Monday, December 12, 2022

Sharon Dempsey

Sharon Dempsey is a PhD candidate at Queen’s University, exploring class and gender in crime fiction. She was a journalist and health writer before turning to writing crime fiction and has written for a variety of publications and newspapers, including the Irish Times. Dempsey also facilitates creative writing classes for people affected by cancer and other health challenges.

Her new novel is The Midnight Killing.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Titles are tricky beasts. They have to do so much: entice the reader, sell the story and still not give too much away. I enjoy coming up with titles but often the marvellous marketing team at Harper Collins come up with something that grabs the attention and works well with the story. My last book, Who Took Eden Mulligan? was originally called The Hanging Dolls, but the editor felt that it sounded too much like a horror novel, which it did, so the title we settled on came from graffiti found at the crime scene and I love it. It suits the book and sets the reader up asking questions, right from the start. The Midnight Killing got its title from the crime scene at the start of the book. It suggests mystery and something sinister. Of course I love that combination!

What's in a name?

Naming characters is one of those processes that takes time. You know when you know! I often trawl through baby name websites. My character Rose has some history behind her name since it is an adopted name she chose for herself. She left behind her family, her hometown of Belfast at eighteen to go off to university and changed her name from Roisin to Rose.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

My teenage self would be deliriously happy to know I am a writer. That making up stories is my job! It’s what I have always wanted to do and while it didn’t always seem achievable, I am so happy to feel that I have made my dream come true. I am also doing a PhD and I think my teenage self would be stunned to hear that fact.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Beginnings are way easier and more fun! It can be hard to keep the momentum going for over 100,000 words. I do often start out knowing where the book is headed. It's important to understand your characters’ trajectories and the narrative arc and when you are writing a detective novel you need to be interested in the craft of plotting and feeling for the beats of the story. Knowing when to reveal information, when to hold it back and when to turn the whole thing upside down! Readers like to do some of the work too. They don’t want to be spoon-fed the story, they want to anticipate what is going to happen so that when that conclusion comes they feel a certain inevitability about it. I’ve had a few comments about the ending of The Midnight Killing, though as some readers have found one particular scene a little unnerving. I can’t say anymore!

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

We don’t write in a vacuum. Everything I feel, and experience ends up in my writing one way or another. I am a news junkie, so a lot of longform journalism inspires my stories, plus stories I have heard growing up always end up being used in my work. I love stories and feel like I collect them, saving them up to use later!

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I am a huge music fan. Bands and artists like Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles, Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridges, Billie Elish all inspire me through their song writing. It’s just storytelling by another name. But news, politics and history as I previously said also seep into my work, informing the story.
Visit Sharon Dempsey's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Midnight Killing.

--Marshal Zeringue