Internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed writer, Dervla McTiernan is the author of The Ruin, her crime debut set in Ireland. The Ruin is the first in the detective Cormac Reilly series and has been published in the United States, the UK and Ireland, and in New Zealand and Australia, where it was a top ten bestseller. It has been named one of Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Crime Mystery and Thrillers of 2018 and an Amazon Best Book of July 2018. Dervla was a New Blood Panelist at Harrogate Festival.
Dervla spent twelve years working as a lawyer. Following the global financial crisis, she moved to Australia and turned her hand to writing. An avid fan of crime and detective novels from childhood, Dervla wrote a short story, The Room Mate which was shortlisted for the Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto Competition. She went on to write The Ruin, and this will be followed by The Scholar. The Ruin has been optioned for TV by Hopscotch. Dervla is a member of the Sisters in Crime and Crime Writers Association, and lives in Perth, Australia, with her husband and two children.
She is represented by Tara Wynne, Curtis Brown Australia.
1. Tell me about your pathway to publication:
A. I’ve always been an avid reader. I learned to read when I was three and you would rarely have found me without a book in hand since. I’ve written a hundred bits and pieces, the beginnings of chapters, paragraphs here and there, but never finished anything. In 2015 I wrote the first forty thousand words of what would become The Rúin, then stopped writing again. At the end of the year, frustrated with my failure to complete anything, I entered a short story competition, just so that I would have a deadline. The competition was the Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto competition and I was shortlisted. That gave me the confidence, and maybe the kicking I needed to get serious. I scrapped my forty thousand words and started again, finished the manuscript, and queried agents. In late 2016 my wonderful agent sent my manuscript out on submission in Australia and, incredibly, I got six offers of publication! I ultimately went with Harper Collins and couldn’t be happier with that choice. The book has since sold in the US, the UK and Germany and books are now (joyfully!) an even bigger part of my life than they were before.
2. You emigrated to Australia in 2011. Did that move affect your writing?
A. Absolutely. I don’t think I would be a writer today, and I wouldn’t have a book deal if I had stayed in Ireland. I studied law at university, and though I knew from day one that it wasn’t right for me I stuck it out through two degrees, law school, my apprenticeship and almost twelve years in practice. It wasn't all bad, and I worked with some great people, but law is a very challenging environment. It’s adversarial by its nature, the hours are long and you have to really love the highs to stick it out. I enjoyed the challenge of it in the early years, but I always felt like a fish out of water. Having said that I would still be doing it today if the Global Financial Crisis hadn’t hit and decimated my legal practice. I saw Tana French speak about her book, Broken Harbour, which is set in one of the ghost housing estates that was left in Ireland after the property crash. She spoke about the rule-followers who were badly hurt by the crash in Ireland. Tana said she was not a rule follower, but I certainly was. When the GFC hit and we lost everything, it was devastating but it was also freeing. We got to start again and this time we threw out the rule-book. Our little boy was born five weeks after we arrived in Australia, so I didn’t work straight away. When I did go back I was determined that I wouldn’t practice law again, that I would work part-time, and that I would try to write.
3. Tell me about your book. What brought you to writing this book in particular?
A. I think in many ways Maude and Jack are the heart of the story in The Rúin. They’re sister and brother- in the prologue Maude is only fifteen, and Jack is five. She loves him very much, would do anything to protect him. I’m the middle child in a family of seven. When I was growing up it was absolutely normal and expected that older children would care for their younger siblings, as I did for my two youngest siblings. Even though I was very young, I still remember feeling that fierce protectiveness, that almost maternal feeling, towards them. There’s such an innocence about Maude, even those she’s seen so much. For her it’s very simple, and to me there’s something both childlike and powerful about that simplicity. Jack is her brother and she loves him and it’s up to her to keep him safe. But of course the world is a complicated place, and I wanted to try to work out what happens after. What happens to the Maudes of the world after they do the saving. And that’s really what The Rúin is about.
4. What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?
A. There have been loads of amazing moments, from the first offer of representation from a literary agent, to the first offer of publication (that knocked my socks off!). But I think the highlight has to be working with my editors. That has been so deeply satisfying, so confidence inspiring. It really makes me happy.
5. Where to from here?
A. Well, The Rúin is the first in a series. Cormac Reilly returns in the second book in the series, which will be out in Australia in March 2019, and other territories a little later the same year. I’ve finished the book – it’s with my editors at the moment and I’ll be working on the edit of that book through a lot of 2018. While I’m waiting for editorial notes I’m starting work on my third book. I’m so excited about this idea ...I can’t wait to get writing.