Researching a novel can take us to some interesting places. Here Ruth O’Neill discusses how writing her revenge thriller Tell Me Why meant she had to delve into psychology, courtroom procedure — and torture methods.
I first realised I wanted to become a writer when my partner wrote a book as a tribute to his father’s journey to England as a refugee. He became very passionate about his writing and it made me think about a traumatic event that had happened in my life 23 years ago and I wanted to tell my story for my son. It became my first book Sunshine & Tears in 2015. Writing Sunshine & Tears was like therapy for me and helped me come to terms with what happened. Alcoholism is an under-estimated mental illness that is misunderstood by the population. There are no real resources available for sufferers and people are isolated as they struggle to overcome their addiction.
Good reviews and feedback made me proud — I enjoyed writing so much I now wanted to write another story and thought this time it would be a thriller. I published my second book Befriended, a contemporary thriller, in 2018. Great reviews and feedback continued and writing was now becoming my hobby which I do every day after work.
When I began writing my third book a psychological thriller Tell Me Why I wanted to write about a vendetta. I didn’t really know what sort of revenge I wanted to include in my story but I had a rough plan and structure in my mind. I researched different reasons why people needed to seek revenge and I found some very interesting facts. Usually a person who makes it their life aim to persecute another human being has dominant sadism personality traits, which explains why certain people are more likely to seek revenge than others. I also established that some people are motivated to seek revenge and to harm someone who has harmed them after they feel attacked, mistreated or socially rejected.
I incorporated this idea into the antagonist Max Davies in Tell Me Why and I made sure his backstory reflected the reasons behind the maltreatment he inflicts upon another. But revenge almost always comes at a price.
Some of my ideas come from real life experiences but in Tell Me Why there was a huge amount of information I had to gather. There is a court case so I had to research the correct procedure of a criminal trial. This can take a lot of time but you must have the right facts to make a book authentic. Also there is a short scene where Chinese torture is being used so I had to make sure this was delicately done and research the details of how it was done.
Tell Me Why starts with Kevin attempting to rescue Lauren. At this point readers will have no idea what the circumstances are that mean Lauren needs to be rescued. Then readers are taken back two years. Lauren goes away for a girl’s weekend with four of her best friends. The first night she is there she becomes lost. She falls upon a man Max Davies slumped over a body apparently trying to save him. Max gets accused of murder and Lauren testifies to help him. After this they become inseparable but things are not all they seem. Lauren hears Max building something in the basement — a basement he’s made clear is out of bounds. With her interest piqued she goes to investigate what Max has been doing down there. This is where her life will change forever.
About Ruth O’Neill
Ruth O’Neill grew up in the ancient Roman city of Bath in England, a beautiful peaceful city whose locations are often referred to in her first book Sunshine & Tears.
Ruth has always enjoyed helping others and is very committed to her job as a Teaching Assistant for literacy where she supports young people with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities.
Ruth has one son and two stepchildren and three delightful grandchildren. Ruth lives with her long term partner in Bristol in the south-west of England.
About Tell Me Why
Lauren Adams is just an ordinary single girl, until one split-second decision throws her life into crisis.
When she meets the handsome and intriguing Max Davies during a girls’ weekend away, she can’t believe her luck. But it soon turns out to be her biggest mistake.
Max gets accused of murder, a murder that allegedly happened on the same night he and Lauren met.
Is Max really the man she thinks he is? Is he really innocent of murder? And why does Lauren hear him late at night, building something in the basement – a basement he’s made clear is out of bounds?
Tell Me Why follows a woman who just wants to be loved, but who instead ends up in a tangled web of lies, deceit, and terror.
A chilling read you won’t stop talking about.