As a youngster, I read Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, The Bobbsey Twins and myriad other middle-grade mystery novels as if gobbling chocolate.
When I virtually met Steve O’Farrell and became aware of his first novel, Simone LaFray and The Chocolatiers’ Ball, it immediately hit my reading list. I was not alone.
Simone has quickly become a sweet commodity. The story of a young spy growing up in her family’s Parisian patisserie is sugared with wonderful and often quirky characters, delicious treats and a delightful plot perfect for all ages.
O’Farrell first wrote Simone as a short story, but it turned into an award-winning novel. Simone has won a Moonbeam Award, New York City Big Book Award, Queer Indie Award, LitPick Award, (sm)art festivals award and was a finalist for Book Pipeline and National Indie Excellence Award.
Now, fans are highly anticipating book two: Simone LaFray and the Red Wolves of London releases in 2022.
Please meet Steve O’Farrell.
Outside of writing, can you boil your life down into two sentences?
Lifelong Marylander, married with two sons. I run a real estate appraisal and consulting business, am involved in several community organizations, and I don’t do well with idle time.
Not being a full-time writer, what compelled you to write your first novel? And what inspired Simone LaFray?
As part of my job, I write four to six hours a day, just not fiction. Over the years I developed a pretty tight writing style and always felt that a novel was in me somewhere. After reading a ton of early chapter and middle-grade books with my boys, I did try to form a few story outlines, but nothing stuck.
The inspiration for Simone LaFray came out of nowhere. We were on a big family vacation and for whatever reason, there were a lot of kids in the house. They were always spying on each other and playing a lot of hide-and-seek. One evening over dinner, my niece asked me to give her a spy name and I blurted out Simone LaFray five seconds later. She was into anything Parisian that summer, so it just fit. I couldn't shake it and about two weeks later I wrote the short story in one night. It has been quite a ride since.
What is the vision for the Simone LaFray mystery series?
The entire series will span six or seven books and there is a definite end. The first story was actually in an early chapter form, but after a lot of feedback, I decided that an expansion would be better suited in the middle grade genre. The initial plotting was enormous in scope and I soon realized that I actually had a series as opposed to a single novel. Simone LaFray and the Red Wolves of London (Book #2) will release in the spring of 2022 and I hope to release subsequent titles every eighteen months or so.
The first book has garnered considerable interest and is now being represented for a possible motion picture. Who knows where this is all going, but I’m enjoying the ride.
Second installments in a series are notoriously difficult to write. What specific challenges did you have?
Great question. After finishing the first book, I spent six months writing a second book by the seat of my pants with no real outline. It was a complete disaster and I ended up scrapping all of it. Just before deleting the file, the weight of a second installment sunk in. Second installments need to expand the protagonist’s world, build the stakes for the over-arching conflict, and leave the reader wanting more. The trick is allowing the hero to cross the goal line, but not necessarily spike the ball. It is a delicate balance.
All writers talk about process. How would you describe yours?
As I wasted six months trying to be a pantster, I’m clearly not that. Closer to a plotster, but not in a traditional manner. With each book, I have a clear idea of how they start and end. I then form three or four high notes that I want the impending story to contain. These can be actions, character epiphanies, or even changes in setting. The real chore is connecting all of these into a coherent, compelling plot and laces the start to the finish.
Where are your books available and how do people follow you?
The books are available just about everywhere in both print and e-form. We are considering Audible versions, which should be available later in 2022. The international distribution has been quite successful with the first book reaching No. 1 statuses around the globe. You can follow me on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and Goodreads.
www.brandylanepublishers.com (Publisher website)