Please welcome Clare O’Donohue, author of Beyond the Pale, a World of Spies mystery.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
My perfect day would likely require a passport, as I’m absolutely passionate about travel. I love exploring places I’ve never seen before, and the slightly disorienting feeling of a menu in a language I don’t understand. The day would be spent wandering through historical sites, asking a waiter what he thinks I should order for lunch, and finding some artisan market for a perfect, unique handmade souvenir. Then drinks someplace swanky, and a walk to see what my temporary home looks like after dark.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I don’t so much write what I know as what I want to know. So, for me it was a combination of wanting to travel more and wanting to better understand Ireland – the country my parents were born and raised. I have Irish cousins and even lived there for a year, but I was no expert on Irish literature or art, history or culture. Writing a book set in Ireland was a chance for me to learn all that, to visit and wander – but with purpose. Plus, I briefly flirted with being a spy. I studied International Politics in school, took classes in Intelligence, and thought about applying to the CIA. In the end I decided against it (or did I?) but the path not taken was one I wanted to explore in a new character – Hollis Larsson.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I love art. I paint, draw, do ceramics, quilt… I love it all. I’m not great at any of it, mind you, but I love it. So in all of my books there are artists and art. No surprise then that in Beyond the Pale, art forgers and an international ring of art thieves are featured heavily.
Tell us about your main character.
Hollis Larsson is a professor of International Studies at a small but prestigious Michigan university. She has a good life and a good marriage to Finn Larsson, a professor of World Literature, but as she turns forty, she wonders what could have been. Finn, though, has no worries about missing out. He’s happy to read books about adventures. He doesn’t need to have them. But when they get a chance to help out Interpol on a supposedly safe mission in Dublin, Ireland, Hollis jumps at the chance and Finn goes along out of love. It’s the beginning of a new life for both of them, and an opportunity to rediscover each other after sixteen years of marriage. The book is kind of The Thin Man meets James Bond on a tour through Ireland that Rick Steves would love.
What do you think makes a good story? How do you incorporate that into your books How long have you been writing?
When I teach writing I always say, Don’t write character – write people. Characters serve a plot, people create a story. I can read about interesting people having dinner but I don’t care how thrilling the plot is, if I don’t connect in some way with the people, I’m not going to care what happens to them. For me that means spending a fair amount of time making sure that everyone on my book – from leads to villains to minor characters – has a realness to them and then letting their strengths and flaws, their quirks and habits dictate what happens. It often means I have no idea where the story is going, but since that’s a lot like life, I think that’s fine.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you see yourself in five years – this is the time to dream big!
I’ve been a television producer and writer on documentary shows for almost twenty years. I’ve worked on programs about crime, about history, about gardening… I could keep going but basically everything. Which means I know enough about a wide range of subjects to bore you at a cocktail party. I love what I do but more and more the idea of writing novels full time, or turning some of them into TV shows, is pulling at me. Not sure if that will happen, but that’s where I’d love to go.
The job in Ireland was supposed to be easy… until their luck ran out.
It’s a simple, twenty-minute job. At least, that’s the pitch from Interpol to married college professors
Hollis and Finn Larsson. Going undercover to procure a priceless rare book manuscript means an all-expenses paid trip abroad. A little danger thrown into the mix may even spice things up.
Soon after landing in the Emerald Isle, they realize the job is anything but simple. Their contact is a no show and they’re left with fifty thousand euros, some serious questions, and a possible death threat. Ducking and dodging their way across Ireland, Hollis and Finn must hunt down the priceless manuscript and a missing agent while trying to stay one step ahead of a dangerous and unknown enemy.
Clare O’Donohue always knew she wanted to be a writer. She wrote her first mystery mini-novel (60 pages) at the age of 15 and in college, worked as a newspaper reporter and writing teacher before moving to Los Angeles to pursue her first job in television, GTV’s Simply Quilts.
Since then, Clare has worked on shows for The History Channel, truTV, Food Network, A&E, Discovery, TLC and others. Her work has taken her all over the United States and abroad where she’s met a diverse spectrum of people from CEOs to prison inmates, Malaysian orphans to famous athletes.
Clare published her first novel, The Lovers Knot, in 2008. It opened a world to other authors, readers, bloggers and more.