I’m about to start reading your latest novel, While Nobody is Watching, soon to be published by BAD PRESS iNK. Can you pitch it to a potential reader in 50 words or less?
Take a former soldier with PTSD and mix vigorously with the cities ‘troubled youth’. Add some addicts, a hooker and a menacing stalker and boil until the mixture explodes. The ending... you won’t see it coming.
Do you think it's your best work to date?
I do! I’m so in love with each and every character in this book, I really don’t know how I’ll leave them behind. I know for a fact that I'll be taking Lindsey Ryan along on my next adventure.
Did it end up being the book you envisaged when you sat down to commence writing it?
I didn’t quite know what I envisaged when I sat down to this one. I got a spark of inspiration for two characters, Lindsey and Frank (her German Shepherd dog). The youth centre and all the characters and storylines there just sort of happened, but they took the book in a direction I hadn’t anticipated and now I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
How long from the germ of an idea to completion did it take?
My first drafts always happen very quickly. When inspiration strikes, I’m in a mad rush to get it all down on paper, so usually about 3 months. But then I become very, very critical and the final draft ends up being a million miles from the first. This one took about a year in total.
Any doubts or major bumps in the road along the way? How difficult was it to find a home for the book?
Actually, for the first time, I had no doubts on this. I started submitting and early in the process I found BAD PRESS iNK, a new and, clearly from their website, different publishing house. Within a few weeks, Pat (editor extraordinaire) got in touch and following a chat via Skype, I knew that this was the right home for my baby and I wasn't wrong.
I believe it’s your third book to be published but your first in the suspense/mystery/crime field. Which one would you press into the hands of a new reader first?
It would depend on the person and what they want to get from a book at the time. The one thing that each of my books has in common is that they each lack the saccharine element. They're rooted in real life with real problems, but while The Turbulent Series (Did Someone Order Cactus? and It's Just Turbulence) appeal more to a female audience, While Nobody Is Watching is more of a thriller with a military twist and some younger characters who I feel bring another dimension to the book. This one has something for everyone, so would be easy to recommend to any reader.
Do you have a favourite of the three?
That’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is! I don't have a favourite! *Whispers out the side of her mouth* THE THIRD ONE!
Do you have a typical writing schedule?
I used to. Before I had a child. Now I just tote my laptop around with me and write whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself.
Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters? Would they recognise themselves?
Short answer, no. But all of my characters have elements of people I know. I’ve met so many real characters during my lifetime that I can write just about any type of person, good or bad or very different, and I'll be able relate them in my own head to someone I've come across in real life. People might recognise some of their personality in one of my characters, but generally speaking, they’re all fictional.
Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?
I totally make it up as I go along. I'll have an outline of a story in my head, or in this case, strong characters and a theme (PTSD and mental health), but after that, I don't know what’s about to happen until it happens! Then I hone it and improve upon it in later drafts. I don’t know if I’d enjoy the process as much if I spent too much time planning.
Are there any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?
I have one that’s been a bit of a labour of love for me, called Playing the Game. It's a fictional book based on my time in the army and with the UN. I actually began writing it out of annoyance after reading yet another very negative account of what it’s like being a woman in the army. My experience shaped me and was overall very positive, but I’d never seen a positive account written. I discovered pretty early that I’m not suited to non-fiction writing, so I wrote about a group of fictional characters (my military friends will recognise themselves and five others in each character), their day to day life and the challenges they face while serving at home and overseas. And of course the camaraderie that drags them through.
What’s the current project in progress?
I’m working on a follow-up Lindsey Ryan novel called The People Upstairs. It's a stand-alone book, but I did tell you that Lindsey Ryan would be coming along on my next adventure!
What’s the best thing about writing?
The escapism. You’re creating this whole other world and when you’re ‘in the zone’, you're there, living someone else’s life. Then your actual life comes calling and you have to try to tune back into the real world again. Until next time.
When I'm really excited about where my story is going, but life prevents me from being able to sit down and disappear into it (for hours and hours and hours). I find I get a bit cranky around then.
What are the last five books you’ve read?
1) Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
2) Shantarum by Gregory David Roberts
3) The Guardians by John Grisham
4) The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter
5) Blue Moon by Lee Child
Who do you read and enjoy?
My taste in books is quite broad, but I love a good thriller, so Karin Slaughter, Lee Child, Patricia Cornwell – I'll pretty much buy their books without even reading the blurb. I know they’re gonna be good.
Is there any one book you wish you had written?
Where the Crawdads Sing – it’s stunning.
Favourite activity when not working or writing?
I do love taking a wander up a mountain. Nothing beats the cuppa at the top!
What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?
I loved Hacksaw Ridge and pretty much anything directed by Clint Eastwood. I'll probably watch Baz Luhrmann’s Australia a few more times before I die too.
TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Dunne household?
I love a good series! Homeland was one of my favourites and I'll watch The Pacific and Band of Brothers from the start every time they roll them out again. Game of Thrones obviously, but I also love the lighter stuff like Chicago Fire, Grey’s Anatomy, Blue Bloods – stuff that you can switch off to for an hour.
What are the last three pieces of music you’ve listened to?
This is very random but 1) Creedence Clearwater Revival – Have you ever seen the rain 2) Maroon 5 – Sunday Morning 3) Sweet Child O’Mine (Sheryl Crow version)
RANDOM TRIVIA FUN QUESTIONS
What’s your favourite vegetable?
When did you last have a physical fight?
Have you ever been thrown out of a bar or a club?
Do you have any tattoos?
What was your first pet’s name?
Nico (a fish)
Do you have any irrational fears?
Yes – fish. (I know... the irony)
What’s your favourite holiday destination?
Anywhere. Literally. A holiday is a holiday as far as I'm concerned!
When did you last tell a lie?
When I said that I'd never been thrown out of a club (and that I didn't have tattoos) :-D
Many thanks to Michelle for her time.
You can catch up with her at the following haunts
Website - www.michelledunnebooks.com
and Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/MichelleDunneAuthor
While Nobody is Watching is available now.
A semi-inflated football and a curious little girl.
They called it peacekeeping. For Corporal Lindsey Ryan it was anything but.
It’s been three years since that bright day in the Golan Heights and the explosion which killed two and changed the survivors forever.
Now Lindsey deals with the many problems of the city’s troubled youth, to distract her from her own. But as damp days turn to night the kids return home, or somewhere like it, and she returns to her own private war. One that exists solely for her.
Certain that she’s being watched and certain that she’s losing her mind, Lindsey battles with the demons of post traumatic stress, while a very real threat edges ever closer until she finds herself face to face with someone who wants nothing more than to finally help her to die.
And it’s the last person she ever could have seen coming.
Blue helmets and blurred lines - While Nobody is Watching delves into the dark world of PTSD and a battle scarred soldier struggling to find a place in her new world.