WARNING: My next guest will take you to the seedier side of town–down a dank, murky alley–a place I didn’t know I had the guts to go.
It includes some tough talk about Blood… and Ties.
In fact, Blood Ties – a mesmerizing, can’t put it down book, just out. I’m not gonna lie to you— I almost didn’t make it out alive—but it was worth it. What a rush!! So here’s what happened…
I walked into a smoke filled pool hall. Strange, I’m thinking. She hates to swim. There she sat, in the back. Her face half shadowed under a single hanging lamp…
Kristi: You Niamh O’Connor?
Niamh O’Connor: Who’s asking?
Kristi: How Did You Get There.
Niamh O’Connor: I drove. Now answer my question.
Kristi: (gushing) Hi, I’m a big fan! I called about the interview?
Niamh O’Connor: (sound of cards shuffling)
Kristi: OK. I’ll just get started. Question #1: Please tell us what do you do for a living?
Niamh O’Connor: I report on crime—Real crime—and write crime books. My latest book is Blood Ties. It’s work that requires me to ask a lot of questions. So here’s what I want to know – do you still sing like a canary?…In the shower?…While vacuuming?
Kristi: Only while skiing down jagged mountains in powder-puff snow.
Niamh O’Connor: So you ski?
Niamh O’Connor: But—
Kristi: Wait a minute— I’m supposed to be asking the questions here! Let’s see… (flips open small note pad) How long have you been writing about crime?
Niamh O’Connor: Reporting – twenty years. Writing true crime books – ten. Blood Ties is just out, before that was The Black Widow, and Cracking Crime. My first novel is coming out next year. But back to you. What’s this about the BBC?
Kristi: What!? Who told you about that?
Niamh O’Connor: You did. On the phone. You wouldn’t stop yammering.
Kristi: (squints eyes, does worst James Cagney voice) Oh, I see. So this is how’s it’s gonna be, eh? OK, I’ll tell ya. It’s the BBC My Story competition. I submitted. They posted it. It reached #1 in their Top Ten Most Liked.
Niamh O’Connor: Oh yeah? (cool glare)
Kristi: Yeah. (flips notepad page) This is fun! Now your turn. What do you like most about your work?
Niamh O’Connor: Who wants to know? (stands suddenly, sound of her wooden chair knocked over)
Kristi: (jumps up) I wanna know!!! (sound of Kristi picking up chair, wiping seat, fluffing pillow, gesturing to Niamh O’Connor)
Niamh O’Connor: Thanks. I love the craft involved in stripping a sentence back to the absolute basics, to get the maximum hit. I love the language of crime. Passive it ain’t.
Kristi: (sharpens pencil with pocket knife, flips page)
Niamh O’Connor: And subject wise, I love the jaw-dropping point when you’ve learned just how much the kind of person you’d least expect has gone to, to bump someone else off. That’s the conflict that gives the best crime stories the X-factor.
Kristi: I love that show!
Niamh O’Connor: (slaps Kristi upside the head) Pay attention. I’m only gonna say this once.
Kristi: Why I oughta…
Niamh O’Connor: Take the Scissor Sisters, Linda and Charlotte Mulhall who murdered their mother’s toy boy lover in front of her; or Joe O’Reilly – the ad exec who murdered his wife Rachel because he considered it easier than a protracted custody battle following a separation; or Sharon Collins who Googled a hit man to kill her millionaire partner and his two sons – all featured in my new book, Blood Ties. I’ll give you another example of that conflict. You meet you- Kristi- in real life, you think, wow that’s a nice, civilised lady. You read your interviews, you think, wow!
Kristi: Yeah… (Stops, frowns) Hey! What’s that supposed to mean?
Niamh O’Connor: Sit down!
Kristi: Alright, but no funny stuff—see? My next question is: What has drawn you to a LIFE OF CRIME writing??
Niamh O’Connor: What’s with the spotlight? You’re blinding me.
Kristi: Dramatic punch too hard?
Niamh O’Connor: Over kill.
(screechy music, Kristi bites knuckle)
Niamh O’Connor: Here’s how it goes down. I need to know every last detail to understand what happened. When you read a newspaper report, you’re getting the bones of the story. But the true crime books give me a chance to flesh out the stories. I’m interested in what makes people tick; what drives them over the edge. Greed is just so despicable. It presses all the moral outrage buttons.
Kristi: Is this digging deeper innate or something you have developed on the job?
Niamh O’Connor: I’m naturally nosy. My writing epiphany was when somebody told me to stop adding ‘ly’ to describe, it was a cop out. But in terms of yours, I’d like to know what really happened on that double-decker bus?
Kristi: Wha— whaddya mean?! (wipes sweat from brow)
Niamh O’Connor: I wanna know the truth!
Kristi: YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!
Niamh O’Connor: You do realize writing is more than just quoting famous movies?
Kristi: Oh? Great tip. (flips page) So where did you work immediately before this?
Niamh O’Connor: I was the crime correspondent in Ireland on Sunday. Now you– How does a person become an opera singer? I’m thinking one of those mom’s who entered you in singing competitions when you were little, right? I’m thinking Southfork. I’m thinking oil. I’m thinking JR would pay a lot of money to keep his princess out of trouble.
Kristi: What’re you, a wise guy? (sound of Niamh slamming Kristi’s forehead on the table) Alright, I’ll tell you! A certain person—who shall remain nameless— studied singing because she was too lazy to continue dancing after high school. Then said singer fell in love with opera, especially Italian.
Niamh O’Connor: (lets go of Kristi’s head, eyes narrow) If you’d ain’t on the up and up…
Kristi: (eyes narrow-er) Your turn. Did being a crime correspondent lead directly to your current position?
Niamh O’Connor: Sure did. The Sunday World editor rang to ask would I meet for a talk. We met, he offered me the job. No looking back ever since. The author of Lockdown, Sean Black, describes us as the ‘last real reporters’. I love that. I’ve worked in enough other newspapers to know it to be true. Look at Paul Williams. It’s a vocation, not a job.
Kristi: Try any other jobs before writing for BLOOD money?
Niamh O’Connor: Errr, babysitting. I only ever got paid a fiver no matter how many hours; and a pub, where a customer complained about the lounge girl who kept storming off in a huff every time he tried to order a Southern Comfort. I thought he was being rude!
Kristi: And lastly, any life experiences you’d like to share?
Niamh O’Connor: I learned I didn’t have to smile back when I was working at my computer. Did I mention BLOOD TIES? It’s really good! Think you can work out some subliminal way of working the words ‘Buy It’ into this interview?
Niamh O’Connor: (knocks chair over, slaps Kristi upside the head, storms out)
Kristi: Thanks for a gripping interview!! (door slams, two big bruiser guys stand over Kristi with arms crossed) And as always, Niamh O’Connor, thank you for playing…Guys, put me down…please?
© HDYGT 2010
(Originally Posted October 18, 2009)