About The Denounced
How did you get the idea for The Denounced?
I was writing an adult thriller called A Devil’s Kiss in 2015 when the attacks on 13th November at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris took place. As I’m sure many of you will recall, 130 people tragically lost their lives, mostly young adults, while attending the Death Metal Concert. A few weeks later, I happened upon an article about a teenager who had survived the attack by playing dead for over an hour, before the police found them. The story struck a deep chord. I had grown up when the troubles in Ireland were at their height. As a teenager back then, the stories of the day scared me and I feared watching the news. I felt those same emotions surface reading the survivor’s story. I wanted to connect to those fears and uncertainties about the world, and express it through my writing, and from those thoughts The Denounced was born.
Are you new to YA Writing?
Yes, very new. In fact, this is the first time I’ve put my toe into the water, so to speak! I’ve spend most of my time writing traditional adult thrillers. Having now finished The Denounced, I wish I’d written in the genre before now. Apart from the underlying trigger, the overall experience has been more fun with fewer boundaries. I had a greater scope to create interesting worlds and investigate themes I hadn’t been able to dive into before with my previous writings. I not only felt liberated as a creative, but I could draw upon my own teenage years for inspiration, something I hadn’t thought about for a long time. From a professional and personal perspective, it was a wonderful experience and I can’t wait to start the next two books in the series. I’m itching to get going!
How would you describe The Denounced?
Interesting question and I would love to hear your thoughts on it. But if you’re going to push me into a corner, I would say that it follows the path of many Dystopian Series in that it allows you to escape the confines of modern society to create a darker world in which to express a story. In its simple state, it is both a thriller and conspiracy story combined, but it is also a social drama that takes a speculative look at a potential nightmare future. I think all Dystopian novels do this and it's part of their attraction to readers.
Who do you think will enjoy The Denounced?
I would like to think it has something for everyone, even adults, and the chapters are deliberately short to keep the pace and suspense tight. But those who enjoyed the Hunger Games, The Maze Runner Series, Divergent and Red Rising will naturally gravitate towards this book. Hopefully, it is as enjoyable to read as it was to write.
How many books will there be in the Series?
Currently there will be three — a trilogy, and the story is linear, so each book natural carries the story forward until the final page in the last book. That said, each book is its own story in its own right.
Book One is called A Grey Sun and is out now. Book Two will be called Shifting Horizons and is mostly plotted in my mind — it just needs to be written. Book Three will be called Creaking Dawns and should be ready for the late Autumn of 2018.
I do have an idea to extend the books to a total of six in the Series, but those thoughts are in their very early stages, plus I don't want to risk spoiling my own idea by discussing it too much before it is a fully formed idea. A lot also depends on my readers and if they want to see more of the characters. Something to be decided upon in the future.
When will the second book of The Denounced be available?
The second book is called Shifting Horizons. I know how it will end, which is hugely important to me as a writer. I can’t start writing until I know the ending. It is like getting into a car and not knowing where you are going to drive to. All the main points are in place, so I’m hoping it will be done by February/ early Spring of 2018. I should hit that deadline, but it is also important not to rush the creative process.
Why did you replace the characters’ surnames with numbers?
This was an easy choice and it is a bit of an old trick used by fellow writers throughout the ages. My characters live in a very authoritarian world. They are actually free to do what they want as long as they obey the laws of the land, which happen to be strict especially around self-expression. My world isn’t watched in the George Orwell’s 1984 sense, but it is still repressive. It is not so much what they can’t do, it is more what they are not allowed to think. By replacing their surnames with a number, I de-humanise my characters slightly at the same time as elevating the Authorities’ power. I was careful to give them a first name, because I didn’t want my characters to be totally repressed and seen as robots. It all comes clear if you read the books. I also wanted to show how thinking outside of the box is prohibited and again this was a good mechanism to get this idea across.
What themes do you cover in the book?
There were so many I wanted to investigate and I will be looking to expand my ideas more in the next books, but some of the themes I’ve dug into are: the fears around loneliness and what it takes to survive an institution. How to deal with the cruelty of authority. The discovery of new friends and how they can become more important than your family, especially as you get older. What it means to have a purpose in life vs. not. I also wanted to look at the discovery of your own emotional and physical strength, something we never really know until it is stress-tested. Finally, the struggle to be an individual; free to make your own choices, especially when those around you want to suppress who and what you are.
I think this is my favourite question and I could go on and on.
Is The Denounced about Religion?
No. In some ways, I think that would have been an easier story to write, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do. The world of The Denounced looks at a spiritual sense of something bigger than yourself vs. being insular and inward looking with no concept of a greater force beyond who you are. Or maybe put another way, evaluating the world for yourself vs. taking what you are first told as the only option. Life has so many mysteries and different avenues to explore, many we don’t even think about or even care to look into.
Being curious about everything around you, especially the many different views people have of the world is an important habit to develop, especially when you’re young. We should all try and be curious for the whole of our lives. For me, how people interpret their world, especially in the context of having to share the planet we all inhabit, endlessly fascinates me and underpins the series. Life is the relationships we have and views we taken on them.
Why is Ned’s journey so tough?
Life can be uncompromising and tough at times and we only really understand ourselves when we’ve had to struggle through a particular issue. That can be as simple as getting through an exam or something big like a death of someone close. Often, when we look back at the best times in our lives, they were the best, because we struggled and had to fight through a situation. We had to learn something about ourselves to get through. This was another important theme for me to investigate and I’m proud of Ned’s journey, and how he faces his own crisis. I hope I’m as good as him with my own problems. It feels strange when the character you created can teach you something about yourself, and that’s exciting as a writer.
Why did you write about orphans?
Not all the characters in the book are orphans but most are, so it is a good question. I’m an only child and my parents were absent for large sections of my childhood. I always wondered what it would be like to come from a large family, so at times I felt more like an orphan than someone who came from an extended family group. I’m not saying all orphans don’t have extended social interactions, but the stereotype image of an orphan is that of an abandoned person. This has always been an area of interest to me and my last thriller: A Devil’s Kiss was about a man looking for his twin sister, someone he didn’t know existed until he was thirty. That said, I know lots of people who come from big families who wish they didn’t have the dramas and social pressures that this can often bring. I think it is natural to be interested in the things you haven't experienced, plus families are an endless supply of great stories.
Why did you break the world into eight Quadrants?
I actually started with two, but as the series grew in my mind, I realised I needed eight to create the sense of diversity I needed for the books to work as I wanted them to. The Quadrants become more important in Books Two and Three. At one time, I thought about having twenty, but eight is perfect.
Why did you pick the six characters you did?
That's partly linked to the question above. I wanted to show the diversity of people from around the world, but it didn’t work when I only had two Quadrants. By having eight it gave me more scope, which then filtered into my character choices. Also, I’ve lived in London for a long time and one of the things I love about the city is its diverse multi-culture. Again, I wanted to express this in the books and having six characters allowed me to do this.
Why did you write the book in the first person and not the third?
I gravitate towards books written in the first person. If I don’t finish a book, it is usually written in the third person. I like the closeness that the first person offers as both a reader and as an author. It is a personal choice and I have written books in the third person, but they’ve become lost for ever in my hard-drive!
Will you visit my school and talk about The Denounced?
Yes, of course. It would be my pleasure. Please ask your Teacher/Parent/ Guardian to contact me via my Contact Page and we can take it from there.
Where can I get more information/ fan mail?
Please sign up for my Newsletter and I will send out relevant information such as book dates, additional materials on the characters and the World of the Denounced, and any talks/appearances I may be doing. I will only send important updates and I will not spam you with non-Denounced matters. You can of course unsubscribe at any time and I will not pass your details on to any other company or person.
How do I get a signed copy of your Book?
Currently if you sign up for my Newsletter I will send out a signed copy!
What’s next after The Denounced?
As mentioned, I have two more books to write in the series and it may get extended to six in total. That said, I do have another idea for a YA thriller/horror called FEARS, which I’m keen to start as it is a story burning hot to get out. Stay tuned, I may just get it done!
Is there going to be a movie of The Denounced?
Not yet, but you never know! But I’ll let you into a secret. I think it would work better as a TV series. Let me know what you think. I always want feedback. I thrive on it!