Northern Ireland 'chick lit' queen Claire Allan tries hand at dark thrillers
The Northern Ireland queen of 'chick lit' is to write two thrillers, seeing her leave behind love and embrace the darker side of life.
Claire Allan has signed a book deal for the psychological thrillers with HarperCollins imprint Avon.
The first novel - Her Name Was Rose - is about a woman who sees a young mother die and begins to insert herself into the space left behind.
It will be released next summer.
"Her Name Was Rose examines a number of themes," said Claire, a mother-of-two from Londonderry.
"But essentially it centres around the main character of Alex D'Arcy, who witnesses the death of a local mum, Rose Grahame, in a hit-and-run outside a busy shopping centre and becomes obsessed with her, a woman who seemed to have it all.
"She gets an insight into Rose's life through social media and slowly starts to inveigle her way into the space left behind by Rose in the hope of creating her own perfect ending."
The new novel is a huge departure for Claire, who has written eight best-selling women's fiction books to date. She said it was liberating to set her dark side free.
"Initially it was very scary," she said. "I was very much in my comfort zone writing women's fiction - and while I'm really proud of those books, I was feeling more and more unsettled in myself and wanting to write something darker.
"I wrote a fairly serious book which got very close to securing a deal for me, but didn't.
"I was devastated and was tempted to give up - but one of the editors who rejected it offered to meet me to discuss my writing.
"It was incredibly generous of her to give me her time to do that. Her advice set me free a bit - she told me not to be afraid to unleash my dark side and go as dark, if not darker, than I felt comfortable with.
"Once I realised it was actually quite liberating and fun to write books which were the complete opposite of my previous works, I loved every word of it."
Claire, who spent 18 years as a journalist at the Derry Journal, explained how she felt she wanted a new challenge.
"The last two years have been very challenging in my personal life for a number of reasons - dealing with chronic illness, bereavement etc," she added.
"I also turned 40 and made the decision to leave my journalistic career. It felt as if it was the right time to make fairly sweeping changes and I wanted to fall in love with the process of writing again; this book really made me do that.
"I loved losing myself in it - challenging myself, pushing myself and not playing it so safe any more.
"I figured if I was taking a chance on my writing career I might as well give it everything I've got.
"At times it was scary. At times it was very emotional.
"I had to tap into a lot of things I'd learned over the years, and even into the worst of my own battles with depression for one of the threads of the novel."