BY NIAMH HAYES
Little did author Alex Barclay know when she visited a writer’s retreat on the Beara peninsula 14 years ago, that one day she would base one of her novels in the area.
Originally from Dublin, Alex fell in love with West Cork when she visited and decided to move here two years later. And now, her latest novel, I Confess, is set in the magical location of where she now calls home.
I Confess follows seven childhood friends who come together as 40-something year olds at an old Inn on Pilgrim Point, a fictitious part of Beara, near where they grew up. The story reveals their dark past that they’re trying to forget, but then someone dies, and they face the realisation that a killer is among them.
The way Alex wrote this book allows you to get inside the characters’ heads, one at a time. You hear their internal dialogue and get flashbacks into each of their childhood and teenage years, which enables the reader to build up a knowledge of each person individually, a knowledge which even the group of friends don’t have of each other. The Southern Star even gets a mention!
Writing has always been a part of Alex’s life. ‘I have been writing since I was a child. At home I would write stories and poems and I loved writing English essays’, she said.
As a teenager, she enjoyed reading crime novels and after school she studied journalism and French at DCU. In her course she learnt and practiced all elements of journalism, as well as following her own interests, which led her to writing a crime-themed thesis. She went on to work in a number of fashion, beauty and trade magazine roles.
Becoming a published author was never in the plan for Alex. She did however want to try her hand at writing a screenplay.
‘I wrote the opening of Darkhouse as a screenplay. I showed it to a few people who all said that it was a novel. I had no big plan. I just followed the story to see where it went. I sent away the first three chapters, it was read, and I was asked for the remainder of the book. I didn’t have it, so I had to write it quickly’, says Alex.
That first novel was published in 2006 and she has gone on to publish eight more since, including a children’s book, Curse of Kings. I Confess is her tenth book.
Alex’s first eight novels were all crime based. The first two, Darkhouse and The Caller, were based on the NYPD. The next six were an FBI series with the same central characters throughout the books. Her latest novel is something different. I Confess is a psychological thriller and Alex had to start from scratch, creating brand new characters in a brand new setting. ‘It was an epic task to write it, but it had to be’, she says.
‘I don’t like tying myself down to one genre. I write about things that interest me. I need to love it and be passionate about what I am writing about. I write every day and getting to write in different styles is fun’, she adds.
When it comes to writing, Alex says that fear is always going to be there.
‘It will always be there on some level but that can’t stop you. You must override it. When writing a book, the only world you should concentrate on is the world of the book. Forget about the outside world. That is the only way of bringing your story to life’, says Alex.
So, how does a writer know when a book is done?
‘I write my first draft and then spend time away from it where I will usually get new ideas. These can be very dramatic. Even if I am approaching my deadline and I get a brilliant idea, I will always follow through with it and not let it be. I would hate to think I couldn’t use my best version of the story. But I do always come to a point when I know the story is done and there will be no more twists’, says Alex.
Alex isn’t taking a breather just yet and is busy with other projects. She is finishing off My heart and other breakables, which is a book for teenagers, also set in Beara. This book will be published in March 2020. Alex is also working on a dark crime television drama which is set in Ireland.
*I Confess (Harper Collins) is now available in all good bookstores.