An interview with… J A Corrigan

I am delighted to welcome fellow crime writer, Julie-Ann Corrigan to my blog. Writing as J A Corrigan, Julie-Ann has published three brilliant psychological thrillers: Falling Suns, The Nurse and The Bad Sister as well as historical fiction under her pen name, Jules Hayes.

Please introduce yourself and your published works

Hi Sarah, and thanks so much for hosting me on your blog.

My name is Julie-Ann Corrigan and I write psychological suspense thrillers as JA Corrigan.

My debut thriller, Falling Suns, was published in 2016 by Headline Accent – a disturbing story about a mother dealing with the abduction and subsequent brutal murder of her young son. The story charts ex-detective Rachel Dune’s quest for revenge and retribution.

My second thriller, The Nurse, was published by Canelo in May 2021.

Again, it’s a story with a strong female protagonist (I like to think this is my literary signature!) – Rose Marlowe. The story opens with Rose being sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder of a patient in her care. Rose pleaded guilty, but when washed-up journalist Theo Hazel begins visiting her in prison hoping for a ‘scoop’ he questions if in fact she is guilty of the crime. As Rose’s story unfolds, Theo’s intuition turns into hard facts, which he can’t ignore. Is Rose innocent, or is she manipulating Theo. Is she a cold-blooded killer, and a psychopath, or is she a victim of circumstance?

The Bad Sister is my third thriller, and my second  novel published with Canelo. The book released in April 2022.

This time I have 3 strong female protagonists – sisters, Natalie, Jessica and Teresa Keane. Narrated in 2 timelines, with 3 viewpoints (each sister), this is very much my Rubik Cube novel, as well as my lockdown book. I wonder sometimes if the two are connected!

The story opens in 1991 when the Keane family are throwing a party at the family home, the luxurious Raven House, for Teresa’s graduation and engagement. But when a young girl’s body is found on neighbouring Raven Island during the celebrations the family, instead of turning to each other, turn against each other. In the coming years the sisters become estranged, only brought back together more than 20 years later by another female family member, Natalie’s daughter. As the 3 sisters’ secrets begin to unravel, at last they confide in each other, with earth shattering consequences – and the reveal of the final Keane family secret.

When did you start writing? Can you tell me about your journey to publication?

I began writing in 2010, starting with short stories. I was lucky and these stories were published. In 2012 I began writing my first novel, a modern historical thriller set during the Spanish Civil War (I’m a history graduate.) This book was finally published under my pen name, Jules Hayes, in March 2021.

I began writing my first psychological thriller in 2013, this became Falling Suns. I went on to write another historical novel (which I self-published), and then I wrote a genre-straddler, set in Poland/Auschwitz in 1943 and present day UK – a dark thriller and with a detective! This book still sits in my drawer. We all have one… one day I hope it finds the light of day!

In 2018 I began writing The Nurse (although during its conception it did have another title!) This is the book that found me my agent, Camilla Shestopal.

In 2020-21 I wrote The Bad Sister.

What were the pivotal moments so far in your writing career and what have you learned from them?

Eliciting a standing ovation at an Open Mike night at the Hay Literary festival, and at the very beginning of my writing journey, and before I had a complete first manuscript. I thought I’d cracked it and I’d be JK Rowling in no time. Wrong! I think it taught me early on to take these things with a pinch of salt. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

My most recent pivotal moment was when Camilla (my agent) signed me with The Nurse. It’s a book I took a chance on writing – several people during its conception told me it would never be published – and so when the Canelo team offered a contract for the manuscript it was a very sweet moment, and also made me realise that a writer really does have to write what they want to write. Passion, enthusiasm and authenticity shine through.

What kind of research did you need to do for your latest novel, The Bad Sister, and how did you go about it?

The Bad Sister is set on the River Thames, and I was inspired by the location (near to where I live.) I was also inspired by people and families I’ve come into contact with over the years as my child was growing up – however, the story is utterly fictitious!

I did a fair amount of research into what it entails to be a barrister (Teresa’s character) and also a psychiatrist (Jessica’s character.) The original title for the novel was The Psychiatrist, which I rather like, as the plot pivots on what happens to Jessica, but ultimately, the novel was better served by a title signposting family dynamics within the story.

I also had a lot of research help from a criminal court judge, who read the relevant chapters for veracity. She is an amazing woman, who also encouraged me to be a little more edgy with the plot, explaining that much worse happens in real life!

With all of my books I tend to do a lot of research before and whilst writing them.  

Who are your favourite authors?

I have eclectic reading tastes, so I have many favourite authors!

In the thriller genre, my favourites include Alex Marwood, Barbara Vine, Patricia Highsmith, Erin Kelly, Fiona Cummins, and Minnette Walters.

I love DM Thomas (The White Hotel), Kate Atkinson and Cormac McCarthy. Thomas Harris, early Stephen King. Love John Irving, Murakami and yes, Ishiguru. Madeline Miller, Anne Patchett and Michel Faber.

What advice would you give to other people wanting to write?

Sit down and get the words down. I recently began working with a mentee, who was ‘thinking’ about starting a 1st novel. I told him to just write, that I had no care how bad it might be, because there was no way either of us could make it better until he wrote something.

For what it’s worth, with this particular writer, this advice was extremely effective. A big achievement for me (and him) would be to see him secure an agent, and a publisher. The circle for me would be complete.

Write, read. Write, read, and repeat, and live your best life at the same time (interaction with the world is imperative to authentic writing.) Try to find someone who is able to mentor you in those early stages, giving you the latitude to write a story you want to write, with no self consciousness, no inner critic, no negative vista.

Be authentic, to yourself and to your future readers.

Come off social media!

Finally, what are you working on now?

Currently I’m working on a contemporary thriller, and again one of the lead characters is a strong female protagonist, but there is also a detective (a male second lead), and several gruesome murders!

The novel’s themes encompass a pretty zeitgeist topic, as well as honour, love and loyalty. I plan a series with this book. I’m very excited about it.   

You can find out more about J A Corrigan on her website: jacorrigan.com or follow her on social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/juliannwriter 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jacorrigan

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/corriganjulieann/

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