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Liz in a top ten list with John Le Carre, Lee Child and Stephen King

Liz finds herself on a top ten list with John Le Carre, Lee Child and Stephen King in Publishers Weekly.

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Unraveling Oliver
Liz Nugent. S&S/Scout, Aug. 22

A #1 bestseller in the author’s native Ireland and winner of the Irish Book Award’s Crime Novel of the Year, Nugent’s debut will remind many of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Publishers Weekly

Liz got a starred and boxed review in Publishers Weekly

Liz got a starred and boxed review in Publishers Weekly – ‘outstanding first novel’

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Not everyone murders people in their sleep

Liz: ‘I find it relatively easy to get into the mindset of sociopathic characters’

Crime has become a really broad genre in recent years, and whereas it used to mean police/ detective procedural, now it encompasses so much more. Thrillers, psychological suspense, spy novels, domestic noir, cosy crime, mystery, courtroom drama and the “whydunnit” are all sub-genres within crime. The spectrum is very broad and the standard varies hugely.
I have always been interested in the psychology of killers. What makes them tick and how they deal with the horror of what they have done. Three books which were hugely influential were John Banville’s The Book of Evidence, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Sebastian Faulks’ Engleby. All three books delved into the personality of the killers, their motivations and their coping mechanisms.

I used to work on RTÉ’s Fair City and one day in a story meeting, we were discussing a character who had just killed somebody and I insisted that he must be extremely distressed and I said aloud “You know the way when you dream you’ve murdered somebody and you wake up in the horrors?” Everyone just stared at me and that was when I realised that not everyone murders people in their sleep. I regularly have dreams in which I have to deal with the emotion of having killed somebody, though funnily enough, I never dream of the action of the murder, just the guilt and the fear in the aftermath. The relief when I wake from those nightmares is immense. So when I’m writing from the point of view of a murderer, I almost feel like it’s from personal experience. Har har.

In real life, I am a pacifist and actively avoid confrontation, so I’m not sure from where this murderous side of my psyche comes, but I hope it has given me an edge when writing psychopaths and sociopaths. I feel that committing these horrendous acts must strip one of an element of one’s humanity. I believe that killing another human being out of anger or frustration or jealousy must cause a fracture in one’s emotional structure.

Character always comes first for me. I must know my protagonist inside out before I write a single word. I will know their accent, tone, political opinions, fears, hopes, vulnerabilities and what they like to watch on TV. I don’t necessarily have to put any of these details in the book, but they are very useful background.

I find it relatively easy to get into the mindset of sociopathic characters like Oliver in Unravelling Oliver and Lydia in Lying in Wait. There is something quite liberating about writing from a point of view that is entirely selfish and without emotional connections, because they can say what they think without filtering it to see what might be acceptable to society. They are talking to themselves (and the reader). I do also try to tell the story from the point of view of those surrounding these characters, because while the killers try to justify their behaviour, I need to contrast it with the devastation caused.

I am constantly intrigued by the nature vs nurture argument. I prefer not to believe that people are born evil and so in the case of each of these characters, I gave them a background or childhood incident which could explain the emotional fractures within.

A lot of people have traumatic events in their early lives. The vast majority of them manage to overcome these obstacles and move on to live fulfilling lives. What separates Oliver and Lydia from us is that, when faced with decisions, they make terrible, terrible choices whether on the spur of the moment, or as part of a grand plan. These choices are made out of desperation and have far-reaching and devastating consequences for those around them.

I think the timeline and the setting of a book are vitally important elements of storytelling. Both Lying in Wait, and my forthcoming novel Skin Deep are mostly set in the 1980s. I grew up in that decade and it was a time of great threat. The rise in popularity of the far-right is scary now, but in the 1980s, there was the constant threat of nuclear war, both the Pope and Ronald Reagan survived assassination attempts and John Lennon was shot dead on a New York street. Malcolm MacArthur murdered a nurse Bridie Gargan, who was innocently sunbathing in the middle of the day in the Phoenix Park. Ann Lovett, a 14-year-old girl, died alone giving birth in a grotto, presumably because she was too afraid to tell anybody. I was a few months older than her.

On a personal level, we had a creepy neighbour who used to climb over our back wall and steal clothes from the washing line. He also held my brothers and sisters at knifepoint one night, so I grew up with a general feeling of insecurity, as if nobody could really be safe. I was pretty much scared the whole time. I thought I was going to be killed.

I am often asked about the rise of Irish female crime writers in recent years. Maybe Tana French and Alex Barclay opened the doors for the rest of us, and as writer Jane Casey says, women are more attuned to threat. We are the ones looking over our shoulders, making sure that we have our keys in our hands, texting each other to make sure we got home safely.

If there is a difference between the way men and women write, I’m afraid I don’t see it. Writing is not and never has been a competition between the sexes. All genders are capable of great work and terrible work. Our approach is as diverse as the human race allows. Tall people don’t write differently to short people and so it is with men and women. We each apply our imagination to the page and some of us are lucky enough to get published. What a wonderful world.

The Irish Times

NEW YORK POST – Debut novels create a frenzy at BookExpo

A rugby-like scrum for advance copies of six debut novels at the end of the presentation on Buzz Books was so frenzied that one bookseller wondered, “Is this a fire hazard?”

Editors are betting that, based on word of mouth, these under-promoted “sleepers” catch fire and climb best-seller lists.

Among the Buzz Books, Liz Nugent’s “Unraveling Oliver” was already a No. 1 best-seller in her native Ireland — and Jackie Cantor, a senior editor at Simon & Schuster/Scout Press, hopes the book takes off following its August US release.

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Nugent’s main character is a “sociopath” who knocks his wife into a coma.

Says Cantor: “Nugent somehow manages to make her male antagonist into someone readers can care about.”

The BookExpo for the trade ends Friday as BookCon, also at the Javits Center, opens its doors to the general public on Saturday and Sunday.

KEITH J. KELLY – New York Post

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY – BookExpo 2017: A Secret Life: Liz Nugent

BookExpo 2017: A Secret Life: Liz Nugent

“Every person has a secret interior life that’s unknowable to their spouse, parents, siblings, friends,” says Liz Nugent. “You may think you know your mother, but you can be sure she has a whole side to her you’ll never know anything about. Most peoples’ interior selves are pretty mundane, but occasionally, you’ll find some people have a very dark seam inside that’s only unleashed when they’re trapped, or forced into an extreme situation.”

A dark secret life is at the center of Nugent’s debut novel, Unraveling Oliver (Scout, Aug.), her first book to be published in the U.S. and a BookExpo Adult Buzz book. When it was originally published in Ireland in 2014, it became a #1 bestseller and won Best Crime Fiction at the Irish Book Awards. The novel has been translated into seven languages.

The Oliver of the title is a handsome, charismatic children’s book author. He lives a privileged life in a Dublin suburb until the evening he beats his wife so viciously that she’s left in a coma. In the aftermath, as everyone tries to make sense of the attack, Oliver begins to tell his story, as do those he’s come in contact with over the past five decades.

Nugent admits to being fascinated by very flawed men. She finds her inspiration for these bad figures in the obituary sections of the Irish Times, Daily Telegraph, and New York Times. “Obituaries are incredibly useful,” she says. “The whole Nazi element in the book, as well as a pivotal character, came about after I read the obituary of the man who’d been prefect general of Vichy France.”

“Novelist” is Nugent’s third career. In her first, as stage manager for the Irish dance company Riverdance, she toured the world for 15 years. In 2003, she became an associate writer on the longest-running Irish TV soap opera Fair City. In writing for soaps, says Nugent, “you need to make sure people will tune in the next day, so you have to leave each episode on a knife edge. And that’s what I’ve tried to do with each chapter in Unraveling Oliver.”

Nugent took a two-year leave of absence to write the novel. Even after its success, she returned to Fair City, but she lasted only four months. “It felt like every day was a day away from [book] writing,” she says. Writing days are precious to Nugent, as she can type with only one hand. A childhood accident left her with dystonia, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable and painful muscle spasms. As a result she could no longer use her right hand to write. “That’s why I’m such a slow writer and why my novels are short. It costs me physically to write. But it’s certainly not right to complain considering all the writers like Shakespeare and Jane Austen who wrote with one hand and a feather,” she says.

Nugent may be used to spending her life behind the scenes. But she’ll be in the foreground for the foreseeable future. Scout will publish her second novel, Lying in Wait, which was also a #1 bestseller in Ireland, in May 2018.

Today, 10–10:45 a.m. Liz Nugent will participate in the Adult Author’s Buzz Panel at the Uptown Stage.

Today, 11–11:45 a.m. Nugent will sign at the S&S booth (1420).

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Liz at Listowel Writer’s Week

Liz loved being part of Listowel Writer’s Week, being interviewed by Rick O’Shea alongside fellow writers Sinéad Crowley and William Ryan, bumping into writer and actor Alan Cumming and signing books for reader Claire Bridle.

Liz a Book Expo America Book Buzz Author

Liz was selected as a Book Expo America Book Buzz Author and was interviewed at BEA in the Javits Center NYC on 1st June with fellow Book Buzz authors ( l to r) Ayobami Adebayo, Chloe Benjamin, AJ Finn, Brendan Mathews and Gabriel Tallent. Afterwards she signed books and chatted with readers.

Entertainment Weekly

Read a chilling excerpt from Liz Nugent’s Unraveling Oliver

Each year, a small handful of books are selected as “Buzz Books” at the BookExpo of America conference — a sign that a book, like Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood or Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, has the makings of a hit.

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This year, Liz Nugent’s Unraveling Oliver is one of those books. Already a best-seller in Ireland, the psychological thriller follows a couple — handsome, charismatic Oliver and his wife Alice — who have co-written a best-selling series of children’s books. But one night, after Alice approaches Oliver about something he’s hidden from his past, he uncharacteristically loses control, evidenced by the book’s propulsive opening line.

Below, EW can reveal an exclusive excerpt from the book in advance of its publication.

Unraveling Oliver hits shelves Aug. 22, 2017, but is available for pre-order now.


Excerpt from Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Chapter 1

OLIVER

I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her. She just lay on the floor, holding her jaw. Staring at me. Silent. She didn’t even seem to be surprised.

I was surprised. I hadn’t planned to do it. Usually when you hear about this kind of thing, it is the 1950s, and the husband comes home drunk to his slovenly wife from the pub and finds that his dinner is cold. On the contrary, it was November 12, 2011, a wintry Saturday evening on a south Dublin avenue, and Alice had prepared a delicious meal: lamb tagine, served on a bed of couscous, with pita bread and a side dish of mint yogurt. Though the lamb was a tad lukewarm by the time she presented it, I really couldn’t fault it. I had washed the meal down with two glasses of Sancerre while Alice prepared the raspberry roulade for serving. I certainly wasn’t drunk.

But now, here she lay, the lower half of her body nearly hidden behind the legs of our mahogany dining table, her arms, head, and torso curled inward like a question mark. How had she fallen into that shape? There must have been considerable force behind my closed fist. If the glass had been in my hand, would I have stopped and put it down before I hit her? Or would I have smashed it into her face? Would it have shattered on contact and torn her pale skin? Could I have scarred her for life? It’s very hard to know. The words that come to mind are “circumstances beyond our control.” I emphasize the word “our” because, although I should not have done it, she really should not have provoked me.

The phone rang. Maybe I should have ignored it, but it might have been important.

“Hello?”

“Oliver. It’s Moya. How are things?”

These rhetorical questions irritate me. “How are things,” indeed.

Sorry, Moya, I’ve just punched Alice in the face, and she’s lying on the floor. And we’ve had a marvelous dinner.

Of course, I didn’t say that. I made some ham-fisted attempt at an excuse and bade her farewell. I waited for the reciprocal adieu.

There was a moment’s silence and then:

“Don’t you want to know how I am? Where I am?”

I was short and to the point. “No.”

Another silence. And then, whispered, “Oh, right, okay, is Alice there?”

Go away, you stupid, irritating woman.

I didn’t say that either. I told her that now was not a good time. She tried to inveigle me into a conversation, prattling about her new life in France. Even amid the turmoil, I could tell that she wanted me to be jealous. Bloody Moya. I ended the conversation politely but firmly.

I thought that the decent thing for me to do was to leave the house immediately. Not permanently, you understand. I thought there was more chance of Alice getting up off the floor if I wasn’t looming over her. I went to get my coat from its peg in the hall. It was a little difficult to fasten the buttons. My hands suddenly seemed to be too large for my gloves.

Two hours later, I was on my third brandy in Nash’s. Nervously I buttoned and unbuttoned my shirt cuffs. It is a habit from childhood, a thing I do when I am distressed. Even John-Joe commented on my rattled demeanor when he served me. Brandy would not have been my normal tipple. But I had had a shock, you see. Now I was drunk.

I wanted to phone Alice to see if she was all right, but I had left my cell phone in the house in my hurried exit, and I thought that perhaps borrowing somebody’s phone would make a bigger deal of the situation than it warranted. Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was serious. A significant error of judgment had been made. She should not have ended up on the floor.

I am aware that I am not the easiest of people. Alice has told me so. I have no friends, for example. I used to, many years ago, but that really didn’t work out. We drifted apart and I let them go—voluntarily, I suppose. Friends are just people who remind you of your failings. I have several acquaintances. I have no family either to speak of. Not in the sense that matters.

Over the years, Alice has never pried, has never been too curious. In fact, I would describe her as habitually obedient with just an occasional rebellion. I am not, have never been, violent.

I went to the bar and bought a packet of cigarettes. Strong ones. I was worried that my hands were still unsteady. Isn’t brandy supposed to help at a time like this? Or is that an old wives’ tale? Old wives.

Outside in the “beer garden” (a yard with half a roof beside the front door), I lit my first cigarette in years. Barney Dwyer, a neighbor from the Villas, approached from the public bar. Barney spent more time in the beer garden than inside the pub.

“Thought you quit?” he said.

“I did.”

“Jaysus,” he said, a swagger in his voice, sucking on a Rothmans, “they couldn’t break me.”

Here we go. Barney prided himself on his forty-a-day habit. When the smoking ban was introduced, most of us did our best to quit. I am proud to say that I was the first to succeed. I became known as the man with a “will of iron.” Barney, on the other hand, made no such attempt. If Barney had never smoked, he would have started the day the ban was introduced. A contrary bugger if ever there was one. Thin head, big ears.

“Welcome back,” he said.

“I’m not back. I’m just having the one. It’s been a bad day.”

“Jaysus, Oliver, it’s never just the one. You’re back on the smokes. Face it.”

I threw my almost-smoked cigarette on the ground. Stamped on it. Tossed the packet containing nineteen cigarettes at Barney.

“Keep them,” I said. “Go on, kill yourself.”

My wife had finally brought out the worst in me. It was most unexpected. I had always been fond of her, in my way. She was a marvelous cook, for example, after all the gourmet cuisine courses I made sure she attended. Also, she could be very athletic in bed, which was nice. It is terribly sad to think of such things now, considering her current state.

We met at the launch of a book she had illustrated back in 1982. My agent wanted me to meet her. He had suggested that she could do the illustrations for a children’s book I’d written that he was pushing around to publishers. I resisted the idea of illustrations initially. They would just distract from my text, I thought, but my agent, I admit it, was right. The drawings made my books far more marketable. We were introduced and I like to think there was an immediate . . . something. “Spark” is not the right word, but an acknowledgment of sorts. Some people call that love at first sight. I am not so naïve.

Neither of us was in the first flush of youth. Both in our late twenties, I think. But she was lovely in a soft way. I liked her quietness and she made little or no demands on me. She just accepted whatever attention I gave her and then withdrew into the background without complaint when I didn’t require her presence.

The wedding happened very quickly. There was nothing to be gained by waiting around. Her frail mother and half-witted brother stood behind us at the altar. No family on my side, of course. We didn’t bother with the palaver of a hotel reception. We had a rowdy meal in a city-center bistro owned by a former college friend, Michael. Barney was there. Back then I quite liked him. He was very emotional at the wedding, more than anybody else. One couldn’t blame him, I suppose.

We rented a spacious flat in Merrion Square for a few years. I insisted on a big place because I needed privacy to write. I can only write behind a locked door.

Those were good times. We made a bit of money when nobody else did. It made financial sense that we would collaborate on what was becoming quite a successful series. During the day we would retreat to our separate corners to work. Me, producing my books. She, cleverly matching pictures to my words. She was good at it too. Her work flattered mine appropriately.

I became quite well-known as a critic and occasional scribe for the weekend newspapers and for an infrequent guest spot on televised talk shows. In those days, everyone was more discreet and low-key about their achievements, their successes. Not like current times—I can’t tell you how often in the last decade I was approached about partaking in a “reality” show. Heaven forbid. Alice avoided all of that, which suited me really. She didn’t like the limelight, and she underestimated her own contribution to the success of my books, insisting that my work was more important, that she was just a doodler. She was timid and didn’t even want it known that we were a husband-and-wife team in case she would be “forced onto television.” Rather sweet, and it meant that for a lot of the time I could continue my life as a seemingly single man. It had its rewards. Truthfully, she couldn’t have been a better partner.

Alice’s mother died suddenly in 1986, at the end of our fourth year of marriage. Thanks be to God. I can’t stand old people. Can’t stand it even more now that I am getting to be one.

I used to make excuses to avoid visiting her and her doily-draped furniture. Used to pretend to be too busy to eat with them when she came to visit us. It was never pleasant to witness her struggling with her dentures, the half-wit dribbling by her side. Her death was a mixed blessing. We got the house. But we also got Alice’s imbecilic brother. The house is quite a pile on Pembroke Avenue. The brother goes by the name of Eugene.

Alice begged me to let her keep him. Until now, that was the biggest upset in our marriage. Bad enough to have a child, but this was a twenty-seven-year-old, two-hundred-pound dolt we were talking about. Eventually I had him accommodated in a home for the “mentally handicapped,” or “special needs,” or whatever they are calling them this year, at considerable personal expense.

When we got engaged, I made it very clear that children were not on the agenda. Well, I said I didn’t want children, and she agreed. I should have got that in writing. She must have been extraordinarily besotted with me to sacrifice something so fundamental to her in order to marry me. Maybe she thought I would change my mind, because it seems that lots of men do. Or maybe she knew that if I didn’t marry her, I’d marry the next quiet one that came along.

Of course, five years into our marriage, Alice began to whine and grew more shrill with each passing month. I reminded her of our agreement. She claimed that at the time, that was what she had wanted too, but now she desperately wanted a child. I am nothing if not a man of my word.

I couldn’t depend on her to protect herself, so I took control. I made a ritual of bedtime cocoa with a little crushed pill as an added extra. Alice thought that was so romantic.

I haven’t exactly been a saint within our marriage. Women, by and large, are attracted to me, and I do not like to disappoint them. Women you would never expect. Even Moya, for God’s sake. I eventually resent the ones who try to cling.

In later years, I had begun to satisfy myself with some tarts that operated near the canal. I never objected to them, even before I became a client. They were objects of curiosity. They were cheaper and more desperate, mostly addicts with raddled bodies and ropey veins but perfectly adequate for my needs. I would order them into a shower before any congress was allowed and I always provided a new toothbrush. Some of them took it for a gift. Pathetic. They are usually too emaciated to be good-looking. One would think that they might make an effort to make themselves attractive. Alas, they were only selling their various orifices; the packaging was immaterial. But still, they held a fascination for me. After all, my mother was one, or so my father said.

Returning to the house on the night Alice pushed me too far, I fumbled with the key in the door. I stepped into the dining room. She wasn’t on the floor, thank God. She was sitting in the kitchen, nursing a mug of tea. Her hand rubbed at her face. She looked at me without affection. I noticed that her jaw was quite red on the right-hand side. No bruise. Yet. I looked at her. Smiled.

The wooden box in which I had locked away my darkest secrets lay open on the table in the hall, its lid agape, lock smashed, contents violated.

“Liar!” she said, her voice breaking.

It was clear that she intended to ruin me.

The second time I hit Alice, I just couldn’t stop. I am very sorry about that indeed. I have been in control of my life since I was eighteen years old, and to lose control is a failing. Needless to say, I am not allowed to visit her in the hospital. It is silly really. It is February 2012, so it’s been three months now. In her condition, she wouldn’t know if I was there or not.

It turns out that I am a violent man after all. It comes as a shock to me. I have been psychologically assessed. I decided to tell them almost everything. Apparently, I have been harboring bitterness, resentment, and frustration since my childhood. Now, there’s a surprise.

What will the neighbors think? What will anybody think?

I really couldn’t care less.

Copyright © 2017 by Liz Nugent. From the forthcoming book UNRAVELING OLIVER to be published by Scout Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed by permission.

Entertainment Weekly

Liz wins the Reader’s Vote

The Richard and Judy Spring 2017 Book Club has come to an end, and after delving into eight compelling novels by some truly talented authors, our followers have voted for their winner; Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent!

“To hear that my book has won the Richard and Judy Reader’s Vote is the icing on a very sweet cake because I’ve now read all of the other titles on the list and would have been very happy for any of them to win. What can I say? Richard and Judy have excellent taste! Huge thanks to the super team at WHSmith and of course, to Richard Madeley & Judy Finnigan, whose love of books has endeared them to readers and writers alike. The biggest thanks of all to the readers who took the time to read and vote. Your encouragement means everything.” – Liz Nugent

Lying in Wait is a compelling story with characters that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. Respected judge Andrew Fitzsimons and his wife Lydia have murdered a young woman named Annie Doyle and buried her in their back garden. Andrew is falling apart in the aftermath of their crime, but Lydia is calm and focused on protecting their son Laurence from the consequences. Laurence is smarter than she thinks however, and he’s soon worked out what’s buried in his parent’s garden and who it is. What happens next is a complex and twisting story of deceit, manipulation and betrayal that will leave your head spinning by the end. Judy called it ‘so macabre that at times you (almost) want to laugh’ and Richard described it as ‘darker and murkier by the page’. Our book club readers loved it too…

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“A very good book, loved the twist at the end, didn’t expect that, would recommend this book to everyone…love it xx” – Lorraine Tomlinson, Facebook

“Hey @LizzieNugent, I am so into #LyingInWait right now it has taken my weekend away from me! #SorryNotSorry #CrimeFiction #AmReading #WHSRJ” – Sian Dennis, Twitter

“Just finished this book, the ending was so good was not expecting that…Highly recommend #LizNugent #LyingInWait #RichardAndJudyBookClub” – Imem, Instagram

Congratulations to Liz, and thanks very much to everyone that voted!

The Richard and Judy Spring Book Club

Book Club questions for Lying in Wait

Lying in Wait is a dark and gripping story of obsessive love, flawed characters and the unnerving personality of a killer. While we learn from the very beginning who has killed Annie Doyle, the mystery is why did they do it? And as author Liz Nugent slowly unravels the chilling reasons behind the murder we learn just how sinister these characters truly are.

Lying in Wait is exactly the sort of book you press upon a friend after reading so that you can both discuss the twists and turns and the characters you love to hate. Print out our reading group questions and bring them along to your next book club night, or leave your answers in the comments box below to kick off the conversation online.

Liz Nugent is a radio and TV scriptwriter – do you think that affects the way that she writes her novels?

Discuss the way that the author uses 3 different narrators in the novel

Many of the characters in this novel are not particularly likeable. Do you need to be able to empathise with characters in a book to enjoy it?

Discuss how the author structures the novel to build the tension

WHSmith – Book Club