5 questions with Denise Deegan

Through the Barricades by Denise Deegan. Advance Reader Copy (eARC) included. No affiliate links used. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

Every so often you come across a character you love so much that they remain long after the final page has been turned. Characters that cross your mind from time to time as you wonder how life worked out for them. Maggie Gilligan, the protagonist of Denise Deegan’s latest novel Through the Barricades, is one such character. Maggie is determined and fiercely loyal. If you haven’t yet spent time in her company, you should.

Thank you to Denise Deegan for taking some time to answer my questions.

Through the Barricades by Denise Deegan (Digital Flatlay)
Photo by Amanda Horan

You write across genres; young adult as Denise Deegan and women’s fiction under your pen name Aimee Alexander. Your recent novel Through the Barricades sees you step into historical fiction, with possibly a YA slant depending on how you define YA. In a world full of advice about finding your genre and sticking to it, how have you found genre hopping?

I write the stories that arrive to me. I view them as gifts and would feel very ungrateful if I ignored them – if that doesn’t sound strange. I hear the characters in my head. I hear their dialogue. That is how the stories arrive. It would be very handy career-wise if they were all in the same genre! Traditional wisdom is to stick to one genre to build your audience. I feel if I put genre first and tried to write to that, the stories would stop arriving.

My writing career began with contemporary fiction for adults. I never imagined that that would change. Then one day, the voice of a teenager came barreling into my head. It was angry and sarcastic but also vulnerable. I had to listen to it. The result was a YA trilogy called The Butterfly Novels. The Butterfly Novels have been one of the highlights of my publishing career. I can’t imagine not having experienced the love of my teenage audience. Teenagers are the most appreciative audience out there. And I, in turn, am so appreciative of them.

I do write different genres. All my books, however, do have something in common. They always tell the story of ordinary people who become extraordinary under pressure. To me that is one of the great things about life. We always surprise ourselves. We think we’d never be able to deal with certain situations and then they arrive and we rise to the challenge and become better people in the process. I love exploring that in fiction. So maybe that’s my genre! I also adore children. You will always find children in my books.

Do you plan your novels in detail or do you prefer to see where your characters will take you?

I have a rough idea of where I’m going but love nothing more than when the characters take over. I especially love when characters arrive that I hadn’t planned. In my most recent novel, Through the Barricades, the historical that one you mentioned, some of my characters just arrived into the story and took up residence. One, Lily, an orphan child, became my favourite. Patrick, a dark and angry rebel with an inner vulnerability was another favourite. Neither was he planned.

I have to enjoy writing my books. A surprise for me is as important as a surprise for my readers. Plus, if I’m surprised, I feel my readers are more likely to be.

Writing is a solitary process. Do you have a routine so that you don’t get completely lost in the world(s) you’re creating?

Well, I do find that I have to tear myself away. Sometimes I get so caught up in writing, I realise I have forgotten an appointment or am very late for one. I hate to have too many days on the horizon where I won’t get to write as much as I’d like. I find that very frustrating! I love living two lives – real and fictional. And I love the escape that fiction offers.

5 questions with Denise Deegan

Your work has been traditionally published and self published. Can you tell us a bit about how you found each of these experiences?

Both have been adventures – and I love adventure and trying new things! The advantage of traditional publishing, as I see it, is that the books are in the bookshops which is wonderful. With self publishing you can also get your books into shops but it is a bit of a hassle.

There are also many advantages to self publishing. Authors have much greater control over all aspects of the publishing experience, which is wonderful. We have much more data on how sales are doing – on a daily and geographical basis. We can see what promotions work and what ones don’t and can respond accordingly.

In terms of the quality of the book, it can be just as good as a traditionally published one as long as the author hires top class people to work with on every aspect of the publishing experience – from editing to cover design to typesetting etc. I enjoy all aspects of self publishing from cover design, to marketing, to writing, to working with an editor to carve my story into its best shape.

Self publishing is a lot of work, yes, but traditional publishers expect authors to get very involved in their own marketing now, so no route is without that kind of time investment. Authors simply have to embrace it. And I will say I have met many, many wonderful people through social media, self publishing and through marketing my books.

One of my novels, The Accidental Life of Greg Millar was originally published by Penguin. When the rights reverted to me, I self published it. Then it was picked up by Amazon imprint, Lake Union Publishing which has been a wonderful experience. It became an international bestseller.

I love hearing what people are passionate about reading, even if they can’t narrow it down to a favourite. Which book do you wish you could thrust into the arms of strangers and demand they read it immediately?

There are so many, but I’m going for The Book Thief. I adored the characters in that book – adored and will always remember. That is saying so much. This is a book I wish I had written which is the highest compliment an author can give.

Through the Barricades is available in ebook and paperback format.

Places to buy: Amazon | Book Depository

The Accidental Life of Greg Millar is available for £1 on Kindle until the end of April.

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