Former Derry Journal reporter Laura Lynott has used her real-life experience gained on the streets of Derry, Donegal and Dublin to craft her debut crime novel which she hopes will transform the male orientated world of fictional gangland with a woman’s touch.
‘Paper Girl’ tells the tale of reporter Grace O’Brien, who works in a tabloid newspaper in Dublin, dreaming of the day she will land that big story that will bring her success.
Laura, a mother of one, started writing the book when she was suddenly out of work just over four years ago and freelancing in Buncrana.
Her main character O’Brien, a mother who seems to be eternally single, has lost faith in men, the paper she works for The Messenger or ‘Mess’ and has resigned herself to being a size 16 wine-drinking hack with big dreams.
However, when she stumbles on the story she had waited for - a woman’s corpse in a case hidden in the mountains - she gets more than she had bargained for and winds up in too deep in the world of Dublin gangland.
O’Brien ends up falling for the wrong man and her life descends out of control with a conflict between the day job and love.
Laura, who worked for the ‘Journal’ when she first moved to Ireland in 2007, said: “I started this book more than four years ago in Donegal during a period of freelancing.
“I was on my uppers but it was summer time and I had time to gather my thoughts away from the madness of a daily newspaper and I started to think about my career so far.
I thought about all the things I’d seen and all the crimes I had covered over the years, all the characters I’d met inside and outside newsrooms - and I decided to write the book.
“I wanted to give a real interpretation of what it’s like to be a reporter today in Ireland - the dangers that can exist and the budgetary constraints to the job as the recession bit.
“I wanted a female character that women could relate to. She is a hack, yes, but she’s got flaws just like the next woman - she isn’t a robot and even though she has massive pressures at work and home, she does her best.
“I thought the whole idea of writing from a female reporter’s view of the world of gangland and her battle for success, love and to be a good mother, made an intriguing mix a lot of career women today could relate to.’
Laura, 36, has worked for the Irish Daily Mail and Irish Sun in Dublin and has freelanced for most papers in the country.
She has a lot of experience on the ground reporting crime and had covered a string of stories in Derry and Donegal during her period at the Journal.
These ranged from crime, court cases, to human interest and politics.
She is a fan of crime shows and was recently hooked on RTE’s The Fall, starring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan, who will soon appear in the movie, Fifty Shades of Grey.
“The whole concept of gangland is male driven I appreciate, but I felt women should have had more of a say in the depiction of this criminal underworld,’ Laura said about her vision for a female crime book.
“With ‘Paper Girl’, I am giving women that voice through Grace O’Brien, a reporter with guts, willing to stand up to mobsters and write about them in her bid to bring them to justice.
“I have been that woman - I have knocked on gangster’s doors, been beaten on the doorstep of one in Dublin, and I went back on another occasion when I learned to run that bit faster.
“I’ve been chased down country roads at high speed and have been followed.
“I have been in some scrapes but I feel lucky to have lived an adventure and to have caught journalism before it changed in to something else.
‘But no matter what I did, or what danger I ended up in, the stories about people were always the most important to me.
“I felt I was really doing my job when I wrote about victims of crime, those trying to get justice for murdered loved ones, or the families of missing people.
‘One of the hardest interviews I ever did was in Donegal when I worked for the ‘Journal’ and wrote about a teenager who was killed in a very vicious street attack in Derry - I just wanted to put my arms round his father and tell him it wasn’t happening, but I couldn’t.
‘These things stay with you and I put my feelings on such stories in Paper Girl to help others understand the job and to see that reporters feel these things too and that doesn’t go away.’
Reflecting on her time spent in Derry and Inishowen as a reporter - Laura’s mother Bridget Doherty hails from Buncrana, where Laura still has family - she said: ‘Inishowen and Derry were where I started writing the book so it has a special place in my heart because of that.
“As I started to write the book there, I thought back to being a kid again sitting on the beach in Buncrana when I would visit as a child with my mother and I knew I always wanted to be a writer.
“I decided sitting on the beach there just over four years ago, that that was what I was going to do, be a writer.
“That period up there helped me take control of my life again. I knew what it was like to be out of work and I wanted to determine my own future. Here I am and I hope I can encourage others in Derry and Donegal to do the same.
“I think anyone who wants to write, should start and not let anyone tell them they can’t but do it for the love, not the money as I am yet to meet a rich writer.’
And she admits openly that Derry just happens to be her favourite place on the island of Ireland, despite her home now being in Dublin, so Laura hopes Derry people read her first offering.
“Anyone in Dublin who knows me could tell you this - I love Derry. I used to visit the city with my mother all the time as a child and right up to I was an adult and I still go back, but not enough.
“I had my first night out there as a teenager and always admired the Derry people for their spirit and sense of fun.
“The city was also the first place where I attended a three-day party. I didn’t even know they existed when I lived in Manchester.
“Derry has something special about it and the Derry people, to me, are the friendliest in Ireland.
“I feel at home when I go there and one day I would love to be able to afford a home there.’
Laura got her first break in Ireland thanks to the ‘Journal’ taking her on. She mostly worked on the Inishowen news patch but enjoyed meeting and writing about Derry people.
Born in Manchester, she had dreamed of working for the ‘Journal’ as a child, after she realised she wanted to be a reporter at the age of 11.
She used to get the bus with her mother back to Buncrana after shopping trips in the ‘80s and would see the newspaper’s sign on the Buncrana Road.
“I used to look out the window and think one day I will work there - I couldn’t believe it when the paper finally answered my CV.
“I must’ve sent countless CVs to the former Editor, Pat McArt over the years, because Derry was always were I saw myself.
“I’m glad I got to work with him in the end and got to meet all the brilliant staff at the paper, which I have to say is also one of the friendliest I’ve ever worked in.”
To read Laura Lynott’s crime fiction novel, Paper Girl, log online to: Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive and the Smashwords store or Kindle.
Laura is hoping that if her book sells enough copies she will be able to make print editions.
For more information on how to access the book, or if you want to tweet the author, log on to Twitter to speak with Laura on @Ly211
Paper Girl will be released online on Monday, January 12.