I had the good fortune of being asked to review O’Cinneide’s novel - Starr Sign - by The Miramichi Reader. I truly enjoyed the story and you can see my review HERE.
Praise for the Candace Starr series.
“A cold and gripping crime novel” – The Globe & Mail.
James Fisher of TMR was kind enough to introduce us and Carole has graciously accepted an invitation to be this week’s guest.
You can read her bio HERE.
Let’s have a chat with Carole.
Allan: Thank you so much for being our featured guest this week, Carole. Before we chat about your novels and writing, perhaps you can tell us a bit about yourself, hometown, family or whatever you want to share.
Carole: Wow, that’s an open-ended question if ever I heard one. Let’s see, I’m a former IT analyst who had the crazy idea that she could write books. One day, I left my lucrative career to follow a dream and my bank account and pride suffered accordingly. Luckily, I’m married to an Irish ex-pat with his own bank account and more belief in me than sense. We live in Guelph, Ontario, with only a dog and a cat, as our four children have moved on to pursue their own dreams.
Allan: You choose to write under the pseudonym of C S O’Cinneide (oh-kin-ay-da). Can you tell us more about the name and why you chose it?
Carole: O’Cinneide is “Kennedy” in Irish. It is the original spelling and pronunciation of the surname before it was anglicized. So, it’s my name, but also not my name. I chose to use it because there seemed to be a lot of Carole Kennedy’s writing books out there and I wanted to differentiate myself. Which I believe I have, since I am now known at the bookstore as that author that nobody can pronounce.
Allan: Candace Starr is one sharp lady. Where did the inspiration for this character come from?
Carole: Candace is a full-blown avatar for any woman who has ever wanted to throw a bad guy up against a slushie machine at the 7-11. She’s mouthy and smart and violent and basically says and does all the cool things I’d like to say and do if I wasn’t such a scaredy-cat. Candace is also the kind of hard-boiled female character I’ve always longed to see in crime fiction --- not a femme fatale or an ingenue, but a fully developed anti-hero with flaws and depth and a keen interest in eyebrow threading.
Allan: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.
Carole: Hmm. When I was a child my friends and I used to have a fake band called the Mrs. Monkees. We were each married to one of the boys from the TV reruns we watched showcasing that group (a fake band themselves, but at least they had real guitars and drums and not push brooms and overturned garbage cans like we did). I was married to Peter Tork because he was the dumb one and that attracted me for some reason. This anecdote has absolutely nothing to do with writing or my work, but possibly exposes me as an early appreciator of mimbos. Luckily, I grew out of that.
Allan: Please tell our readers what to expect when they pick up their first Candace Starr story. The Starr Sting Scale and Starr Sign.
Carole: My description above of how badass Candace Starr is should give you a pretty good idea of what you can expect. These books definitely do not come with a PG-13 rating. But beyond that they are very witty and clever and provide a venue for me to discuss some fairly serious issues despite being “murderous fun” (Publisher’s Weekly).
In The Starr Sting Scale, Candace, a former hitwoman must help the cops solve a murder she just might have committed herself. She is teamed with an ambitious woman officer, Detective Chien-Shiung Malone and the two develop an unlikely friendship. Malone and Candace also work together a bit in the next novel, Starr Sign, but in that book, Candace is joined by a British hacker named Deep and a thirteen-year-old sister. With them, she attempts to infiltrate the Detroit mafia in search of her wayward mother.
Allan: Your debut novel – Petra’s Ghost – looks intriguing and I’ve added it to my TBR list. What can you tell us about this novel?
Carole: I’m so pleased to hear it is on your TBR! But prepare yourself, because in comparison to the Candace Starr crime series, Petra’s Ghost is on the whole other side of the library.
I wrote Petra’s Ghost after walking the Camino de Santiago, an 800 km pilgrimage across northern Spain. It took me a month to walk it and was one of the defining experiences of my life. But when I came back to Canada, I found you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a Camino memoir. Once again, I needed a way to differentiate myself. I decided to write a dark thriller set on the Camino. I didn’t think that had been done before, and I was right.
In Petra’s Ghost, a woman has just gone missing while walking the pilgrimage when we meet Daniel, a grieving Irish ex-pat who is hiking the trail after the death of his beloved wife, Petra. He meets Ginny, another pilgrim and unfortunate things start to happen to them. The book has been described as part evocative travelogue and part psychological thriller. I’d throw in part memoir, as so many of the landscapes, art and culture described in the book are from my own experience. And a woman did disappear when I was walking the trail.
My publisher marketed the book as literary, but it was a semi-finalist for the Goodreads Choice Awards for Horror in 2019 (maybe because the word “ghost” is in the title). I lost that award to Stephen King, which to date is the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me.
Allan: favorite authors? Novels?
Carole: East of Eden – John Steinbeck
The Help – Kathryn Stockett
We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson
The Stand – Stephen King
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
How to be a Woman – Caitlin Moran
Any book by Denise Mina, the Queen of Tartan Noir
Allan: Tell us about your writing habits?
Carole: When I am writing a novel, I force myself to sit in my writing chair on pain of death every weekday morning at 9 AM whether I feel inspired or not. I set a timer for one hour and only take breaks when it goes off. I do this until I hit my word count or tear all my hair out, whichever comes first.
I am plotter not a pantser, which means I develop a plot outline before I begin writing the book. I tried to write “by the seat of my pants” once but found with no outline I practically wet them. I tell you this because so many authors make writing sound like a fairy tale where they are so in love with the process, and ideas float out of them like puffy unicorns that dance across the page. I try not to despise these people. Writing is hard work. At least it is for me.
Allan: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about? Maybe what’s next?
Carole: I have a book coming out next year entitled “Eve’s Rib.” It’s about mothers and daughters and possibly the devil. The style is more in line with Petra’s Ghost, as it is another literary thriller, but this one is set in Canada and there isn’t a Spanish monastery in every other scene. Here’s some rough cover copy:
After Abbey’s younger brother dies in a fall, Eve fears the worst about her daughter. Her husband, Richard doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know the truth about Abbey. And besides, he has secrets of his own to keep.
But when terrible things begin to happen to those who get in Abbey’s way, Eve must overcome her own pain and loss and find the strength to deal with the threat she fears the most --- a teenage daughter she can no longer control and a past that could come back to haunt her in the most monstrous of ways.
Sound good? I hope so. Because this one will knock your socks off with the twist at the end. Which most of my books do, but this one was particularly fun!
****Sounds very good, Carole.
An Excerpt from STARR SIGN.
(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission.)
IT IS NEVER A GOOD PLAN TO WAKE UP AND not know
where you are. I know I’m not at home when I first hear
the birds chirping outside the window. In the one-room
apartment above the E-Zee Market where I’ve lived the
last few years, there are only shit-disturbing pigeons to
annoy you in the morning. They don’t chirp, just coo
and warble until you become convinced there’s a Jersey
girl on the roof faking her first orgasm.
But when you’re a woman who has made a career out
of binge drinking, waking up in places you don’t expect
is an occupational hazard. Don’t get the wrong impression. I’m not an alcoholic
in the traditional sense. Alcoholism is when your
drinking gets in the way of your job or personal life. I
don’t have a job, and my personal life suits me just fine.
Mostly because I am my own best company. My greatest
source of entertainment. You learn to rely only on yourself
when you spend the first half of your life growing
up with a hitman for a father, and the other half following
in his footsteps. I’ve been out of the game a few
years now, ever since I got out of prison and my dad
got whacked, but I make no excuses for the life I led
before that. It paid the rent. It fed my dog when I had
one. It kept me in copious bottles of Jägermeister in my
twenties. But you make a number of enemies and rack
up some pretty bad karma as a professional assassin. My
daily drinking is just a means to an end. I’m not sure
what that end is, but I intend not to be sober when I
Thank you, Carole, for sharing your thoughts with us. Wishing you continued success with your stories.
For all you fantastic readers wanting to discover more about Carole and her stories, please follow these links: