Interview With Denise Deegan
Denise Deegan is an Irish novelist, screenwriter and producer, published by Penguin Random House, Hachette and Lake Union Publishing with awards from SCBWI and Publishers Weekly. Writing under the pen name, Aimee Alexander, her women’s fiction novels have become international bestsellers, translated into German, Dutch and Turkish. Her writing for Young Adults includes the much-loved contemporary trilogy, The Butterfly Novels: And By The Way, And For Your Information and And Actually. And For Your Information was nominated for an Irish Book Award and is on Coverfly’s Red List.
Denise is an award-winning screenwriter. Her short film, The Innkeeper, a comedy drama about homelessness, won The Pitch Film Fund and is currently in production. Her comedy drama, Tough Old Broad, was selected for Screen Ireland’s Spotlight Scheme, debuted on The Filmarket Hub as an “Excellent Script” and featured in Variety when it was chosen by Wscripted as an Excellent Script to be presented at Marché du Film at Festival de Cannes. Her adaptation of her YA heartbreaker, And For Information, has received Screen Ireland Screenplay Development Funding and is in development. Also in development is her TV series, Killfluencers, a high concept YA thriller.
Denise is a Top 50 ScreenCraft Finalist and a Top 25 Roadmap Finalist and has placed at AFF, Final Draft Big Break and the Academy Nicholl Fellowship. Her short film, 3 Down, won the Shedunnit Short Script Competition at WOFFF. Her radio play, The Last PTA Meeting, won the Little Wonder Radio Play Competition. Denise won the Raindance Pitching Competition, January 2021, following a general anaesthetic!
Tell us about yourself
I’m an Irish novelist and screenwriter who has been a nurse, china restorer, pharmaceutical sales rep, public relations consultant, college lecturer, novelist and screenwriter. I gave up my PR business to write novels with no agent, publisher or actual idea for a book. Luckily, I had a completed novel, agent and publisher within six months. I’m driven to write by the questions that constantly interrupt my day. Why would someone do that? What if? How would that feel?
Tell us about your books
I write about ordinary people who become extraordinary in crisis. The Accidental Life of Greg Millar is about a young woman who falls for a man who starts to act strangely. Pause to Rewind follows a single mother who, when her little boy gets leukaemia, she is forced to contact people she has been avoiding from her past. Season of Second Chances is about a woman who escapes an abusive marriage to return to her childhood village in rural Ireland with her teenage kids, where she finds community and inner strength. My historical novel, Through the Barricades, is about a young Irish woman who becomes a rebel to fight for Irish freedom and is torn between love and duty. My teen trilogy, The Butterfly Novels, are about friendship, first love and loss. Loss is a big theme for me. I write about it – and all issues – through a prism of gentle humour.
Who did you write your books for?
I write for adults and teenagers. I chose the pen name Aimee Alexander (my children’s names combined) for my adult novels and use my own name, Denise Deegan, for my teenage books. Deep down, I write for myself, to explore through story what it means to be human. I lose myself in my characters’ worlds. In that way, I live two lives, one real, one fictional.
What was your inspiration to write your books?
My teen novels came from a fictional conversation that interrupted my thoughts. It was between a teenage girl and her dad. She was angry, sarcastic but also vulnerable. I wrote it down and decided to let it take me where it would. The result? Three novels! My very first novel, All We Have Lost, was inspired by my life, a young mum trying to juggle everything. With my historical novel, Through the Barricades, I loved exploring my Irish heritage; I am a rebel at heart. Oh I also have a fun, non-fiction book called, The Little Book of Irishisms, Know the Irish Through our Words, inspired by the weird and wonderful way we speak English here, with our own unique words like bockety, banjaxed and foostering!
What do you hope to accomplish with your books?
With my novels, I want to make people think, feel and act. When I write, I live my character’s life. I hope that bringing readers on that journey will help them experience what it’s like to live in a particular person’s shoes. With The Little Book of Irishisms, I want to make people smile while understanding a little more what it means to be Irish. I love that people gift each other the book and also how it reminds some of family members who have passed.
What is the biggest takeaway readers will get from reading your books?
We all go through crises. In stepping up, we can become stronger. Even extraordinary. There is light in darkness.