Friday, February 2, 2024

Crime in the Emerald Isle


A book so good I read it twice!

I’m not saying too much (no spoilers) but was that opening scene always the start of the book, or did you write it and think, in a further edit, that it would be good if person A realized they knew Person B? So, the twist is at the start.... an idea I'm going to  steal.

That’s a really interesting question because a developmental editor suggested that connection to me almost as a throwaway remark. It wasn’t that way originally. And later, maybe months afterwards, I started to think about it and realise that yes, that could be a great twist. The story took off for me then.

 Yet it felt very organic in the book.

Jamie Dornan- fantasy casting! 
The character is made for him.

The might recognise her from Bouchercon

How did the character Ryan McBride come to life? Who will play him in the film? Jamie Dornan?

Another good question. He’s a compilation of regular Irish men—north and south. And, of course, a good sprinkling of the more famous ones, Jamie Dornan, Aiden Turner, Colin Farrell etc. Ah the list goes on. But there is a look, an Irish or perhaps Celtic look. The brooding brow, the blue, grey or hazel eyes, the dark hair, the pale skin, the square jaw… all that…whew.


Did you find the follow up easier or harder to write?

Easier in a way. I had the main characters in my head and I was more comfortable with their personalities. I had a better understanding of how they would react in certain circumstances. And I never stop learning. Taking classes and reading other books in the mystery genre.

The place names in the book were enchanting. Some took a bit of pronunciation.  Most of them I recognised, but are they ALL real? And is there an audiobook?  Is the actor doing it Irish, I’m thinking that might help.

Yes, in this series most of the places are all real. We do have a lot of challenging names in Northern Ireland, and one of the roads, Shaneoguestown, does exist—I have no idea how to pronounce it. Luckily the audiobook narrator, Alan Smyth is from Ireland, born in Dundalk, a city just south of the Ulster border. He’s an actor who lives in LA now and I was so relieved when I heard his voice. He has a great Belfast accent, everyone who has listened to the audiobook loves it.


                                                                  The narrator of the audio book!

                                                         I think he'd do okay in the TV adaptation too!

How do you research location when you live so far away? Do you still have family back home?

I do still have family and friends at home. When I started to write it helped me revisit the country in a more meaningful way. Staying with friends immerses you in the place, makes you more a part of things. Plus, there’s the whole financial advantage!


So, you are Irish born? Brought up in Canada?  How does life compare…. I guess that depends where in Ireland and where in Canada?

That’s hard to say because I met and married my husband quite soon after I arrived in Canada. Life’s dynamic changes then. I also got a demanding job, and had to drive to work and back in heavy rush-hour traffic every day. I do miss my life back home, but people and places change, and the Belfast I remember isn’t really there anymore.


“A crime book should reflect the society it represents.”  How do you deal with sectarianism? Can you write about Northern Ireland and ignore it?

No, you really can’t ignore it, but I don’t glorify it and I don’t wallow in it. My characters briefly refer to religion and prejudice in conversation but I write murder mysteries and while the troubles are a backdrop to the mystery, they are in the background and that’s it. I was asked to write about that in an interview recently and here’s what I said…

…The Troubles are not the focus of my books, because that’s not what my stories are about. They’re about people who are caught in difficult circumstances. About love and hate and jealousy and finally, murder. All in that wonderful setting. Gloomy and sun bright in turn. Rain and wind, blue skies and gorgeous deserted beaches. … writing a story set in a country I was born in and love, but no longer live in. How memory and longing play into shaping a book and the characters who populate it.


Have you kept your accent?

Augh, sure I have so…


Can you tell us about the new one, Blood Relations?

Blood Relations continues DS Ryan McBride’s story and introduces new characters. I enjoy adding interesting new personalities and seeing how the hero’s story develops. I’ve added a little social commentary and kept a scattering of humour too, an essential part of my books. Here’s a brief synopsis.

Belfast, Northern Ireland: early spring 2017. Retired Chief Inspector Patrick Mullan is found brutally murdered in his bed. Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride and his partner Detective Sergeant Billy Lamont are called to his desolate country home to investigate. In their inquiry, they discover a man whose career with the Police Service of Northern Ireland was overshadowed by violence and corruption. Is the killer someone from Mullan’s past, or his present?
And who hated the man enough to kill him twice?
Ryan and Billy once again face a complex investigation with wit and intelligence, all set in Belfast and the richly atmospheric countryside around it.

KIlling someone twice? I'm already loving it!

I know A Nice Place To Die won the RWA Daphne Du Maurier Award for Mainstream Mystery and Suspense, 2021 has it gathered up anything else? It certainly deserves to.

Thank you for asking. As an unpublished manuscript A Nice Place To Die was also long-listed in the Crime Writers of Canada Awards in 2020 and short-listed in 2021. After publication, A Nice Place To Die was the only debut novel in its category of ten to be a Silver Falchion Award finalist at Killer Nashville 2023.

Told you it was good.


How did you get a quote from  Dr. Katherine Ramsland. That was very impressive!

I really admire her. We are both with the same publisher and got chatting via email when I told her I was a fan. She read my book and I was thrilled. She also asked me to be a guest on her blog in Psychology Today, you can read the article here… no pressure there…


For those that don’t know, tell us a little about the landscape of Northern Ireland.

It’s a wee country of contrasts. Not unlike Scotland. Mountains and valleys, long stretches of beach around the coast, often deserted when summer’s over. Green fields dotted with white drystone walls, sheep in the countryside running around with their lambs in the spring. It’s industrial too, cities with suburbs, some nice, some not so much. I remember the smell of the rain in the air, peat sometimes and the chemical smell of coal. And green… always green. Here’s a memory through my character’s eyes…

…Clouds broke to sporadic sunlight and a fresh breeze skittered through the leaves at his feet. He could feel rain in the air and he could smell it too. He saw large cumulonimbus thunderheads forming. Agitated, the crows that met him most mornings cawed and flew from treetop to treetop. He fancied they followed him as he walked along the road and cut into the fields behind his farm. He’d been heading back home when the sun briefly burst through the cloud cover again and illuminated the countryside. For a few moments Ryan saw splashes of bright green and ochre, a vivid combination of light and intensity of colour produced by the moisture-drenched air. His own forty shades of green.


                                                                                 The Glens Of Antrim.

I will sign off on this blog with a Billy Connolly joke that I've told before on MIE. Way, way back in time some very silly people stood at the coast on the north east of Ireland. They looked over the water and said 'Oh there's a place where it rains even more than it does here. Let's go there.'  And so Scotland was inhabited.

Fascinating blog. I'm away to read the article with Katherine,



  1. I meant to thank you earlier for referring to me last Friday as a "boy", for this writing gig with all its deadlines can at times seem to age us faster than a snowman in a Mediterranean mid-summer. But not you, young lass Caro and Joyce W, for you bring a transcending youthful exuberance to all that you do. Be it A Nice Place to Die or this interview.

    1. Thank you, Jeffrey, and for 'a transcending youthful exuberance,' I love it! Cheers, Joyce. :-)

  2. Joyce has the rare ability to flesh out a setting and bring every reader deep into her Northern Ireland world. Five Stars!