Skip to content

Haylen Beck

Haylen Beck

Haylen Beck is the pseudonym of Northern Ireland writer Stuart Neville, an acclaimed, Edgar-nominated author whose crime fiction has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and made best-of-year lists with numerous publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing
    My real name is Stuart Neville, I’m forty seven years old, and I live in Northern Ireland with my wife, two kids, and a very scruffy dog. I’ve been writing almost all my life, but it was around 2006 when I started to take it seriously. My debut novel, ‘The Twelve’, was published almost exactly ten years ago.
  2. Can you tell us a bit about your new book, ‘Lost You’
    ‘Lost You’ begins with the disappearance of a little boy in a holiday resort in Florida. His mother Libby is frantic trying to find him, but her greatest fear is not that he’s lost – but that he’s been found. When CCTV footage shows him being led away by another woman, she knows years of secrets are about to unravel.
  3. You are a successful author under your own name Stuart Neville, what made you decide to write under a pen name?
    It was mainly because of the change of setting from Ireland to America. Crime authors often become associated with a specific location – Ian Rankin is Edinburgh, Jo Nesbo is Oslo – and under my own name, I’ve become very much identified with Belfast. The first Haylen Beck novel, ‘Here And Gone’, really needed to be set in the States, and it was a somewhat different style than my previous books, so the pen name seemed like the right way forward.
  4. Who’s your favourite villain or hero?
    I like a good anti-hero, so if I can roll a villain and hero into one, it would be Jack Carter from Ted Lewis’s ‘Jack’s Return Home’, which was adapted for film as ‘Get Carter’, starring Michael Caine. That book was a huge influence on me, and Ted Lewis is terribly underrated.
  5. Why do you think Northern Ireland is so popular and successful for crime authors?
    When my first novel was published ten years ago, there was some resistance to fiction from Northern Ireland, and nowhere more so than in Northern Ireland! That resistance has really broken down over the last few years, with a lot if crime writers coming through, plus Anna Burns’s deserved Booker win. I think we’re now able to tell stories that aren’t necessarily rooted in the Troubles, which has opened things up a lot.
  6. Has there ever been a film that’s been better than the book?
    ‘Jaws’ is the big one. It’s one of the greatest movies ever made, but it’s not a good book! I’d also add ‘The Godfather’, parts I and II, which are better than Mario Puzo’s novel.
  7. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    Probably my bandmates – Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Doug Johnstone, Val McDermid, and Luca Veste – from the ‘Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers’. We have so much fun making music together, I’m sure we’d have a laugh talking books too.
  8. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    “The rain rained.” from the above mentioned ‘Jack’s Return Home’.
  9. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    James Ellroy’s ‘American Tabloid’, Tom Wolfe’s ‘Bonfire Of The Vanities’ and Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns’.
  10. Lost You

  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Simply writing more. A common mistake writers make is finishing one novel, then flogging it to death instead of getting on with writing the next one. Really, the only way to learn to write is simply to write.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    A notebook. For every novel I start a brand new Moleskine A5 notebook and I scribble in them constantly when I write the first draft, then through revisions, edits, even up to the copyedit and page proof stage. I then use the same notebook for when I give talks about the book after it’s published.
  13. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website.
    I’m currently working on a new novel under my own name, which returns to my series character, DCI Serena Flanagan. Once that’s done, I’ve got a couple of screenplays I want to work on just for the hell of it, and I’ve plans for two more novels.

    You can buy ‘Lost You’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshop.

    Follow Haylen Beck on Twitter and his website for updates website

Forget Me Not By Claire Allan

Forget Me Not‘Forget Me Not’ is the latest book by Claire Allan.

It’s six in the morning during the hottest summer on record when Elizabeth O’Loughlin, out walking her dog, comes across Clare, a victim of a horrific knife attack, clinging onto life at the side of the road. Clare dies minutes later, but not before whispering her haunting last words to Elizabeth. When it becomes clear that Clare’s killer has more than one murder on his mind, Elizabeth has to take drastic action or face losing everything. But what if she can’t stop a killer determined never to be forgotten?

‘Forget Me Not’ is the latest chilling thriller from Claire Allan and definitely leaves you double checking the doors before you go to bed.

In this story we meet Elizabeth, an elderly woman who when out walking her dog comes across a woman assaulted on the road, just as Elizabeth phones for help, the woman dies in her arms. Rachel is heartbroken that her best friend has been murdered, but it seems that the killer wasn’t only after Clare. Rachel, her other friend Julie and even Elizabeth is now being hunted, with threatening notes and bunches of Forget Me Notes left at their doors.

The story is fast paced and is written over a short period of time and in that time a lot happens! Rachel is unhappy in her marriage and finds herself in the middle of a nightmare when her best friend is brutally killed and herself and her family are being terrorised. I felt myself sympathising with Rachel, she seems a kind woman, but her marriage is feeling unsatisfied and she finds herself looking elsewhere for attention.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth has never fully recovered from the sudden death of her only daughter and finds the days long without company.

I used to read Claire’s romantic novels and even though I enjoyed them, she has really found her voice in thrillers. Her writing is clever and her characters are flawed, relatable and that really pull the reader in. In this story, we meet two women who are fundamentally quite lonely in life and struggling, whether it’s a death of a child or an unhappy marriage and for me this made for poignant and gripping reading. As both women find themselves battling against time to save their lives and figure out why they have become the attention of a killer.

Throughout the story, we meet suspicious characters, that puts doubt into the readers’ minds, but nothing prepares the reader for the revelation at the end.

Another thing that I love about Claire’s writing is the colloquialisms and for me, coming from Northern Ireland this adds an element of charm to the dark story.

Suspenseful from the first page, ‘Forget Me Not’ is an exciting and menacing story that will have the reader bursting to reach the final page.

You can buy ‘Forget Me Not’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Lonely Life Of Biddy Weir By Lesley Allen

The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir‘The Lonely Life Of Biddy Weir’ is the debut novel by Northern Ireland author, Lesley Allen.

Abandoned by her mother as a baby, and with a father who’s not quite equipped for the challenges of modern parenting, Biddy lives in her own little world, happy to pass her time painting by the sea and watching the birds go by. That is, until she meets Alison Flemming. Because there are a few things about Biddy that aren’t normal, you see. And Alison isn’t afraid to point them out to the world. All of a sudden, Biddy’s quiet life is thrown into turmoil. If only there was someone to convince her that, actually, everyone’s a little bit weird.

To say this story broke my heart would be an understatement, it quite literally tore me in two at the sadness of one character.

The story is seen through the eyes of lonely Biddy Weir, a reclusive little girl who wants nothing more than to belong, but with an elderly father, no mother and a lack of money, she is the perfect subject of abuse for new girl Alison Fleming, to pick on. So follows years of torment, as Biddy struggles to fit in as Alison is constantly there to belittle and hurt the quiet girl. Later on in life, therapist and newcomer to the small town, Terri takes Biddy under her wing and not only becomes a friend to the lonely woman but is also there to help Biddy deal with the dark times and embrace her passion for painting.

I adored Buddy, she was a sweet and timid character who longed to settle in and be just like the others. She suffers from lack of confidence with not being the trendiest of girls and after years of torture begins to believe that she is ‘Bloody Weirdo’ the name that Alison and her friends call her. I longed for her to find her voice and finally speak up but she carried on in silence, occasionally making friends along the way only to be hurt. I thought she was fascinating, riddled with guilt and lack of esteem, she finally begins to believe in herself when Terri comes to town. A bubbly, warm woman who wants to help Biddy to come out of herself and no longer living in the shadows. I hated Alison, she was bitchy, vile and purely took her own insecurities out on Biddy. The story is filled with many complex and troubled characters that all made for interesting reading as they all battled their own demons.

A tragic and sad tale from the beginning, ‘The Lonely Life Of Biddy Weir’ is a beautifully written story about the loneliness of isolation and bullying. Tackling the harsh issue of abuse and fitting into society, this charming and poignant book makes for bittersweet reading and with an unexpected twist that shocks the reader at the end, this is most definitely a debut that will stick out in my mind.

You can buy The Lonely Life Of Biddy Weir from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Lonely Life Of Biddy Weir Book Tour – Interview WIth Lesley Allen

Lesley AllenLesley Allen lives in Bangor, County Down, with her teenage daughter. She is a freelance copywriter and the press officer and assistant programme developer for Open House Festival. Whilst crafting words for other people has been her bread and butter for the past two decades, her heart lies with writing fiction. Lesley was named as one of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s 2016 Artist Career Enhancement recipients for literature. She is using the award to complete her second novel.

  1. Can you tell us what your book ‘The Lonely Life Of Biddy Weir’ is about?
    It’s called ‘The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir’ and in a nutshell is about the long-term effects of bullying. At the beginning of the book we meet Biddy Weir, a shy young loner who lives a solitary existence with her old-fashioned, emotionally crippled father. Biddy is happy to exist in her own wee world, sketching seagulls and examining bird poo – until she is branded a ‘Bloody Weirdo’ by the golden girl at school. What follows is a heart-breaking tale of bullying and redemption, which spans from the late 1970s to 2000. Biddy’s is a story with universal appeal, which ultimately affirms the value of being different.
  2. To the readers of the website, can you tell us about yourself and how you got into writing?
    I’ve been writing in one form or another pretty much my whole life long. As a child I was always happy when I had a book (or a comic) or a notepad and pencil in my hand. If I wasn’t reading, I was writing, and if I wasn’t writing I was reading. I did a degree in Drama and English – more reading, more writing; stumbled into a career in pr and copywriting – more reading, more writing. In my early thirties I decided to ditch the pr and focus on being a freelance copywriter, which meant lots and lots and lots of writing, which was great – but, in my heart what I really wanted to write was fiction. I wanted to ditch the ‘copy’ part of my job title and focus on the writer. The thing was, I just didn’t have the guts to do anything about it. I was knee-high in a big muddy puddle of ‘I could never be a real writer’ gloom. As I approached my 40th birthday I read ‘The Lovely Bones’ by Alice Seabold, and it was like a huge big brick had been thrown into the puddle and soaked me. I knew I couldn’t allow myself to be approaching my 50th birthday without at least trying to get out of the mud. So I finally joined a creative writing group, and the relief I felt by the end of the first hour almost made me weep. Fast forward 13 not-quite-straightforward years and here I am, a writer – finally! And as a lovely touch of symmetry, my book launch will be held in the same building where I took that writing course.
  3. What’s your favourite book of all time?
    This question causes me soooo much anxiety! Do I really have to pick just one? It’s like asking which of your children you like the best! (Actually, that would be an easier choice for me, as my daughter is my glorious one and only – but when it comes to books, blimey!) I’ve had more book crushes than men-crushes over the years, from ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott, to ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath; F Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, to Hardy’s ‘The Trumpet Major’; Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’, to David Nicholl’s ‘One Day’ – and a multitude in between. But if you force my hand, I guess I’d have to go with ‘The Lovely Bones’ as it was the book that finally made me join that writing group.
  4. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    It would have to be my fellow authors from Twenty7 Books: TeamT7 we call ourselves. We’re an eclectic bunch of first-timers who were all thrown into the publishing playground at the same time and have become ridiculously close. Twenty7 Books is an innovative and dynamic new imprint that champions new writing and gives debut authors a voice. We were hugely privileged to be their first group of debuts, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how well our voices have blended. You should hear us when we all get together, especially if there’s a glass or several of something involved!
  5. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    It’s back to ‘The Lovely Bones’! ‘My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie.’ Hooked me and reeled me in! (See what I did there? Salmon … hooked! I’m overdoing this, aren’t I.)
  6. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
    There have been two so far. Getting ‘The Call’ from my agent to say that Twenty7 Books had bought my novel was the first. It was a gloomy February evening and suddenly the room was drenched in sunlight. Luckily I just happened to have a bottle of fizz in the fridge! The second was holding the book in my hand for the first time just last week. It was other-worldly. My book baby! The only thing that’s come close to the feeling was holding my actual baby after she was born, almost nineteen years ago.
  7. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    When you think ‘oh shit, I can’t write that’ – and then you realise that it’s fiction, and you can write whatever the hell you want!
  8. The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir

  9. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    See, here we are with the anxiety thing again! All the books I own are literally jumping up and down, yelling at me ‘Take me! Take me!’ So, sorry books, but for my first choice I’m going to pick one that I don’t actually own and have never read, but sometimes (ok, often) pretend I have: ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce. Next, and this is really hard, like really hard, because my home is literally bulging at the seams with brilliant books, I’m going to say ‘Tall Oaks’ by Chris Whitaker because it’s rare that a book can make you laugh, cry, scream, and shout out a four-letter word beginning with f in the space of one sentence – but this one did. (Also he’s on Team T7 and he’s promised to be my blog tour groupie!) And finally, it has to be ‘The Lovely Bones’, doesn’t it? I mean, if I didn’t chose it you’d probably be wondering, ‘um, what about ‘The Lovely Bones’?’
  10. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    The only thing I really need is my computer. But from now on, I think I’ll always keep my first copy of ‘The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir’ beside me when I’m writing. What better inspiration could I have when things aren’t going to plan and the words aren’t coming the way they should?
  11. And finally Lesley, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website.
    I’m currently working on my second novel, ‘The Possibilities of Elizabeth’, and I’ve been very lucky to receive support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to help write it. It’s about a girl, Elizabeth, who is in a coma, the result of a car crash which may or may not have been an attempt at suicide. She can’t remember. But she does know that the choice to live or die is hers, and hers alone. I think dark subject matters seem to be my thing!

Follow Lesley Allen on Twitter Lesley Allen for updates.

You can pre-prder The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 3rd November 2016.

Erin Kaye

Erin KayeErin Kaye was born in Larne, Northern Ireland in 1966. She studied Geography at the University of Ulster where she met her husband, Mervyn. They married ten days after graduating and moved to Scotland where Erin joined a Scottish bank as a graduate recruit. Ten years later she’d had enough of the long working-hours culture and decided to pack it all in to write her first novel. Her first novel, Mothers and Daughters, was published in 2003 followed by followed Choices, Second Chances, Closer to Home, My Husband’s Lover, The Art of Friendship, The Promise of Happiness and most recently, Second Time Around in 2012. Her latest book ‘Always You’ is now out.

  1. Your latest book ‘Always You’ tells the story of Sarah and Cahal who fell in love, but against all odds their love didn’t survive and twenty five years later, their lives turn out completely different to what they had planned. But one day on a chance meeting, they are brought back together and they wonder if they can do things differently this time around. What inspired you to write this type of story?
    The original inspiration was a Scottish friend who fell in love with a guy in Australia. They faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles to being together including ex-spouses and children. But then my lovely editor, Sammia at Harper Collins, wisely pointed out that the story needed more emotional depth so I decided to give Sarah and Cahal a history – and the story just grew from there. My novels (so far!) have all been set in Ballyfergus, a fictional town in Northern Ireland. Having faced opposition to my own marriage (I’m a Catholic; he’s a Protestant and that’s a big thing in Ulster) I completely understand the pressures Sarah and Cahal face. They buckle under the pressure first time round. Second time, it’s a different story. I guess, like all my novels, I ended up writing about what I know.
  2. To the readers of the blog, that may not be familiar with you or your writing, can tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing?
    I did English to A level and always loved reading but I ended up doing a Geography degree. I was great at writing essays but never thought of writing a novel. I went straight into banking from uni and worked in various jobs for ten years. The bank was keen to promote women and knew I would do well if I stuck with it. But I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with my chosen career and one day, in a meeting, I had a eureka moment. I looked around the faces in the room and realised that if I stayed, this was where I’d be in twenty years’ time. Panicked, I went out at lunchtime that very day and bought a self-help book on choosing your perfect career. It was full of practical exercises and questionnaires designed to help you identify your strengths and weakness and then, based on the analysis of these, it suggested possible careers. I beavered away at it for weeks and then, at the end of all this self-analysis and introspection, I collated my scores and guess what career the book deemed me most suitable for? Banking! Well, the book got tossed straightaway, I handed in my notice and decided to give writing a shot. The idea of writing a novel had been simmering away for a few years by then and I thought that if I didn’t write it now, I never would. I liked the idea of being my own boss. My first novel, ‘Mothers and Daughters’, was picked up by lovely Irish publishers, Poolbeg, and the rest, as they say, is history!
  3. What authors do you admire?
    Margaret Attwood and Barbra Kingsolver because they write so beautifully. Jodi Picoult and Harlan Coben because they are the queen and king of the page turner.
  4. I always thought the opening lines to “The Lovely Bones” was quite memorable, are there any opening lines to books that stuck out to you?
    Mmm…no. Not anything’s that stuck with me. I tend to remember characters from a book best. Everything else (plot, setting etc.) fades with time.
  5. Out of all the books that you have written, which one is your favourite?
    I think the last one, ‘Second Time Around’, though my latest, ‘Always You’ comes pretty close. I think my books have gotten better with time – like anything, the more of it you do, the better you become at it!
  6. Regarding the phenomenon of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and how well it did. Some people criticised the writing and the books that followed on after the series. Do you think the standards of writing has slipped?
    Not at all. I think there has always been a wide range of literature out there for different tastes and markets. What happened with this phenomena is that a light was shone on a genre that the mainstream had previously ignored. Erotic fiction doesn’t claim to be literary fiction – and some is well written and some is not.
  7. Who is your favourite literary hero/heroine?
    The Wife of Bath in the Canterbury Tales. Way ahead of her time. The original man eater.
  8. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
    Life! From the town where I live to the people I know intimately to those I meet at parties and other social events. People love to tell me stories too – sometimes quite personal stuff – and that can sometimes spark an idea. Though I’d never write about a real person. That’s why I set my stories in the fictional town of Ballyfergus – I don’t want to accidentally libel the dentist or the bank manager in a real town!
  9. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica’ (is that cheating?), ‘The Metaphysical Poets’ and a Dictionary. Sorry, boring I know but I they’d keep me busy until I got rescued.
  10. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Oh, that’s a hard one. I guess you’d need to know what your weaknesses were to start with. But the best piece of advice I can give is this: if you ask someone for their opinion (assuming they are connected with the industry in some way and you respect their skill/ability) listen to what they say – and take it on board. Do not be precious about what you have written – they are probably right! Do not be afraid to rewrite and rework. I ditched a third of my first novel and rewrote the rest of it in line with my agents recommendations – and she promptly sold it! It would not have sold without that work.
  11. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    My synopsis. Lost without it.
  12. And finally Erin, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I’m taking a short break from writing just now though I hope to be back next year with a new book. Just waiting for inspiration to strike!

Read more about Erin Kaye online or follow her on Twitter Erin Kaye