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Quickfire author Q&A: Emerald O'Brien

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

Emerald O'Brien is the author of 20 thrillers, including a number of standalone psychological thrillers.

She's been publishing for eight years and says she uses real events in her life as the inspiration for her stories.

With her latest novel, I Heard You Scream published this week, she explained why she doesn't keep to a daily writing word count, how she plots her stories and how an experience when she was only ten compelled her towards a career as a writer.

Where do you live?

In a city an hour east of Toronto, Ontario in Canada.

How many books have you published?

20 as of April 21, 2022.

How long have you been writing?

For as long as I’ve been able to write, and publishing for 8 years.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about ten years old, when I visited my local bookstore and saw an author signing books there. I realized it was a career, and that I could have the opportunity to give people some of the amazing experiences books have given to me.

Do you write full-time?

I’ve been writing full-time for about four years now.

Who are your favourite authors?

Stephen King has always been an inspiration to me. I also love reading books by Mo Hayder, Chevy Stevens, Kiersten Modglin, Meghan O'Flynn, and Justin Cronin to name a few.

What does your writing day look like?

I never set a target amount of time or words to write. I sit at my desk with the goal of writing for as long as it feels right. After that (an hour or two later), I take a break and work on other aspects of my business (marketing, responding to readers, social media, etc.). If I feel like writing again, I will. If not, I keep working on the business side until I’ve accomplished my tasks for the day. In the evenings, sometimes I’ll be inspired to continue writing.

Do you plan your books in advance or discover as you go along?

I plot my books out in this order:

The first 25% in great detail.

The next 25% a bit more generally.

The next 25% is plotted in short bullet points.

The last 25% is usually only a sentence or two about how I feel the story will end. I do this because I know with my process, I need to leave space for things to change. When I start writing, getting to know my characters further, and gaining more time to mull over the story, it starts to change by the halfway point. They will usually have a different climax and conclusion than I’d originally thought.

Where do you write?

Predominantly in my office at my desk.

Which has been your most successful book to date?

Depending on the definition of success… financially, my Avery Hart serial killer trilogy has been the most successful. By number of books downloaded, the first book in my Knox and Sheppard mysteries series would be the right answer. In terms of my definition, of telling my story and creating the book to the best of my ability, at each release, I’ve succeeded.

How do you come up with your ideas?

I love to use real events in my life as inspiration to write stories, whether it's about the themes I'm experiencing or truly taking occurrences from my life (like when a stranger knocked at the door late one night, I used that as the inspiration for my psychological suspense novel, What She Found).

If readers are new to your work – which book of yours do you recommend starting with?

My new release, I Heard You Scream, is a psychological suspense novel that I’m thrilled to share with readers. I’ve released five psychological suspense/thriller standalones and they’ve been the most fun to write.

What are you currently working on?

I’m at the start of my next psychological thriller.

Tell us about your latest release.

I Heard you Scream just released, and it's a psychological thriller about a woman who lost four of her friends after a brutal stabbing one night - a selfish act of revenge. Chelsea was the only witness, and she spends the next five years struggling to bury her trauma.

Her ability to ignore the past comes to an end at the five year anniversary of the murders, when she receives an intimidating message: Tell the police the truth about what happened that night or I will. She isn't sure if the note is an empty threat from someone digging for facts or if someone knows she shared a secret with her friends. Either way, Chelsea knows the stakes are too high to ignore when the blackmailer resorts to violence. Those closest to her might be the next victims if she doesn't do as they ask. The truth can ruin her life, but the lies have her just as trapped. Chelsea's about to discover that some secrets are best taken to the grave.

*I Heard You Scream is available across all online retailers and in paperback on Amazon.

Emerald O'Brien is a Canadian author, born and raised just east of Toronto, Ontario. She graduated from her Television Broadcasting and Communications Media program at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2014, Emerald decided to pursue her life-long passion for writing unpredictable stories packed with suspense. When she is not reading or writing, Emerald can be found with family and friends. Watching movies with her two beagles is one of her favourite ways to spend an evening at home. To find out more, visit Emerald on her website:


Emerald O'Brien was talking to AJ Wills, the bestselling author of multiple psychological thrillers. He was a journalist for more than twenty years and has been writing full-time since March 2021. He's married to fellow thriller writer, AJ McDine.

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