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An exclusive Q&A with Rachel Ryan, author of Hidden Lies

We sat down with author Rachel Ryan to find out more about being a writer and the inspiration behind her chilling psychological thriller Hidden Lies . . .


Tell us a bit about Hidden Lies and what inspired you to write it

I knew I wanted to read an atmospheric, compelling suspense novel set in modern Dublin. I’m a big walker – I walk for hours around the city at night – and there can be something really eerie about urban streets in winter in particular. Part of the inspiration behind Hidden Lies was a desire to write a thriller in that setting. I was inspired by authors like Ruth Ware, Stephen King and Daphne du Maurier – authors who showed me how powerful sense of place can be, and how to get that eerie creeping feeling down onto the page.


Where did you first get the idea for Hidden Lies?

The idea for the plot of Hidden Lies was actually inspired by a conversation I had with my mother. I was walking home from her house at night, thinking about the stories she’d been telling me, and I had what I suppose you’d call a light-bulb moment – a spine-tingling moment when the story came to me in a flash, and I saw the opening pages of the novel take shape in front of me. Hidden Lies is a domestic thriller, about family and love and secrets, and so the plot deals with some heavy themes. But at the same time, it’s a page-turner. I knew when I sat down to write it that I wanted to write a page-turner.


Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Since I was a little girl. I wrote ‘novels’ in school copybooks from a very young age. I still have a novel that I wrote at about ten years old. It’s about a girl called Alana who finds a magic pearl on a beach and ends up visiting an underwater world full of interesting sea creatures.


What was the most difficult part of writing the book, and the most rewarding?

I find the editing process to be simultaneously the most difficult and the most rewarding step. Editors force you to step outside your work and look at it from a distance, which is extremely challenging, but necessary. Perhaps the part I most enjoy is writing first drafts. That’s when I can achieve what some people refer to as flow state, when the words just spill from my fingertips. That’s when I’m getting to know my characters and my story.


Where do you find inspiration for your characters?

My characters tend to walk into my head quite fully formed. I can always see them vividly – it’s like mentally meeting someone. Then I have to spend some time with them, getting to know them. Most of what I learn about my characters doesn’t end up on the page.


What’s your favourite crime novel?

Impossible question to answer! So many spring to mind, but I’ll just choose the one I’m re-reading at the moment – Erin Kelly’s He Said/She Said. I absolutely love this novel. It’s brilliantly executed, wonderfully written, and full of genuinely surprisingly twists – a masterclass in how to do a thriller.


What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

My first answer is the one that all writers give: I love to read. But it feels the most pertinent, particularly as I wrote Hidden Lies on the heels of the coronavirus pandemic, when lockdown cut me off from most of the other things I love. Meeting friends in coffee shops, going hiking and getting out in nature, ambling around Dublin’s city centre and idly window-shopping – all of a sudden I couldn’t do any of the things I took for granted. Couldn’t go swimming, couldn’t go camping, couldn’t meet friends for a drink and a dance. But I could still read. I could still pick up a book and be transported to another time and place. For me, that feeling of being transported is what makes reading magic. I love film, I love theatre, but I don’t find any other narrative art form as utterly immersive as reading. That’s why, despite all my varied interests and hobbies, when someone asks me what I enjoy doing, ‘reading’ is the first word that springs to my lips.


Hidden Lies is out now in paperback, ebook and audio – find out more below.