Monday, January 25, 2010

Siobhan Cunningham's Penance List

Siobhan C Cunningham was born in Surrey, educated in Berkshire and has her roots firmly planted in County Wicklow Ireland, She lives in London with her Artist daughter Scarlett Raven.

A former model, she was once married to acclaimed musician Raf Ravenscroft, whose stellar career included providing the saxophone solo for Gerry Rafferty'S 'Baker Street' and the Pink Floyd.

Cunningham has worked extensively in both the music and sport industries, notably for Chelsea Football Club and the management company responsible for the careers of the likes of David Beckham. After a five year stint with horseracing's elite at The Jockey Club, and 10yrs of writing in her spare time, she decided to focus on her passion for writing full time.

Having crossed the paths of two psychotic killers (thankfully unscathed), witnessed the wrath of misguided religion and the abuse of money, sex, drugs, fame and power first hand, she was drawn to write The David Trilogy of thriller novels - The Penance List, Unfinished Business and For My Sins.

The Penance List is being adapted to film, and  will be a slick, glossy Basic Instinct style movie.

Respite from the suspense of her thriller novels comes in the form of her Ginormous Joe children’s picture book series. A humorous, loving, good-wins-over-bad look at life through the eyes of a big white, fluffy, huggable, dog called Joe. Her artist daughter, Scarlett, contributed the stunning artwork.

Siobhan, you're a busy lady. When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Babysitting my siblings; being the eldest of five children I started creating night-time stories for them from the age of 8yrs. Having three brothers, the stories had to be pretty lavatorial, crash bang wallop action humor to keep them entertained, giggling. Have been writing my current thriller series for the past 10yrs.
The Children’s picture books started as respite from the blood and gore of the thrillers, and to be able to collaborate with my artist daughter. It is good to be able to help rescue dogs groups by allocating a royalty share.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
My main goal is to entertain, drag the reader into another world, escape for a while. I worked for 8yrs in the music to film industry, so I write with film in mind. I write novels for movies.
The messages within the Thrillers:  good always wins over evil, abusers leave children alone, there is a backlash, the power of passion, women should not to take their romantic life too seriously,  and evil crosses the paths of normal people too.
The messages with the Children’s books: good always wins over evil, treat animals well,  love, care for each other, and accomplish goals.

Briefly tell us about your book(s).
25yrs ago my path crossed that of a serial rapist killer, luckily I got away unscathed, but I remember looking into his eyes and wondering how he had come to be so calm, powerful, cold, indifferent to his actions, to the carnage he caused. How had this animal been created? He looked like a clean cut, handsome mummy’s boy. He could have been a timid bank clerk or scout leader. He had a mother, a sibling a childhood, a life. How could the police not have caught him earlier? I wrote The David Trilogy about a cherubic altar boy who, due to the actions of his peers, teachers, priests, became a cruel warp of everything we hold dear. We hate him but understand him. The lead female is an honest, hardworking, normal, struggling with life, contemporary woman – evil can cross anyone’s path. Passion is powerful.

The thrillers are pretty intense to write; as respite I needed something to work on in-between each book. I had the pleasure of meeting Joe, a rescued Pyrenees Mountain Dog found dying on the streets of Dallas, he recuperated with us and inspired love, courage and laughter in our lives. I write the books in honor of him, a share of royalties goes to saving other dogs like him (SPIN Rescue). I also get to work with my talented daughter who produces the artwork in between her gallery shows (contemporary oils).

What’s the hook for the trilogy?

The power of love, passion, religion, and the carnage it can cause.

How do you develop characters? Setting?
They are based on those that have come into my life. Once I start on the basic skeletal outline the story and characters write themselves in directions I didn’t know existed. It sometimes feels as if I have been taken over by a spirit/ghost. But I guess that happens to many writers, the books write themselves.
As I write with film in mind, I have to be able to close my eyes and see, smell, feel, taste, hear the scene. I think that is why film directors like my work, they see it too.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?
David is the most charming, hypnotic, addictive of characters, But I have a soft spot for one of the sub characters, a camp hairdresser, Anton de Menton, who makes us giggle with his camp antics, relaxing us amongst the fear.

Having read The Pennance List, I agree that David is hypnotic. I had to continue reading to see where this tormented character went next. He held me hostage, I suppose.
Ginormous Joe is a wonderful, huggable, arm stretching hug of a character, he brings a tear to your
eye and joy to your soul.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
Just reading the manuscript over and over again trying to make sure I haven’t dropped any stitches of the complicated story. Every few pages some form of action must occur, keeping the readers on their toes.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?
I have a chatty writing style, direct and shocking. I guess that is me as a person…… shocking, no messing around with polite chat. Life is too short, get to the point.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
Totally. I need authenticity with a touch of fantasy.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve even had.
'' A masterful, dark, suspenseful, psychological thriller, expertly exploiting the tensions between the erotic and the macabre, wonderful dialogue, the characterization is phenomenal! '' - '' Intense, hard-hitting, forceful, narrative, about as powerful as anything I've seen, writing doesn't get much better than this. This book is hard to ignore, impossible to put down. ''

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
A wonderful 80yr old lady neighbor had been asking to read The Penance List manuscript. I was nervous to let her as I thought it a little explicit, risqué for her very sweet Christian Miss Marple type soul. Eventually I could put her off no longer. I admitted that it was best she did not read it, it was a little x rated, I didn’t want to embarrass her. She promptly shook her head, dragged me into the garden, behind a tree and whispered into my ear that ‘what anyone does behind closed doors in their own bedroom is their own business, I have a whole library of such books in my bedroom… ‘

What are your current projects?
Completing the second book of The David Trilogy, Unfinished Business, am dreading finishing the third book For My Sins, I love my characters too much to let them go…. (Message to self; - get a life!)
In talks with film directors and producers re the adaptation of The Penance List. Fascinating learning the way film writers work, how to cut a 400 page novel to 100 page screenplay, how the Director sees each scene, what he gets about my characters and what he doesn’t get. Amazing to see.
Completing ‘Ginormous Joe’ book two, where he falls in love. Ahh!.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Siobhan, I wish you the best with all your writing and film endeavors. Keep us posted about their releases.

Susan Whitfield, author of The Logan Hunter Mystery Series

No comments: