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Life (of crime) begins at 40

Cork crime writer Amy Cronin told David Hennessy about her debut novel Blinding Lies and why, despite moving away from it in university, she could never let go of writing. 

There are several highly rated Irish female crime writers receiving recognition at the moment.

With her debut novel, Blinding Lies, Amy Cronin is already being compared to writers such as Tana French, Sam Blake and Andrea Carter.

Amy’s debut Blinding Lies centres around Garda employee Anna Clarke.

When the case of a man shot dead crosses her desk, Anna is shocked to discover that the main suspect is her childhood friend Kate Crowley.

Certain that Kate is innocent, Anna becomes determined to help her clear her name. But she has to find her first.

The book has been a long time coming for its author. Although Amy had always wanted to write, she pursued other more stable subjects to study and careers to go into.

But when Covid-19 forced everyone into lockdown, it gave Amy the chance to produce her debut book.

Amy told The Irish World what it was like to finally release Blinding Lies to the world: “It feels very surreal. I could say cliché words like a ‘dream come true’, but that is actually how it feels.

“And I can’t wait to step into a shop and see Blinding Lies on the shelf. Can’t wait for that moment. And there’s so many brilliant writers that are very active at the moment.

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“And there are a lot of female writers in Ireland that are doing extraordinarily well so it is wonderful to have been given the chance to have my own writing published.”

From Cork, Amy lives in Kinsale and says it was the combination of a milestone birthday and needing some escape in times of pandemic that led to her sitting down to pen the book.

“There was something about seeing the news coverage, especially coming out of Italy, I found that very distressing seeing coverage of so many bodies in Italy.

“And being locked down, it was a case of needing something for yourself, you know that kind of way?

“You’re locked down in your house. I was home schooling.

“And I did I turn 40 during the first lockdown as well.

“I had a big birthday.

“I’ve written ever since I was very young, written stories, and always had this dream that I’d love to do this as a career.

“And I thought to myself, ‘That’ll never happen’.

“But the pandemic, big birthday, everything just pushed me towards it.

“And I thought, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’

“The worst that can happen is I get to told, ‘No, sorry. Not gonna happen’.

“And so I said, ‘I’ll regret this if I don’t try it’.

“And luckily then, it did get picked up by Poolbeg Press in Dublin.”

Amy was on a career break from the civil service when Covid- 19 hit.

“I was fortunate in that sense because I was at home anyway.

“For me the big change was that my husband was then working from home and the children were then being home schooled.

“I had started writing Blinding Lies in September 2019 and I kind of went hell for leather with it during lockdown.

“It was a bit of escapism for me to go away on my own and concentrate on this plot which was very far removed from what was going on in real life. It was great.

“The plot’s really like a crime thriller, but I found it like meditation to head off on my own and write in a corner of the house.”

The story of Blinding Lies begins with Tom Gallagher’s son David being killed.

Tom believes Kate is responsible and now his older son John is missing.

Unable to grieve for one son until he finds the other, Tom becomes desperate.

When the German Meier brothers descend on the city of Cork intent on finding an item David had offered to sell them, Kate is in even more danger.

Kate must struggle to stay out of sight and stay alive, and as Anna gets dragged deeper and deeper into helping her friend, she also falls deeper into danger.

And Anna is drawn into the twisted race against time, falling deeper into danger.

“Ian Rankin is my favourite author. His Detective Rebus series, I just love that.

“I also love Lee Child’s character, Jack Reacher.

“And I was starting to think, ‘I’d love to read about a woman that finds herself in a macho-dominated situation.

“And I did read the Stieg Larsson trilogy featuring Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

“I read that many years ago and I just was fascinated that Lisbeth was doing things that you traditionally read that a man would do in a book.

“So that was planting the seed that I would love to read this book about this really plucky young girl who is not trying to be a hero but just finds herself be in that position and see how she gets on with it.

“That was kind of the driving force.

“You should write the book you want to read so I did want to read about a female lead thriller.

“The character came out of that for me.

“I wrote a chapter about that ten years ago, I think, and it was about a girl and she was in her room. And it was from the point of view of a predator that is climbing stairs in her house with bad intentions.

“And at the end of the chapter, she’s standing over him contacting the police, and he’s unconscious on the ground.

“I thought this was really interesting, to flip the narrative around and give the reader something completely unexpected.

“That’s kind of where it came from.

“She’s completely what I what I call an accidental heroine. She’s just trying to help a friend and she stumbles into the situation.

“She makes what probably would be bad decisions but she’s very human in that regard.

“I read a review of the book where the reviewer said, ‘Anna’s quite flawed’ and I like my characters nice and flawed because they’re relatable.

“She’s got really good intentions, trying to help a friend out of trouble.

“She probably should leave a lot of things to the gardai, but she doesn’t.

“So it was just kind of changing the narrative from the books I’ve been reading lately, which were very male led in terms of, ‘he’s the hero who saves the day…’

“It was just flipping that around, putting it on the shoulders of the young girl who just finds herself in the situation.”

Anna is haunted by the disappearance of her parents ten years prior, never finding out what happened to them.

“It does (torture her), of course.

“Her dad being very interested in martial arts obviously serves her well when she gets in trouble in Blinding Lies, but she has her own stuff going on.

“All these characters have a backstory, and they all have a personal ‘want’ that they need to resolve.

“So the mystery of the parents just runs as an undercurrent throughout the book. And I think it explains her character in a lot of ways.

“She works as a statistician. She works in maths. She’s quite controlled.

“And I think this counterbalances how her life went out of control when she was 16, so she’s quite a measured person.

“And I think she’s always trying to seek control. Maths appeal to her because numbers don’t do anything they shouldn’t do, numbers are logical.

“I think there’s a lot of emotion in her that she’s trying to suppress.

“She’s got loads of unanswered questions. She knows some injustice happened to her parents and I think that’s what drives her to help her friend because she knows that Kate will also suffer the same thing if the Gallaghers get ahold of her.

“I think it does explain her driving passion as well.

“She lives alone in the book, but she lives in her family home so she’s surrounded by memories and she likes it that way.

“She listens to her mother’s favourite music. She practices her father’s taekwondo passion.

“But she’s really desperate for answers, more so than her brother who wants to support her but wants to move on as well.

“Kate has stolen something from David but she doesn’t know the importance of what she’s taken.

“The Meier brothers need it back.

“There’s a sense of desperation about Tobias, the leader of that family, and the things he will do to get back what was stolen.

“There’s a hint that he is afraid to go back empty handed, and he will do whatever it takes to get it back.

“He doesn’t know Kate has it, but Tom Gallagher joined the dots, which kind of fuels his search for her even further.

“There are lots of threatening characters in the book but I tried to balance that with light and warm characters.”

Like Amy herself, Anna lives in Kinsale. While much of the action of the book takes place around Cork City, Amy likes to combine the picturesque location with the dark subject matter.

“It’s true, I don’t know about Kinsale, but of any place. Everything has layers, even people have layers.

“And people can do terrible things if they have to and there is darkness hiding in every corner.”

Who would Amy like to see playing Anna if Blinding Lies was to made into a film? “Oh my god. Anyone in the world? Hmm, I think Emma Watson would be a great Anna because she doesn’t look hard.

“She doesn’t look like she could handle herself against a gangster, but that’s what Anna looks like. She’s petite.

“She’s very young looking.

“She looks like a kitten, but she’s a tiger.

“I think Emma Watson would have a great look for her.

“And I actually think Angeline Ball would be a great Lisa Taylor, the detective.

“But I haven’t even thought of that, that would be amazing thing to sit down and pick actors to match the character.”

Like she says, Amy always loved writing and literature at school and started an Arts Degree in UCC, selecting English as a subject.

However one of her biggest regrets is changing her mind and switching to Economics.

But she never stopped writing.

“It’s something to tell my kids, ‘Follow your passions. And if you don’t, for whatever reason, that doesn’t mean the door is shut.

“But I don’t think I’ve had this plot in my head. I had the character rumbling around in my head, but I didn’t know what to do with her.

“And I think I only know what to do with her because I’m older.

“I’ve wanted to write forever but I never knew what to write, if that makes sense.

“I was always scribbling away at home, tinkering around with stories, but never finished anything.

“And it was only now that I’m older maybe that I found a plot in my head that really was burning to be written.

“Maybe that just comes with age and life experience.

“I don’t know. But I do regret dropping out of English.

“I switched to economics and I have no idea why.

“I don’t know, does anyone know what they want to do when they’re eighteen?

“Some people will go for a jog. Some people will paint.

“For me it was always pull out the laptop and start typing something.

“If something bad happened in my life, I would write about it just for myself.

“So I never left to go. It never left me go.

“It’s just what I love to do.”

And Amy will love continuing Anna’s story in the forthcoming sequels.

“Anna’s story will be a trilogy so right now I’m writing the third.

“Her parents’ story has to be explored.

“And Tom Gallagher, I think isn’t he’s a fantastic bad guy. I love him. I think he’s really cool even though he’s a very dangerous individual. And I think he deserves more of a story as well.

“It is a three book contract from my publisher. So the three books will be dedicated to Anna’s story.

“I hope that the readers will follow Anna’s  story and that they’ll enjoy it and take her into their hearts think she’s nice character.

“Three books will probably be needed anyway to flesh out the whole thing. There’s enough in my head for three books anyway.”

Blinding Lies is out now on Poolbeg Press.

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