Annie's Book Stop of Worcester

The little bookstore that's bigger on the inside

Rory O'Brien Pic

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday Spotlight on Mystery author, Rory O’Brien. Rory grew up in New England, surrounded by books, history, and the long shadows of Poe, Hawthorne, and Lovecraft.  He is one of the three authors who will be with us at Annie’s on Small Business Saturday, November 30th. He will be signing his books at 4:00 PM.

Rory is the author of three novels: Gallows Hill and The Afflicted Girl are mysteries set in modern-day Salem, and Summerland is a thriller set in Gilded Age Newport.  When not writing, he gives tours of Salem and talks on various topics, including the witch trials.  

He currently lives in Salem, but left his heart in Rhode Island … where it was burned on a rock.   

Where can people find your work, Rory? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester –though they should totally check here first!)

Well, Annie’s Book Stop, to begin with!  Also directly from The Merry Blacksmith Press!  A few shops in Salem carry my books.  Being with a very small publisher, it’s hard to get your book on shelves, so while it saddens me to say it, Amazon is a good option.

How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?  You’ll find info on the books, and links to interviews and my occasional blog, and you can buy tickets to my walking tours.  I am also on twitter as @salemrory and instagram as rory.raven (my alter ego).

For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from The Afflicted Girl?

I write mysteries that are set in present-day Salem, Massachusetts.  My hero is a police detective and I suppose they might be loosely considered “police procedurals,” but I am not sure that quite fits.  Ultimately, I’m writing about Salem and how it does and does not measure up to its reputation as the Witch City; people come here expecting it to be Hogwarts, expecting there to be a witch and a ghost and a Balrog on every corner.  But it’s not always October here, and as much as I love Salem in October, I also wanted to look past that and see the real city tourists sometimes forget is there.  The city that is and isn’t like other places.

My detective is also slightly unusual.  I didn’t want to write about a brilliant eccentric or an unstoppable, hard-boiled terminator (I tend to find those characters a little boring, a little too easy), so I came up with an introverted neurotic.  He’s also someone who feels the weight of being a cop in Salem, in a city which is famous as a place where justice was certainly not served three hundred-plus years ago.

The Afflicted Girl uses Salem tourism as a backdrop.  The behind-the-scenes view is a lot different than most people think.  At least in my opinion.

What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?

Most of my research is just observing, just keeping my eyes open and wondering how dots could connect (not necessarily how they necessarily do connect, mind you).  Because I want the books to depict the Salem that I know, I try to stick to a very straightforward just-the-facts-ma’am style, which I think (or I at least hope) suits the story.

The afflicted girl cover

How important has the New England setting been to your writing?

The books are set in a real city, and it’s important to me to get the setting right, to make sure it’s recognizable to me and the reader as the real Salem, not just some made-up city that happens to have that name.  I can’t say that the book takes place in Salem and then have skyscrapers downtown, and mob bosses fighting for control.  That’s not depicting what I see.  And while many know it as The Witch City, and I have heard it said that witches RUN the city (!), that’s not true.  They are part of the fabric of the city, but only part.

New England (and Salem itself) is an area loaded down with its own history, and people who live here or visit here seem to be very aware of that.  And a good mystery novel is automatically about history, big or small – if you have a body in the library on page one, the rest of the book is about what ked up to that, the immediate history.

What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?

I do walking tours here in town, so I am usually reading and trying to find new wrinkles for them.  I will never learn enough about history.  I read a lot, but not fast enough.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?

That the important thing is to write – get the work done, pile up the pages.  You can go back and fix everything later but first, you need to have something to work with.  So just get the writing done. It’s not impossible.  It can be work, but it’s not beyond you.   Don’t build it up in your mind into an impossibility that you can never achieve.  Just get to work on it.  You’ll be okay.

What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?

I tend to go somewhere to write, like a coffee shop or bookstore, probably because that usually helps click my brain into work mode – “I am not hanging around at home, I came here to get this done.”

I try not to have anything that I “need” because I don’t want to get wrapped up in “stuff.”  I don’t want to NEED a special pen or notebook or wear my lucky socks or something.  Because too many times I have seen those props become excuses – “I am a Real Writer because I have a bust of Shakespeare on my desk!  I simply can’t get any writing done today because I forgot my lucky pen!”


Thanks so much for being with us today, Rory. We look forward to seeing you here at 4:00 PM on Small Business Saturday, November 30th.

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