A CORK-born author who is looking forward to the U.S launch of her latest novel drew on her background in the defence forces for her thriller, While Nobody Is Watching.
Cobh-born Michelle Dunne now combines her writing with work in healthcare but loved her time in the army.
“Prior to college, I joined the army straight out of school, which happened to be one of the best decisions I ever made,” she said.
“I trained in Collins’ Barracks with the absolute best recruit platoon on record and made some life-long friends there. During my time I served with the UN in Lebanon before going on to complete an NCO course, following which I was promoted to Corporal and began training new recruits back in Limerick.”
While Nobody Is Watching is Michelle’s third book, it is her first thriller and the first time she has used her military experience in her writing.
“It’s about Irish army veteran Corporal Lindsey Ryan, who now has a whole new career working with the troubled youth of Cork city,” she explains.
“She’s also fighting a very private battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after a tour with the UN in Syria. Due to her high risk lifestyle, she’s attracted the attention of a stalker, who leaves her struggling to decipher which threats are real and which can be attributed to her PTSD.”
Michelle has enjoyed a ‘rollercoaster’ few months since the book came out, with a virtual launch live from Belvelly Castle in Cork.
“It was published in June, 2020, by UK publisher Bad Press Ink,” she says. “American publishers Polis Books got in touch soon after we launched here and not long after that I signed a two book deal with them (North America and audiobook rights).
“The U.S launch of While Nobody Is Watching is coming up on May 4.”
Michelle also has a two-book contract with Bad Press Ink on this side of the Atlantic and the follow-up Lindsey Ryan book is due out here later in 2021.
“We’re also in talks with some TV series producers at the minute about possibly bringing the Lindsey Ryan series to the screen,” she says.
“It’s early days, but still very exciting.
“Turns out the world’s worst year has been a pretty good one for Corporal Lindsey Ryan!”
So what is it like to have TV producers interested in adapting your work, would Michelle like to be closely involved in any adaptation?
“It’s very exciting, but I’m keeping my feet on the ground for now. It just seems so huge that I’m afraid to get ahead of myself. Plus it’s very early days. As far as my involvement goes, quite honestly I’d be happy either way.”
Given the success of her new character, it is incredible that the inspiration for While Nobody Is Watching came about “as a bolt from the blue”.
“I was scrolling on my phone one day and I came across a clip about service dogs,” Michelle explains. “They’re such amazing creatures, you can’t not watch those!
“It was a short clip, but by the time it ended, I had two fully formed characters in my mind —one was a soldier, Lindsey, and her service dog, Frank. I love those characters so much that the story came pretty easily once I started writing. I grew up on thrillers, so again it felt like a natural progression for me.” She hopes Cork readers enjoy reading a locally-set story as much as she enjoyed writing it.
“I love Cork, but aside from that it just feels natural to write in my own accent and have my characters roam the streets that I know so well,” she says.
“The follow-up book is based in Cobh, which is where I grew up. Again it just feels natural. Plus the whole world should read about our lovely county!”
And does she think American readers will respond well to an Irish-set story?
“It’s a different audience for sure and I don’t know how easy it’ll be to get noticed over there,” she says. “But so many people in the U.S have strong ties to Ireland.
“I’m really hoping they’ll want to buy the book so they can get lost in Cork for a few hours! I suppose only time will tell.”
Michelle acknowledges her success brings extra demands on her time but for the moment she continues to work in healthcare.
“I’ve always worked full-time, but I did cut back to three days a while back so I can focus on my writing,” she explains.
“I’ve signed a contract for two books with both publishers, so once the follow-up book comes out at the end of the year, I’ll see how it all goes and what happens after that.
“I think I like the security of a ‘day job’. Plus I was brought up to be a worker. I’m used to racing out the door in the morning, eating lunch in my car and complaining about being tired — anything else would be a huge adjustment!”
Sounds like there are more rollercoaster times ahead for Michelle Dunne and her character.
While Nobody Is Watching by Michelle Dunne, published by Bad Press Ink. Available now.