|Left to right: Eamon McCann, Garbhan Downey, Desmond J. Doherty|
Desmond J. Doherty was born in Derry and has worked there all his life. He is married with two daughters. Valberg is his debut novel. Visit his website here
What are you writing at the minute?
A Valberg stand alone.Two pathologists are arguing about the ‘gold standard’ of the final exam a human being is involved in – their autopsy. Abigail Burns is on holiday and Valberg needs straight answers. He doesn’t like the two pathologists arguing but one has used the phrase ‘the whole gamut of a criminal investigation’. Valberg likes the word ‘gamut’. He’s focusing on that word to stop him losing his temper. He needs Abigail. I’m just wondering if I will bring her back or not.
Can you give us an idea of your typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?
Endlessly rocking. I’m always working things out, making notes and drawing diagrams. My drawing is terrible but my notebooks are full of them. In between the law, two kids and my beautiful wife I keep at it. Always drawing on ideas from people I meet and situations I’m in. I go to bed late and get up early. I write a lot early in the morning.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Thinking about what I’m going to write. I work out quite a bit in my head before I put pen to paper or fingers on a keyboard. Thought processes are endless. Someone could be talking to me and I’m thinking why the body of the deceased, in an idea I have, weighs more after death. What’s inside the body of the deceased? Or why does another body weigh less? I play guitar in my band Revivor. We are putting the finishing touches to our new album, The Diving Bell. That takes up a lot of any free time I can get. Then there’s the kids…
Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the genre fiction scene?
Don’t worry about style. Like Bruce Lee, be no style but all styles. Be formless and adapt. Get the story down. Get your plan solid. I can’t stress that enough. You must have a plan and for me, diagrams. Write about what you know about. Be truthful to yourself. It makes writing so bloody easy then. In fact, as bloody as you want. Give your characters quirks. All the usual stuff. Don’t make them boring. Make them human and vulnerable.
Which writers have impressed you this year?
Brian McGilloway impresses me every year. Dave Duggan, Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbo and Lee Child. But how could you not be impressed by that list?
What are you reading right now?
Robert Bolt’s play ‘A Man For All Seasons’ not only for pleasure but research. That whole thing about the devil being entitled to due process of law is just fantastic. But I’m enveloped in Spanish criminal law books and visiting Malaga soon for research! It’s my second trip for a short conversation Valberg has with a Spanish counterpart in Malaga. I want to get the details perfect and have a holiday with my family at the same time. Everyone a winner!
I’m only really this year coming to terms with Human Chain by Seamus Heaney. I just read, read and read it again and every time I find something new.
Plans for the future?
To improve my writing and get better and to learn from others who I admire. I’d love to be able to learn to play La Villa Strangiato by Rush on the guitar. I wish I could write as well as Alex Lifeson plays the guitar. I really mean that.
With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently?
No. No regrets. I believe this is the right time for me. I’ve amassed a career of experiences in the dark art of law but I feel youthful enough to realise I am still learning more every single second I am alive. I feel confident about my work and my writing now and I have the brilliant Guildhall Press in Derry and the Arts Council to thank for all their support.
Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?
That’s easy. I walked into Guildhall Press one day full of confidence for an edit meeting. Instead of a greeting the Managing Editor, Paul Hippsley, gently reminded me I could not have a character checking CCTV footage and photographs if he had already been murdered and buried. Yes, I thought, good point well made.
Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?
A colleague was asked that question once at the end of an interview for a judicial appointment. He got the job but has told me he’s still trying to think of a more detailed answer to the one he gave. I will give the same answer he gave and it is no. But I will think about it if we can agree on that and I will get back to you.
Well just one last thing.There is no truth in the rumour that when I returned William Peter Blatty’s ‘The Exorcist’ to the library in Brooke Park Derry that it caused it to burn to the ground. Wasn’t my fault. I’m not apologising.
Thank you, Desmond J Doherty!