Author Interview: Liz Cowley and Donough O’Brien

lizcowley   donough

Today I am delighted to welcome Liz Cowley and Donough O’Brien to my blog. Liz and Donough are the authors of ‘Serial Damage’, which I review here.

1. You have done what so many writers dream of and had your novel published. How have you found this experience?

Liz:

Very rewarding, and also very interesting, writing jointly with my husband Donough. And the publisher, Urbane, is a joy to work with – far easier than some I’ve known. I never thought I’d write a novel – or more accurately half of one – or dovetail so smoothly with a co-author without any disagreements. He does action, I do reaction – and it’s a recipe that seems to work.

Donough:

To tackle something completely new, a crime novel instead of the illustrated history books that I normally write, I realised that to get the detail right we needed outside expertise. Luckily we knew, or got to know, top detectives, judges, psychologists, gun makers and surgeons, and they gave us the accuracy we needed. Most of the places round the world we featured we have actually visited, which was another help.

2. Urbane require collaboration with authors in marketing their books. Has this worked out as you expected?

Liz:

Yes, very well. While Urbane promoted us, we do our bit with a series of launch parties round the country in aid of charity. We also helped to promote the book in both the UK and Ireland using our own media contacts. It helps that we were both from marketing and advertising backgrounds.

Donough:

We contacted the media in places where our ‘murders’ take place, like Cornwall, Kent and Ireland and the local press and radio stations were happy to feature us. Most media are intrigued by a husband and wife writing team, but it also helped that Liz’s latest book of amusing poetry, Pass the Prosecco, Darling! was coming out at the same time. A woman who can write light poetry and heavy murder is surely very unusual.

3. Have you done many live author events and, if so, do you enjoy them?

Liz:

Yes, quite a few. National radio like Saturday Live and lots of local radio. I’ve also given speeches at the Hampton Court Flower Show. My poetry books were made into a live stage show in Dublin and London, and the show was the finale of the West Cork Literary Festival at which I appeared.

Donough:

In addition to the charity events, we have been on the radio a lot and in my case television (BBC Breakfast, etc). I enjoy such events and also meeting all sorts of people.

4. What is your approach to the on line reviews of your book?

Liz:

They are very important – it thrills me if they’ve enjoyed my books, and if you get criticism, you learn from it. In many ways, it reminds of my many years as an advertising copywriter – starting with picturing the audience and then learning from the feedback if you’ve got it right.

Donough:

Yes, very important and one should never worry about criticism. You can’t please everyone!

5. When asked what you do, do you describe yourself as a writer?

Liz:

A writer (never a poet) although I’ve had seven poetry books published so far. I’m afraid the word ‘poet’ tends to make people freeze!

Donough:

Having drifted into this, I call myself an author – I don’t know why!

6. Are you going to do this again – is there another novel in the pipeline?

Liz:

We already have. Urbane are publishing From One Hell to Another next year. Our heroine is a Spanish girl in the French resistance. Once again Donough pulls the triggers and I do the emotional bits.

Donough:

And in February I’ve got a thriller about the IRA coming out with Urbane called Peace Breaks Out. I wrote it with my friend Robin Hardy, famous for The Wicker Man film, who has sadly just passed away. And Liz and I have just finished a sci-fi novel called Testosterone. So collaborative writing seems to work for us.

 

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Liz has had a long career as an advertising copywriter and Creative Director, working in several of the world’s leading agencies. A long-time fan of poetry, she enjoyed success with her first collection, A Red Dress, published in 2008 and her second, What am I Doing Here? (2010), which were then made into a theatrical show – first staged in Dublin, then chosen as the finale of the West Cork Literary Festival and later touring the UK. Her next book ‘And guess who he was with?’ was out in February 2013. Two poetry books for gardeners, Outside in my Dressing Gown, and Gardening in Slippers are selling very well, not only in the book trade but also in garden centres.

Before turning to writing, Donough enjoyed a successful marketing career in the US and Europe. His previous books include Fame by Chance, looking at places that became famous by a twist of fate; Banana Skins, covering the slips and screw-ups that brought the famous down to earth; Numeroids, a book of numerical nuggets, and In the Heat of Battle; a study of those who rose to the occasion in warfare and those who didn’t. His latest historical book was WHO? The most remarkable people you’ve never heard of.

 

9781911129455

Serial Damage is published by Urbane Publications and is available to buy now.

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Book Review: Serial Damage

9781911129455

Serial Damage, by Liz Cowley and Donough O’Brien, is a crime thriller set over three continents. It tells the story of a killer whose victims appear unconnected, and whose lives would not be expected to warrant such attention. Each murder has been executed with care suggesting planning and cold blooded resolve.

Alice Drummond is a psychologist building her private practice in London. When her eighty-four year old godmother is shot whilst tending to her roses in her remote, Cornish garden Alice is at a loss as to why anyone would target an old lady. The only person with any apparent motive is a financially compromised nephew who stands to benefit from a substantial inheritance. He shows little distress at his aunt’s passing but has an alibi for the time of her death.

In Kent an old man is killed in a care home. In Belfast a much admired swimming coach is shot at his local leisure centre. The killer travels to America and then to Hong Kong before returning to London and bringing it to a standstill when he attacks again.

In each case the separate police forces remain baffled as to why their victim has been selected. The crime scenes offer scant evidence and motives remain unclear.

The reader is offered details on each murder and on the movements and mindset of the killer. Background events suggest why he acts as he does.

Alice’s private life is narrated. She is looking for Mr Right and wonders if she has found him when a friend introduces her to the entertaining and steady John. Although enjoying John’s company he lacks the frisson she is often drawn to in less reliable men. When she meets the handsome and enigmatic David, who whisks her away on luxurious, sexually satisfying yet somehow disturbing dates, she is unable to resist. She keeps these liaisons secret thinking that, at her age, it is time she chose a suitable husband and settled down. John is kind and attentive, but would this be enough when he is unexciting in bed?

The structure of the story is unusual with its switches between character study and police investigation. The pace is steadier than in many crime thrillers with focus shifting between the impact of death on the various families and the ongoing killing spree. Several characters are introduced who provide insight but little action. Even Alice is not a typical, modern and independent woman. There is a right wing feel to the book that I rarely encounter in my chosen literature.

The killer is an interesting creation, although the completion of his part in the tale felt quite far fetched. The story held my attention, I enjoyed the psychological profiling, but overall I would have preferred a tighter focus. I was left with a feeling of ambivalence despite this being an engaging enough read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane Publications.

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