Today it is my great pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour celebrating the release of the third in the Cathy Connolly series of books by Sam Blake, No Turning Back. My thanks to Imogen Sebba from publisher Bonnier Zaffre for inviting me to join the tour. I have a guestpost for you today that I’m happy to share, after telling you a little bit more about this new novel:
Even perfect families have secrets . . .
Orla and Conor Quinn are the perfect power couple: smart, successful and glamorous. But then the unthinkable happens. Their only son, Tom, is the victim of a deliberate hit-and-run.
Detective Garda Cathy Connolly has just left Tom’s parents when she is called to the discovery of another body, this time in Dillon’s Park, not far from where Tom Quinn was found. What led shy student Lauren O’Reilly to apparently take her own life? She was a friend of Tom’s and they both died on the same night – are their deaths connected and if so, how?
As Cathy delves deeper, she uncovers links to the Dark Web and a catalogue of cold cases, realising that those involved each have their own reasons for hiding things from the police. But events are about to get a lot more frightening . . .
I read the first novel of the series, the brilliant Little Bones and in case you’re interested you can read my review here.
Reasons for writing under a pen name
A pen name is a wonderful thing for a writer because, for me at least, it’s like becoming a character in your own story. I have a very busy career in publishing running the www.Writing.ie website and a publishing consultancy, Inkwell, so in my own name Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, I’m quite well known (to writers in Ireland at least.) Being Sam Blake means that I can park all the busy business stuff and focus on my writing. It’s probably more of a state of mind than anything but it helps me hugely in clearing my head!
There are many significantly more practical reasons for having a pen name though. My own name is incredibly long and would be a real squash on a cover – my married name is O’Loughlin and there are two Vanessa O’Loughlin’s in Dublin – the other one is a journalist so there is already some confusion between us. She used to write amazing travel pieces before she became a newspaper editor and people were often coming up to me saying how much they’d enjoyed my article about kayaking in the Amazon (yikes).
The other issue with my name is that O’Loughlin is great in Ireland but outside of the country no one knows how to pronounce it (the gh is a hard K sound). It’s key, when you’re doing promotion for a book and on radio or TV, that people can remember your name long enough to go and buy it. With a name like my real one, they’d probably remember my Christian name but not much more. There are many hilarious stories of people wandering into bookshops looking for all sorts of vague things – ‘that book with the blue cover’, ‘that crime book by that girl Vanessa about Ireland…’ – booksellers are incredibly patient people but they can live without authors with tricky names!
Another key reason for using a pen name in crime, is that there is a theory that men don’t buy books written by women. Every time I say this, I think it sounds totally ridiculous but there’s always a man (or a woman) nodding at the back who knows someone for whom this is true!
It can be tricky having a pen name though, as you have to remember who you are – people who only know me as Sam call me that, and I sometimes feel like a bit of an imposter (actually a lot of the time, I think that’s a feature of being a writer!) but one of the huge benefits of having a pen name is that you get to choose it. William Blake is my favourite poet – so that’s where the surname came from, and my son is a Sam too. What I love about the name Sam Blake is that it sounds like a name you’ve heard of (even if you haven’t!) so people nod when I’m introduced like they should remember what I’ve written but can’t. It’s a conversation starter and like all writers I’m incredibly curious and I love talking to people.
Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, who is originally from St. Albans in Hertfordshire but has lived at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland for (almost) more years than she lived in the UK. She has been writing fiction since 1999 when her husband went sailing across the Atlantic for 8 weeks and she had an idea for a book.
Vanessa is also the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the Irish national writing resources website Writing.ie. She is Ireland’s leading literary scout who has assisted many award winning and bestselling authors to publication.
*** Don’t forget to check out the other blog stops on the tour ***