Guest Post: How I Turned my Day Job into a Critically Acclaimed Crime Thriller by Anthony Quinn

Sunday 23 November 2014
London at the dawn of 1918 and Ireland's most famous literary figure, WB Yeats, is immersed in supernatural investigations at his Bloomsbury rooms.

Haunted by the restless spirit of an Irish girl whose body is mysteriously washed ashore in a coffin, Yeats undertakes a perilous journey back to Ireland with his apprentice ghost-catcher Charles Adams to piece together the killer's identity.

Surrounded by spies, occultists and Irish rebels, the two are led on a gripping journey along Ireland's wild Atlantic coast, through the ruins of its abandoned estates, and into its darkest, most haunted corners. Falling under the spell of dark forces, Yeats and his novice ghost-catcher come dangerously close to crossing the invisible line that divides the living from the dead.

How I turned my boring day job into a critically acclaimed crime thriller

Burning the candle at both ends to knock out 80,000 words while slaving away at a menial day job is an obligatory requirement for many debut authors before they go on to dedicating their careers to writing full-time. Yet somehow I can't envisage ever giving up my bread and butter job, principally because it is such a great source of inspiration. There is an undeniable overlap between the stories I write as a reporter and those that make up my Celcius Daly crime novels, which are contemporaneous and share the same stage as my reporting - the borderlands of County Tyrone. Every night as I stare at the blank page, I sift through my experiences at work, and gather the seeds and plot threads of stories.
      The truth is newspapers only ever provide an oblique view of the truth, and many stories never make it onto the page. In DISAPPEARED, my debut, I wanted to pay homage to the untold stories of the Troubles and their aftermath, many of which haven't found their way into the print or online media. It struck me how these stories were inextricably intertwined - the experiences of ordinary people caught up in an extraordinary situation, and how their lives have been tainted by violence, lies and compromises.
      Writing fiction at night meant I could be less constrained but still close to the heart of a society emerging from a long and bitter conflict. Crime novelists walk a line reporters can't - they're able to risk getting it wrong. They can also daydream over a story and, better still, step down from the proverbial gallery and get involved in the movement and moods of the tale. With that there's a guilty sense of trespass, which can be pleasurable as well as conscience-pricking. As a writer you ease these feelings by convincing yourself you are given a compassionate voice to the silenced, even though you are appropriating people's experiences of the Troubles, including your own and those of relatives. My reporter's job keeps me at the closest thing there is to a front line in Northern Ireland these days.
      That guilty feeling was also present in writing THE BLOOD DIMMED TIDE, my historical mystery novel, which features the Irish poet WB Yeats and his life-long muse Maud Gonne. I worried that I might be doing one of Ireland's most famous literary couples a great disservice in entangling them in a plot involving, ghosts, spies, smugglers and corrupt policemen. Yeats, his life and his work, have been obsessions of mine since early adolescence, and the story about his fascination with spirits and his strange relationship with his wife Georgie was irresistible. It surprised me that no one in literature, drama or film has given his life a fictional treatment or tried to transpose his supernatural investigations into a mystery tale.
      When I sat down to write THE BLOOD DIMMED TIDE, I relished the escape from the darkness of the Troubles and the border setting of my Celcius Daly novels. It was a relief to swap those treacherous bogs, gruesome thorn thickets and broken cottages for the silver strands of Sligo's wild Atlantic coastline. I also looked forward to the chance of spending many hours in the company of one of Ireland's literary greats, a mystic, poet, and politician, as well as a supernatural sleuth and adept at occult rituals. There is a fairytale dimension to Yeats' life that makes him great fictional material. In many respects he was a very innocent, aloof man, who entered some very dark territories indeed, not only in terms of politics but also in his role in the magical societies that sprang up in London at the turn of the century, and his skirmishes with satanic characters such as Aleister Crowley.
      Writing the book also gave me the opportunity to work out my own feelings towards ghosts and the hold that the past has over the living. I hope that the reader is able to travel with Yeats into the dark caverns of THE BLOOD DIMMED TIDE and come back with a few pearls of wisdom themselves.

Thanks to Anthony for the guest post! The Blood Dimmed Tide is out now published by No Exit Press. 

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