The second instalment of the trilogy, Inferno, comes out in January. What is it about Romeo and Juliet that inspired you to write the trilogy?
There’s something incredibly compelling about two people falling in love in a world that doesn’t allow them to. In forbidden romances like Romeo and Juliet, the stakes are always higher – there’s more danger, deeper emotion, greater thrills.
In Romeo and Juliet, the interplay between passionate love (between the protagonists) and venomous hate (between their families) creates an amazing underlying tension throughout the story. That’s what keeps the reader hooked. I wanted to play around with these intense emotions in the Blood for Blood trilogy, and ultimately, ask the same questions. How far are you willing to go for love? Would you turn your back on your own family? Would you put yourself at risk? And perhaps most importantly, would it be worth it in the end?
Vendetta poses those questions. Inferno answers them, and in doing so, it takes the theme of Romeo and Juliet, examines it and then turns it on its head.
The novel is set in Chicago, what made you choose Chicago rather than your own hometown?
I was really keen to write about the criminal underworld, and while we do have some low level petty crime in the west of Ireland, it’s nowhere near the scale and scope of what I was aiming to instill in this series. I wanted to write about real, palpable danger, and a dark criminal culture. My mother is from Chicago, and I visited the city a few times as a teenager. It has a very interesting history with underworld culture, and the mafia in particular, so I thought it would be the perfect setting.
Who is your favourite character in the series and who do you sympathise most with?
My favourite character is Luca but I have the most fun writing Millie and Felice (because they’re both so dramatic and humorous).
Have you ever had a situation remotely similar to Sophie and Nicoli?
Thankfully, I have never fallen in love with someone whose family actively wanted to murder me... not that I was aware of anyway. But I can certainly relate to other aspects of their relationship. When I was a teenager, I fell for a boy who was definitely not the best romantic choice for me... or possibly anyone. He wasn’t very respectful to my friends, he drank way too much and sometimes he stole things. I was so enamoured by him, and that feeling of being in love for the first time, that I didn’t notice these things. I suppose I didn’t want to see them. I was a smart teenager but I was very naïve, and it took me a long time to learn some big lessons. Just because you love someone doesn’t mean they’re good for you. In Inferno, Sophie experiences the same realisation.
You have said that you love discussing hypothetical situations, is that what made you decide you wanted to be an author, because you can actually create the situations you think up?
Yes! I love discussing hypothetical situations and I have always loved making things up. Can you imagine how annoying I was as a child?! Thankfully, I have now found a creative outlet for my tendency to lie! Writing allows me to explore all the stories that accumulate in my head and all the things I imagine when I’m falling asleep. It’s enjoyable and cathartic at the same time.
There is a third and final book in this series, have you begun writing it yet? And do you have a title for it?
I have begun writing it. For a dark book, there are a lot of Disney references in it so far. I have a working title for it, but not a final one, so I don’t think I can really say too much about it for now!
What was your favourite YA book you read when you were growing up?
My friend lent me two series by Cate Tiernan when I was about fourteen: The Sweep Series and The Balefire Series. I became obsessed with them overnight. They blew my imagination right open. I still haven’t given them back.
It must be great to have a successful series underway at the age of 25. What do you think helped you become successful at such a young age?
I was very fortunate to grow up in a house that valued creativity and imagination. My parents instilled in me a wonderful appreciation of stories from a really young age.
When I was three, my mother dressed me up in a black velvet dress and took me to see a performance of Swan Lake by the Russian Ballet in Dublin. She got a lot of strange looks from people for taking a little girl (who should have been asleep in bed, and who had to sit on a cushion in order to see anything) as her date but it’s one of my fondest memories. I remember feeling utterly confused while watching it, but I was also completely enchanted by the music and the movement, and ultimately, the story. It was a powerful experience for me. Around the same time, my father started reading The Cat in the Hat to me every night because I loved it so much. Sometimes he’d try to skip the pages, but I would catch him and make him repeat every single word. And he would. Over and over again. I wrote to the Tooth Fairy and the Tooth Fairy wrote back. My brothers and I were encouraged to take part in readathons in the local library ever year, and my parents would indulge my friends and I when we wanted to perform an impromptu play (that often had a meandering storyline and little-to-no resolution). My house was always zany and full of imagination, so I think it wasn’t really a matter of ‘if’ I got into the profession of storytelling in some capacity, but ‘when’. My family was always very supportive of that, and I think when you start writing, it’s very important to have positive people around you to help you believe in yourself.
What book are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished an advanced copy of The Sleeping Prince, sequel to The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, which was absolutely fantastic, and I’m just about to start reading The Wanderers by Kate Ormand, which I can tell already will be brilliant.
If your novel was made into a film who would you like to play the title roles?
I would love someone like Chloe Grace Moretz to play Sophie. Luke Pasqualino would be a really good Nic, and then someone like Francois Arnaud or Torrance Coombs for Luca and Valentino. Christoph Waltz, who I adore, would be an amazing Felice.
On your website you say you love to travel, where is your next holiday destination?
I am really hoping to get to Iceland in the next few months. It’s on my bucket list. I want to stay in the Ice Hotel, explore the breath-taking natural landscape and see the Northern Lights. After that, Venice, I hope. I am longing for the Gondola experience, and I am a huge fan of Italian food. They’ll have to roll me home.
Inferno (Blood for Blood: Book 2) by Catherine Doyle out now (£7.99, Chicken House)