- Where did the initial idea come from for your Aoife Walsh character?
My initial idea was to write about a murder set in an office. Aoife wasn’t one of the characters at first. I had five chapters written before I realised the story wouldn’t work without an outsider. That’s when I introduced Aoife. I’ve always been fascinated by people who have a view of their own lives that is totally at odds with how others see it. Initially Aoife is such a character, but she grows and develops throughout the series.
- What influence does your Irish heritage have on your stories?
I’ve lived all my life in Ireland so I write about places and people I know. I don’t make a conscious effort to bring Ireland into my books. Most of the people I know, the places I go and the things I enjoy are in Ireland so they just naturally appear in my books. The only thing I have done deliberately is give Irish names to Aoife and to some of my minor characters. I didn’t start with the intention of doing that. I chose Aoife as the name of my main character because in Ireland that’s a very common name for women of her age. I was halfway through writing the first book when I saw the video of Denis Quaid’s brutal attempt at pronouncing “Saoirse” at the Golden Globe Awards. That’s when I decided to give Irish names to some of my minor characters. At the beginning of each book there is a link to a video of me pronouncing the names. Irish names are actually quite easy to pronounce. For example, Aoife is pronounced Eefah, like Eva but with an ‘f’. The trick is to completely ignore the spelling.
- Did you plan Aoife’s growth as a character over the course of the series?
No. I never intended to write a series, it just happened. I was doing a final read through of my first book, Girl Targeted, when the idea for Only Lies Remain came to me. I always finish a book before thinking about the next one, so all my books are stand-alone thrillers. At the end of each book, all the characters disappear and the next book starts with entirely new characters, apart from Aoife, her family and her best friend. Aoife’s growth as a character is a natural consequence of growing older. She’s twenty-three and pregnant with her first child at the beginning of Girl Targeted. In Dying to Tell she’s in her late twenties and the mother of a five-year-old. As she matured and her personal life changed, she changed also.
.Are you a panster or a planner?
I’m a complete panster. I’m not capable of planning anything. I start each book knowing who the victim and the murderer are. Generally I know why the murderer killed his victim, although in The Silent Speak it took me a while to work that out. The rest is a mystery to me. The story develops as I write.
- What propelled you to write sequels after you wrote the first book?
The idea of a sequel never even occurred to me until I was doing a last read through of my first book, Girl Targeted. I came across a line mentioning that Aoife’s father-in-law walked out on his family when his kids were young, and it occurred to me that this would be a good plot for another book. So, in Only Lies Remain, Aoife’s father-in-law’s body is discovered fifteen years after he disappeared and it turns out that he didn’t walk out on his family at all, he was murdered. Obviously his wife is the chief suspect so Aoife steps in to prove her mother-in-law’s innocence.
- Each novel is a standalone narrative – was this a conscious choice?
No. I had no intention of writing a sequel and in each case I had the previous book written before I got an idea for the next one. I mentioned above where I got the inspiration for my second book, Only Lies Remain. I had no plans to continue the series until a casual conversation gave me an idea for The Silent Speak. Around that time an Irish man murdered his entire family and then killed himself. The man had no history of violence and his wife had no plans to leave him so nobody could understand what triggered such an appalling action. Murders like that are very rare in Ireland and everybody was talking about it. I was discussing it with a friend when a thought came to me – what if the man didn’t kill his family? What if someone else killed them and made it look like the father was the murderer? Of course, that’s not what happened in reality (the man had mental health issues) but it gave me the basic plot of The Silent Speak. By this stage I assumed I would write a fourth book and was on the look out for an idea. One day I was listening to the news. There was a report about two young men who were walking on a cliff path when one fell to his death. My first thought was how can anybody know it was an accident if there were no witnesses. That gave me the idea for my fourth book, Only Lies Remain. In this book four young people are walking on a cliff path when one young man falls to his death. His three friends say it was an accident but a stranger who witnessed the incident swears that one of the young men pushed his friend over the edge.
- Can you tell us a little about the creation of Dying To Tell?
The idea for Dying to Tell came from a story my mother told. Years ago, someone she knew was on her honeymoon. She and her husband were lying on the beach together when the woman fell asleep. When she woke her husband had disappeared and was never seen or heard from again. In Dying To Tell the exact same thing happens to my character, Nicole. In reality it’s presumed the husband drowned but obviously that isn’t the fate of Nicole’s husband.
- Have you always written thrillers? If so, why?
No, I began by writing a middle grade book. It was my attempt to teach myself to write, but halfway through I found all I could think about was thrillers. Thrillers have been my go-to genre for years. They’re my favourite type of book. As I couldn’t concentrate on my kids book, I abandoned it for the thriller that was forming in my head.
- What do you think is essential in a thriller?
There are many different types of thrillers and they all have their own essential elements. The kind of thrillers I enjoy are ones with lots of twists and turns, where I’m not sure what is happening until almost the very end of the book. I adore thrillers that end with a bang. It’s also important to me that thrillers make sense. I don’t see the point in complicated plots if they don’t have a rational solution. As these are the elements that are essential to me in the thrillers I read, they’re also the type of books I aim to write.
- Do you envisage more books in the series?
I’m not writing a book in that series at the moment. I’m starting a new book about a time travelling detective, but I’m sure it won’t be long before I return to Aoife.
- Where can readers find you and your books?
My website is valcollinsbooks.com. I’m on most social media platforms as @valcollinsbooks but I’m only really active on Instagram.
- Do you have a message for your readers?
If you have read my books, thank you for your support. I hope you continue to follow Aoife’s journey and that you will find my new time travelling detective just as enjoyable. If you are new to my books, thank you for your interest. I love twisty, suspenseful books that help me escape everyday life. That’s the type of book I aim to write. I hope you are intrigued by my plots, love my characters and enjoy following the twists and turns until the very end. And, of course, if you’d like to discuss the book with me, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, click the “contact me” tab on my website, or message me on Instagram @valcollinsbooks.
Dying To Tell – Book Five of the Aoife Walsh Series
Bio: Val Collins is the author of the award-winning psychological thriller GIRL TARGETED and the international bestsellers ONLY LIES REMAIN, THE SILENT SPEAK and WHERE LOYALTIES LIE (March 2022). The newest book in the series is Dying To Tell featuring heroine Aoife Walsh. They are all standalone thrillers and can be read in any order.
A native of Ireland, Val began reading at the age of three and still devours books at the rate of one per week. Her favorite authors range from Philippa Gregory and Sophie Kinsella to Lee Child and Linwood Barclay.
Join Val online at valcollinsbooks.com, and on social media @valcollinsbooks.