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Helen Cullen Lockdown Life Interview

Helen CullenHelen Cullen’s debut novel, ‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’ was published in 2018. Before writing, Helen started her career with Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) where she worked in radio broadcasting before moving to London in 2010. She subsequently worked for companies such as the BBC and The Times before her most recent role in Google where she worked before signing her publishing contract. Helen was also shortlisted as Best Newcomer at this year’s Irish Books Awards. Her latest book called ‘The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually’ is out now.

  1. Hi Helen, can you tell us about your latest book called ‘The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually’
    his novel was inspired in part by the Japanese art of kintsugi – the practise of repairing broken pottery with powdered gold, silver, or platinum so that the breakage and repair remain visible to show the history of an object, rather than something to disguise; the pots become even more beautiful than before they were broken.

    The theme of personal truth is a very important one in the novel – and in particular, how personal truths may not always align with what can be considered universally accepted truths. Sometimes it is only with acceptance of that that we can find peace. And sometimes that truth or awareness needs to creep up on us slowly as it would be too blinding if confronted too quickly or head on. My working title as I was writing the book had been Kintsugi as mentioned above but I wanted the title to reference the truth that is at the heart of the novel. The Emily Dickinson line just came back to me one day as I was sitting on the London tube and it just clicked.

  2. How will you be celebrating your publication day?
    Originally we had planned to have a book launch at Daunt Books in London and Dubray Books in Dublin before Covid-19 came along so now instead we will be launching the book with some virtual events instead. I hope it does mean lots of folks can join us who might not have been able to otherwise so that is one silver lining.
  3. With the world being on lockdown, did it effect your reading or writing or were you able to work away?
    Like many people it has been a bit of a rollercoaster and I found myself oscillating between periods of compulsive reading and great productivity and times where I felt I couldn’t concentrate on anything at all. Hopefully I will return to some sort of balance soon.
  4. Did you discover any new authors?
    My journalism work brought some wonderful books my way during this period. I absolutely loved Polly Samson’s ‘A Theatre for Dreamers’ that is set on the island of Hydra during the Leonard Cohen era and ‘Miss Austen’ by Gill Hornby that investigates the life of Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra. I am a huge Jane Austen fan and this is the first Austen adjacent novel that I’ve read that completely won my heart. Elaine Feeney is an amazing debut Irish writer who publishes her novel, ‘As You Were’, on the same date as me and it is a remarkable book – and Elaine is a remarkable woman too.
  5. The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually

  6. How’s life in lockdown did you discover any new skills?
    No new skills per se but I did become quite fond of power-washing the patio.
  7. What’s next for you, any new projects in the pipeline?
    I am working away on my third novel which feels very different to me than the first two which is thrilling and terrifying and I’m also starting a PhD in October at UEA which fills me with the exact same feeling!

    Follow Helen Cullen on Twitter and follow her website

You can buy ‘The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually’ on Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

One White Lie By Leah Konen

One White Lie‘One White Lie’ is Leah Konen’s debut novel.

Imagine you’ve finally escaped the worst relationship of your life, running away with only a suitcase and a black eye. Imagine your new next-door neighbours are the friends you so desperately needed – fun, kind, empathetic, very much in love. Imagine they’re in trouble. That someone is telling lies about them, threatening their livelihoods – and even their lives. Imagine your ex is coming for you. If your new best friends needed you to tell one small lie, and all of these problems would disappear, you’d do it . . . wouldn’t you? It’s only one small lie, until someone turns up dead.

I curled up during the week with this book and within three hours, I had the whole lot consumed.

The story is seen through the narrative of Lucy who has escaped New York to get away from her abusive and controlling boyfriend Davis. She moves to a quiet and small town with only her dog called Dusty for company. It’s there, that she befriends her new neighbours, husband and wife called John and Vera who Lucy confides in about running away and in turn they confide in her. One day, John is murdered and Lucy finds herself caught up in a web of drama and danger.

Fast paced, with unreliable characters and an almighty twist, this book had the makings of a great thriller, that didn’t disappoint at all. Lucy is an interesting character, who’s fled her abusive boyfriend and is trying to make a better life for herself. The story features flashbacks to the abuse, giving the reader an insight to what she was running away from. Vera and John are an interesting couple, even though they have taken Lucy under their wings and have become firm friends, they’re not liked in the town and this makes for gripping reader as the reader is left to wonder what is wrong with the pair to have a town turn against them.

The story flows at a pace that really keeps the reader engaged with clever twists and dialogue that really hooked me in. I found the flashbacks to be particularly interesting as they really set the tone for the story.

For debut, I thought it was a gripping page turner that was addictive from start to finish. With drama and suspense from the first moment that Lucy arrives in the sleepy town to the climatic final page, ‘One White Lie’ is a tense and atmospheric story that has all the elements to make it the perfect psychological thriller.

You can buy ‘One White Lie’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.

The Fallout By Rebecca Thornton

The Fallout ‘The Fallout’ is Rebecca Thornton’s debut novel.

When Liza’s little boy has an accident at the local health club, it’s all anyone can talk about. Was nobody watching him? Where was his mother? Who’s to blame? The rumours, the finger-pointing, the whispers – they’re everywhere. And Liza’s best friend, Sarah, desperately needs it to stop. Because Sarah was there when it happened. It was all her fault. And if she’s caught out on the lie, everything will fall apart.

This story is an interesting that is seen primarily of best friends Sarah and Liza. When Liza’s little boy Jack falls and fractures his neck, Sarah says that she was keeping an eye on him whilst Liza was looking after her new born baby. In reality, Sarah was chatting to Ella, the glamorous and mysterious woman, who everyone wants to be best friends with. Ella ghosted all the friends a number of years ago and no one knows why adding more mystery to the woman. As Sarah battles with her guilt of not properly watching her best friends’ little boy, Liza battles with her own guilt as fingers begin to point at her for not being a fit mother.

If you’re a fan of the ‘Big Little Lies’ book and series by Liane Moriarty, then I would wholeheartedly recommend this book. Set in well to do London, where all the women have nannies and staff, the story concentrates on the pressures of society as well as the ruthlessness of social media. As the women communicate through their WhatsApp groups pretending to be friends and there for one another, but instead are bitching behind each other’s back. Inclusions of WhatsApp conversations give an interesting slant to the story, as it shows the real people and their true colours. I found myself feeling sympathetic towards both Sarah and Liza as they battled with heightened emotions but also found their obsession with Ella and why she ghosted the women fascinating. Ella certainly is an interesting character, she’s elusive, with her perfect life, body and family.

Rebecca is a new author for me, but is definitely one that I will be looking into, her observation of toxic female relationships and shallow characters is well written and made for compelling reading. A thrilling story of how one simple story can spiral out of control, ‘The Fallout’ is a good dramatic story with complex characters highlighting the pressures of the society and the real struggle behind perfection.

You can buy ‘The Fallout’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.

The Ex Girlfriend By Nicola Moriarty

The Ex-Girlfriend‘The Ex-Girlfriend’ is the latest book by Nicola Moriarty.

Finally, Georgia has found the one. Luke is kind, handsome, and makes her feel safe – which is what she needs after everything she’s been through. The only problem is his ex-girlfriend. Luke says Cadence just can’t accept the breakup, and that explains the texts, the emails, the notes. But then things start to go very wrong – will Cadence really do whatever it takes to get what she wants?

I’ve spent my day with my head in this book and it was a fantastic story. Cleverly written with relatable characters, this book discusses the complexities of relationships and obsession Georgia has just about given up on love after a doomed Tinder date, meets Luke who rescues her after unwanted advances from other men. She begins a relationship with Luke and everything seems perfect until Luke reveals that he has baggage in the shape of an ex girlfriend who refuses to believe that they are over.

Delighted to be in a new relationship, Georgia finds herself a victim of a hate campaign as Cadence plots against Georgia to make her life hell.

One of the many things that I really enjoyed about this book is the tricky characters, that make them so unreliable and for me this really kept me on my toes as I was second guessing their actions and trying to figure out who you could trust.

Riddled with suspense and drama, the story has many twists and turns that really made for dramatic and enjoyable reading. The perfect psychological thriller with just the right combination of romance and drama, ‘The Ex Girlfriend’ is a well crafted story about love, obsession and is most certainly, a creepy read!

You can buy ‘The Ex Girlfriend’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The House On The Edge Of The Cliff By Carol Drinkwater

The House On The Edge Of The Cliff ‘The House On The Edge Of The Cliff’ is the latest book by Carol Drinkwater.

Grace first came to France a lifetime ago. Young and full of dreams of adventure, she met two very different men. She fell under the spell of one. The other fell under hers. Until one summer night shattered everything. Now, Grace is living an idyllic life with her husband, sheltered from the world in a magnificent Provençal villa, perched atop a windswept cliff. Every day she looks out over the sea – the only witness to that fateful night years ago. Until a stranger arrives at the house. A stranger who knows everything, and won’t leave until he gets what he wants.

This is the first book that I’ve read by Carol and I must say that I really enjoyed it. The story is seen through the narrative of Grace and flows back and forth in past and present tense. Set in France, Grace has a content life with her husband, her primary concern as he prepares for an operation, until one day an old face from her past reappears and brings old ghosts back to life.

The past aspects of the story are the background of Grace’s life as she moves to France hoping to become a world famous actress. Alone in the country, she finds help from kind stranger, Peter and together they travel hoping to escape the riots. These narratives give an insight into Grace and the kind of character she is. She’s a kind and adventurous soul but as the story progresses, we see her develop through the years into the older woman that she’s become. As the story develops, it gets darker and grittier which is really interesting reading. The present moments were quite thrilling in parts and you couldn’t help but feel an empathy towards her.

A compelling story of secrets and suspense and riddled with drama throughout, set against a picturesque background, ‘The House on the Cliff Top Edge’ is a romantic story that really pulls the reader in with its mystery and charm.

You can buy ‘The House On The Edge Of The Cliff’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.