Derry author Claire Allan releases ‘tense, pacey’ thriller ‘The Nurse’

Author Claire Allan’s new thriller is exploring the intricacies of a discussion that has grown increasingly louder across society in recent times.

In ‘The Nurse,’ the Derry woman explores the sometimes controversial and uncomfortable issues surrounding the safety of women - do they feel safe, why don’t they feel safe and who is responsible for ensuring they are? - the role and views of men in a changing world and the disturbing world of incel forums - a dark, online world of hate by young men describing themselves as ‘involuntarily celibate’.

Claire, a self-confessed ‘Twitter addict’ also looks at how little control we have on the Internet and how something we do on there can spiral catastrophically.

This is all wrapped around an ‘edge-of-your seat’ twisting thriller - set in Derry - and which was described by renowned author Marian Keyes as ‘tense, pacey and unputdownable’. ‘The Nurse’ of the title is young woman Nell Sweeney, who has led an ordinary life and walks to and from her work in the hospital, all while believing no harm can befall her. Until one day she is taken. Her family and friends, paralysed with fear and learning things about Nell they never knew, search for her. But someone has a secret and if she isn’t found soon, someone ‘will make sure she isn’t the last woman to disappear’.

Derry author Claire Allan and her latest book The Nurse.

The book, which was released yesterday, has been receiving rave reviews and speaking to the ‘Journal’, Claire said the idea for the story was ignited from a post on an ‘incel’ board that was widely shared on Twitter. In the post, the writer recommends other men try following women to make them feel afraid.

The post led Claire to research incel boards, where she saw the ‘reality’ of those who engage in this women-blaming, hating behaviour and justify it to each other.

“I was also looking at how we’re all fascinated by Instagram and Tik Tok and how people want things to go viral. And then also, how easy it is to keep going when you’re getting validation for what you’re saying and doing. Things can also spread very quickly beyond your control. So while he (one of the main characters in the book) is not a particularly nice character, he isn’t in control of the situation - and he initially goes into it to try and feel powerful.

The story was a ‘dark one’ to write and Claire’s research led her into the disturbing world of incels. But while these are people behind a screen, they are also living among us, in plain sight.

“Any woman who is on social media knows that there’s this culture there. Many of us have had rape threats and it’s almost normalised. And when you go on the incel boards - it’s the most bizarre thing, I thought they were taking a hand at first. But as I was reading it, I saw they were being serious and the more you read and the darker it gets, you see that they have bought into this ideology and they just have this hatred for women. They see a loss of power and identity and don’t feel in control.”

Claire also wanted to look at the other side - what is leading to these views and the impact of the discussion on women’s safety on other men.

“You have women who are saying they should be able to walk down the street and feel safe and you also have men saying that they should be able to walk down the street alone and not be deemed a predator, just because they are a man.”

Claire told how she sees misogyny on social media platforms like Twitter and ‘people who are so righteous and invested in their own, obviously really bad, sexist takes’.

“They feel really aggrieved by the fact women are speaking up and I wanted to try and look at these characters and where they’re coming from and what would cause it. I studied ethics in my degree and it’s going back to asking that question of ‘do we, as women, have a responsibility for our own safety too?’ You feel that by asking that question you are betraying the sisterhood.

“But, realistically, it is not an ideal world and we have to protect ourselves. In an ideal world., we should be able to do what we want and it doesn’t matter. But the reality is, it does matter and it is not going to change overnight. That’s a very difficult conversation to have publically.

“I’m all for pushing feminist ideology but I’d still say to my own daughter that she’s not walking home alone. That’s the reality of what we have to do and it also adds to that ongoing discussion. I wanted people to look at it from those angles and - I didn’t want it to sound like I was saying women have all responsibility - but we have to be realistic and I wanted to bring that into the open. I also wanted to show how quickly something that you might think is a bit of craic online can get out of hand. You cannot control what you put online.”

As well as the relevant discussion on safety, the book, adds Claire, is also a ‘really good thriller’ and is also there to entertain readers. There are important plots and subplots, -such as the lives and relationship of Nell’s parents- which add to the tension, fear and sense of discomfort.

“The brilliant thing about writing thrillers is that it’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle. I don’t plan things massively in advance. I sort of, throw a few ideas out there and might have a few ideas of what might happen. Then you find the piece that fits, it all comes together and is the most thrilling thing.”

The Nurse is out now and Claire will be signing copies in Waterstones Foyleside, tomorrow March 19 at 2pm.