Every month we feature a different author, publisher or bookseller who has earned the RLK! seal of approval! We will highlight and review their books/company as well as providing author biographies (where available) and publishing information. We hope you enjoy RLK! Spotlight On....

Author Bio:

Gemma O'Connor was born in Dublin and spent her childhood in Limerick and Cork. In her final year of primry school, a rather eccentric nun took great interest in Gemma's writing skills and told her one day, she would become a writer; an idea Gemma lost sight of for more than 30 years. She met her husband, an academic specialising in orthopedic engineering, when she was a nineteen year old air hostess with Aer Lingus. The first three years of their marriage were spent in Minnesota, after which they moved to Oxford, England where they have lived for thirty years. They have three children and four grandchildren.

Before publishing her first novel in her fifties, Gemma O'connor had a varied career. She has been an air hostess, a script writer, a book binder and a restorer, a PRO for the Children's Music Theatre (now the National Youth Music Theatre) and a publicist for a group of Irish publishers. She organised the first Irish Book Fair at the Festival Hall in 1985.

Her first book was an anthology of prose lines entitled "Hell! said the Duchess", and she followed it with another anthology of last lines. She commissioned and edited a series of biographies and has written "Back to Work", a guide for women returning to work after bringing up a family. Her dramatic anthology of Irish writing on women, "Ferocious Chastity", has been performed in England and Ireland and her one-woman play "SigNora Joyce" played as part of the Irish Festival in London.

She appears frequently on radio programs such as "Quote, Unquote" and "Second Edition" as well as on the World Service.

Gemma O'Connor is touring Australia this month. Contact your bookstore for more details...

RLK! EXCLUSIVE Author interview:

Gemma O'Connor was kind enough to answer the following RLK! questions:

Richard Laymon Kills!:Thanks for your time, Gemma. You've had many varied jobs in the past - do they all contribute to your writing life?

Gemma O'Connor: Yes, indeed. It is always easier to write about what you know. I quite like to give my characters jobs as well as histories and often their jobs in the same field as my own. For instance: Milo, in Falls the Shadow, is a bookbinder as I was. In Sins of Omissions, Grace is a bookseller. During my earlier career I was dealing with antiquarian booksellers all the time. In my books you will also find, amongst others, journalists, writers, collectors and PR - these I have done myself. Of course, I wouldn't like to limit myself, so I shamelessly plunder jobs from my family and people I know.

RLK!: In TIME TO REMEMBER, you deal with the issue of war crime. What was the inspiration behind setting a novel around this topic?

GO'C: The memorial village of Oradour in France where, on the afternoon of 10th of June 1944, over six hundred people were massacred. The village is preserved as it was that day. We had a cottage about thirty miles from there and when I first visited it over twenty years ago I knew I would never forget it.

RLK!: The resolution of the struggle between Hiller and Forge may be an intriguing surprise to the reader. Why did you decide to resolve the situation in this way?

GO'C: I wanted to show that one bad or terrible deed does not necessarily make a bad person. I also wanted to show that both innocent and guilty can be destroyed by guilt and the memory of evil. I wanted my readers to see that Forge was, despite everything, as good a man as Hiller. Or as bad. Take your choice.

RLK!: Do you believe war criminals should be tracked down after all this time?

GO'C: I am not sure. What I am sure of is, that if they are tracked down it should not be for revenge but rather to make us all remember what ordinary people are capable of, in terrible situations. I think that was the purpose of Bishop Tutu's tribunal in South Africa - to make the guilty face up to what they'd done but then to seek reconciliation.

RLK!: You deal with tragedy and its consequences and the reader comes away feeling that if you don't let go eventually, that tragedy will destroy you one way or another. Are these psychological affects something that interests you?

GO'C: Yes. You see it sometimes in adults who have been badly treated as children, in couples after acrimonious divorces, when they simply won't let go of their resentments. It kind of feeds an anger that can become implacable.

RLK!: There are certain boundaries placed on people in society. Can these boundaries be crossed when circumstances warrant it?

GO'C: You're asking me to be God here, and I'm not. I think you go down a dangerous path when you step outside the boundaries. The rules by which we live are so fragile; we're not really able to cope with those who flaunt them. It can so easily get out of hand.

RLK!: One of the strengths of your writing is in the characterisation of the main players. This is sometimes lacking in books of this type. Do you focus on the human sides of the characters and then develop plot? Or the other way around?

GO'C: I don't so much start with a plot, as an incident or, if you like, a set of circumstances. The next thing I do is people it, then I name my characters and give them each a personal history (and job). How the plot then develops is driven by how my characters react and interact. It is the consequences of violence rather than violence itself, which interests me.

RLK!: With the many crime and mystery novels set in the US, it's a refreshing change to read stories set in Oxford or Dublin and Edinburgh. Do you pick a particular place or time for your novels - or do you pick these cities and places for a specific reason?

GO'C: I like writing about location and landscape, I like to know it very well. I was born in Dublin but I travel widely and besides Ireland, I've lived in the UK, the US, France, and Nigeria. And for shorter periods in Germany and Italy. So I have a lot of places to choose from and eventually you may find I use them all. I should add that I only like to write about locations I love.

RLK!: Your novels seem to defy pigeon-holeing. They're not crime, they're not thrillers, nor psychological mysteries - they're a hybrid of all of these. Is that something you set out to do?

GO'C: Yes, yes, yes. I am really pleased you've said that. Hybrid is good, but maybe novel is better. What I really like to do is tell stories. I also like to address subjects that interest, or bother me.

RLK!: In FAREWELL TO THE FLESH, the setting of the Holy Retreat is quite an unusual one. Why did you decide to include the nuns and the Holy Retreat? Does this way of life interest you?

GO'C: I was educated by nuns, and yes nuns and their historical development interest me a good deal. With Farewell to the Flesh I set out to, in part, recount the inspiration behind the sort of foundations which were common in previous centuries, when convents were often just groups of good women who came together for periods of time for specific purposes; i.e. the education of children, the care of the sick and the poor. Many did not take solemn vows and, until they were hi-jacked by the ecclesiastical authorities, could leave whenever they wished. The convent in Farewell to the Flesh was rather more eccentric than that and it's founder was inspired less by sanctity than by fear... And then again, I wanted to make use of a strange and exotic library I came across in Italy.

RLK!: One of the main storylines in this book is uncovering a family history. Genealogy is a growing hobby on the internert. Does this interest you?

GO'C: I'm not sure I have more than a passing interest in genealogy, but then again, if someone presented me with my own, I'd be dead pleased.

RLK!: The way you write blends the first person past with third person present. This is a refreshing style that is hardly, if ever, used and is a very effective way of telling a story. Why do you choose to write this way?

GO'C: No, I stumbled on it for Time to Remember, when I became so involved in the description of the village that I found myself writing that way. Odd, isn't it? I think it was inspired by the intensity I felt about my subject. Thank you for saying it's effective.

RLK!: The internet is a growing forum where writers and their readers can interact. Have you spent much time on the internet?

GO'C: As little as possible, apart from email. I find I try to do less not more. Already I can't find enough hours in the day. Sorry about that, I'll probably eat my hat about this question shortly.

RLK!: Do you have your own website?

GO'C: Yes, though it's still being built. http://www.gemmaoconnor.com

RLK!: Can you see the internet playing a part in a future novel?

GO'C: No, not at the moment, I haven't the skill.

RLK! thanks Gemma O'Connor for granting us the interview.

Books Published:


Date of Release: April '99

Publisher: Random House

Review Source:


Murder mysteries don't come any better than this one from O'Connor. The settings for this novel are Stebton Place in Oxfordshire and the convent of the Holy Retreat which overlooks Dublin Bay. These two old decaying houses have one thing in common - secrets from the past that have been long-buried for years. That is, until Jeddie Stebton-Hillyard comes a-calling...

Then there's Dublin solicitor Terence Murphy-Dunne, a truly manipulative vulture, who is called upon by the nuns of the Holy Retreat to help them raise finances to salvage the crumbling convent. He persuades them that the best thing to do is to sell off their graveyard. Believe it or not, the nuns agree and the sale takes place. The exhuming begins and all the coffins are removed...but then the find another...

One extra coffin. One unmarked, lead *extra* coffin....

Whose is it? What's it doing there? Does Jeddie Hillyard have anything to do with it? And why is the Mother Guardian acting so suspiciously?

Enter Tess Callaway, the lawyer called in to fix the puzzle. Instead, she begins to ask more and more questions without realising that the more she asks, the closer to danger both she, and her baby daughter, become.

A truly haunting crime novel that pushes the boundaries in new directions. Excellently crafted and brilliantly written, O'Connor has managed to write one of the best murder mysteries in the past ten years.


Date of Release: April '99

Publisher: Random House

Review Source:


Time to Remember is a breath-taking and unusual crime novel that spans decades. With an unconventional storyline for a novel of its genre, O'Connor has managed to find the perfect balance between crime novel and character study. Time to Remember builds to a fascinating climax that will leave you spellbound.

We begin in 1944 in war-ravaged Europe where a fifteen-year-old boy watches his village destroyed and his sweetheart callously murdered by the hands of a young enemy soldier not much older than himself. Spin forward decades where his memories are revived by a chance sighting of the very same soldier. From that moment on, his plans are to destroy his enemy by cunning and stealth. The scene is set for the showdown, one early summer morning in Oxford when the two men meet face to face for the final time... And both disappear without a trace...

Enter young Juliet Furbo, a policewoman who takes it upon herself to search for the missing men. It is then that she uncovers the disturbing and bizarre connection between both men and inadvertantly releases the painful secret of her own past.

Not your conventional crime novel here, but one that will keep you on then edge of your seat until all is revealed. O'Connor deals with the issues involved with such a delicate touch that the characters truly come alive in the mind of the reader. An excellent work that spells great things to come for O'Connor.

Also Published:



Visit O'Connor on the net at: http://www.gemmaoconnor.com.

Where to buy:


For those who order online, try:

Amazon UK!   Buy Laymon & Others Here!   

 RLK! Spotlight On...
Past Features

 March: Simon Clark, Author Click here to view.
 February: Obsidian Books, Publisher Click here to view.
 January: John Case, Author Click here to view.

 A new Feature added monthly so check here often...

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