Bookpleasures.com welcomes once again JP O'Donnell author of Fatal Gamble, its sequel, Deadly Codes: A Gallagher Novel and most recently Pulse of My Heart: A Gallagher Novel.
The feature length motion
picture, Bent (2018), is based on characters created by JP O'Donnell
in the Gallagher novels. Bent stars Karl Urban as
Gallagher, with Sofia Vergara as Rebecca, and Andy Garcia and Grace
Byers in supporting roles. Bobby Moresco, Academy Award for Crash,
is the screenwriter and director of Bent.
JP and his wife, Ronney, reside in West Palm Beach, Florida. They have two grown children, Jonathan and Randi, and three grandchildren, Alessandra, Shira and Hasana.
Norm: Good day JP and thanks once again for participating in our interview. I was amazed when I found out that it has been ten years since we last spoke! Time flies.
What has been your greatest challenge as an author that you’ve overcome?
JP: For me, the greatest
challenge has been to be taken seriously as a writer. My primary career had been
as a pediatric dentist with a private practice outside of Boston and
a teaching appointment at Tufts University School of Dental
During my forty years on the faculty at Tufts, I did a lot of writing---case reports, journal articles, grant proposals, etc. But none of it was creative writing and I had never taken a creative writing course in college.
I loved my career and, if I was starting out in life anew, I would definitely be a pediatric dentist again.
However, when I completed
the manuscripts of my first two novels, Fatal Gamble and the
sequel, Deadly Codes: A Gallagher Novel, they were rejected by
nearly fifty literary agents. Almost all of them cited the same
for not representing my novels: "You have no creative writing credentials and your primary career will conflict with our marketing plans."
In essence, they were telling me that they couldn't believe a pediatric dentist could be successful at writing mystery thrillers.
Norm: What do you think most characterizes your writing?
JP: A few years ago I spoke to a book club in Boston. A woman in the audience asked what type of novels I thought I was writing in my Gallagher series. Of course, I answered, "Mystery Thrillers."
She politely answered, "No. You are writing love stories. The driving force of your novels is the love story between Gallagher and Kate. That's what makes us turn the pages."
I thought about that for a while and realized she was absolutely right. When I began planning my third Gallagher novel, Pulse of My Heart, I made sure that their relationship was the key to the plot.
Norm: What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
JP: For me, the most useful tool has been listening to other authors at writing conferences and seminars.
Years ago I attended a Cape Cod writing conference that featured Michael Palmer (now deceased) and Tess Gerritsen, both of whom are New York Times best selling authors.
This conference opened my eyes to so many writing techniques: the importance of a first line, how to structure your chapters to build suspense, how to "show" your characters' emotions through dialogue rather than simple description, etc.
I recommend such conferences to any prospective writer who is contemplating a first novel.
The least useful tool for a new writer is to rely on the opinions of family and friends to give you an objective evaluation of your work. These people love you and will not want to hurt your feelings with harsh criticism. Instead, seek out a professional writer or editor that can give you an honest assessment of your writing as well as suggestions on how it can be improved.
Norm: Many people have the skills and drive to write a book, but failure to market and sell the book the right way is probably what keep a lot of people from finding success. Can you give us 2-3 strategies that have been effective for you in promoting your books?
JP: Marketing your novel is always a challenge, particularly for the self-published author.
Social media, however, offers many options to reach a wider audience and this venue appears to have unlimited possibilities. But, I would urge new writers to not overlook the importance of local book clubs and library groups. This form of interaction with your readers is not only great fun, but an opportunity to spread the word about your writing within your community.
Norm: What were your goals and intentions in writing your most recent tome, Pulse of My Heart and how well do you feel you achieved them? As a follow up, what do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish the book?
JP: After I finished Deadly Codes: A Gallagher Novel, many readers contacted me to say the ending left them "hanging." They wanted to know what happened to Gallagher and Kate --- did they simply move on, or did they find each other again?
So I put together a plot line that picks up the story where Deadly Codes ends and, through a variety of twists and turns (interlaced with a healthy dose of danger and intrigue), the story of Gallagher and Kate continues and comes to a dramatic conclusion.
For an everlasting thought of readers who finish the book: I would hope they feel that Gallagher is the man every guy wants to be; but he's also the man every woman wants to be with.
If they feel this way, then it will help to inspire me to write another Gallagher novel.
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing the book and did you learn anything from writing it, if so, and what was it?
JP: The most difficult part is always making sure that you are writing to please yourself. If you don't feel satisfied and enjoy your writing, then it becomes a chore and is not likely to be enjoyed by others.
I was recently invited to write an essay for Murderby4, a website for independent authors of mystery fiction.
In this essay I stressed this concept as well as the importance of injecting emotion into one's writing. If a passage in my novel strikes me emotionally and causes me to well up, then it is likely to do the same to my reader. If I continue to write with this focus, my readers will continue to enjoy my novels.
Norm: What was the time-line between the time you decided to write your book and publication? What were the major events along the way?
JP: From the day of my initial concept, to my outline, then to my first draft and finally to my completed manuscript, each book took me almost a year.
Norm: How would you
compare the writing of Pulse of My Heart with your other two
novels? Was it easier or more difficult?
JP: Pulse of My Heart was the easiest of my three Gallagher novels because I knew the characters so well.
They had become real to me. I believe my writing has improved since my first novel.
In fact, I have completely re-written Fatal Gamble and the newly revised edition will appear in 2019 as an audiobook.
The audiobook version of Pulse of My Heart will be released by the end of this month, January 2019.
I was very fortunate to retain Jordan Rich, a radio talk show host from WBZ in Boston, to do the narration.
Norm: How did you become involved with the film Bent (2018)?
JP: As mentioned above, I was rejected by every literary agent I queried. As a result, I decided to self-publish my first two Gallagher novels.
My wife's cousin loved the books and gave them as a Christmas present to a friend in New York who happened to be a character actor.
Bobby loved the characters and thought the story in Deadly Codes was the perfect basis for a film in the classic tradition of "noir."
Long story short, Bent, a feature length motion picture went into production in early 2017 in Italy.
The film stars Karl Urban as Gallagher, Sofia Vergara as Rebecca, and Andy Garcia and Grace Byers in supporting roles.
I had the wonderful experience of being on the set during filming and even had a "cameo" appearance in the opening scenes. The film was released to theaters in March 2018 and is currently available via video on demand and DVDs.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about your and your novels?
JP: Check out my WEBSITE
Norm: What is next for JP O'Donnell?
JP: I've written a series of children's bedtime stories and hope to publish the first one sometime in 2019. And I'm putting together some thoughts for Gallagher Book #4. Here's a hint on the plot: What if something happens to Norman? Stay tuned....
Norm: What question do you wish that someone would ask about your books, but nobody has?
JP: Where did the name Gallagher come from? Growing up, my father had a best friend named Bob Gallagher, but no one, including his wife, ever called him "Bob." He was just "Gallagher." That thought stuck with me when I was trying to come up with a name for my protagonist. So I said to myself, "Yes..... just 'Gallagher' sounds right." Little did I know that he would eventually make it to Hollywood.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors