a contract.
My second book will follow a very similar narrative style to Midday. In fact – my first three books will carry the same style; all will be based in real time and seen through the perspective of 4/5 characters. However, my second book is a lot more subtle in comparison to Midday. It’s not a bank robbery – it’s based a round a family of four and we get to understand their relationships with each other over a dramatic five hour period in their lives. I really like how it’s shaping up.
Who do you read and enjoy?
Betsy Reavley is one of my favourite authors. Like me, she’s a little bit twisted. I’m also a big fan of Anta Waller and my favourite book of the year so far is by Sharon Thompson – called The Abandoned. Fellow Irish author Liz Nugent is my ‘hot right now’ author but I have to mention Dean Koontz. I love his works. He’s a terrific writer. A great builder of tension.
Is there any one book you wish you had written?
I wish I had the time, money and patience to be as brilliant an author as somebody like Dan Brown. To travel the world in search of research would be incredible. Dan spends about 90% of his working life researching, 10% writing. How admirable is that? I just don’t think I have the personality for that approach to work. I lack a tremendous amount of patients. It’s the one trait I don’t have that I crave.
Favourite activity when not working or writing?
I’m a Yoga-type. I love Yoga. Probably because it’s easy, but mostly because it’s exercise for the mind, moreso than the body. I’m obsessed with the mind … which is a good thing, because my body is pretty much a let down.
What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?
I think contemporary film has been much more amazing than the credit it gets. I actually think we’re in a golden age of cinema right now Most people when asked about movies go deep in to their memory bank, but there have been so many modern movies that are just fantastic. I’ve watched Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn three times now and have cried at each viewing. Her performance is outstanding. But I think the best movie I’ve watched in the past few years is Whiplash. It’s jaw-dropping. Although, having said that cinema is in a golden age right now – I obviously don’t include any of the superhero franchise flicks. I’m just not a fan of any story-telling in print or in film that isn’t set in the real world. It’s just a taste thing.
TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Lyons household?
TV addict – yes. Our must-watch is Homeland. It’s constantly the best writing on TV, without a doubt in my opinion. But there have been quite a number of British-based mini dramas recently that have had me glued to the TV… Save Me was impressive, except for the fact that they’ve just announced a second season. They should have left that where it ended. Numbing. But my favourite of the recent British crime dramas was The Missing. Both series were outstanding. Very clever screen writing.
Many thanks to David for his time.
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