Spy thriller & crime book Author Mark O’Neill

Welcome, Mark!

Mark O'Neill

Tell us a bit about you where are you from and other than writing what else do you enjoy? 

My name is Mark, I am 43 years old, originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, and now living in Würzburg, Germany, with my wife and dog. Other than writing, I am a huge reader, book collector, and technology enthusiast.

How did you start writing? What was your inspiration to create? 

I’ve been writing since the age of 10, lost in my own world and imagination. I’ve always been very introverted, and for some unknown reason an unhappy child. So making up my own worlds made me feel better, that I was somehow in control of my life.

Who is your favorite author, is there anyone out there that inspires you? 

As someone who reads a lot, that is an extremely difficult question. Of all time, it has to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (I re-read the Sherlock Holmes stories once a year). Someone more up to date and in my genre would be Daniel Silva, who writes Israeli spy thrillers. I also love Lee Child’s work.

What genre do you enjoy reading? What’s your favourite book and why?

Spy thrillers and crime books. As I said in the last question, my favourite book is the Sherlock Holmes stories (which are actually a series of books). Crime books-wise, I am really into John Connolly and Lars Kepler. I used to like Michael Connelly but his recent work has been pretty dismal.

If you’ve published a series, what is the series about? 

About a fictional German Intelligence Unit (or maybe it is not fictional? Who knows?) called Department 89. They are the elite of the elite, tasked with eliminating nuisance problems that regular law enforcement can’t deal with, due to lack of evidence. They have full authority to do what is necessary. Its chief is a woman, Sophie Decker, who was compared by a book reviewer to John McClain in the Die Hard movies. That was an extremely nice compliment.

What was it like creating back to back stories that link? 

Exhausting! You have to maintain the various strands of the stories and the characters, make sure you don’t contradict yourself in later books (readers can be merciless with continuity mistakes), and also have the stamina to keep the series going. I am on book 8 now and going through some burnout.

Have you ever thought about writing in a different genre? If you could, what genre would you like to dabble in? 

I have thought about it and I will, to avoid the inevitable burnout that’s coming. Probably a crime series. It is still in the planning stages.

What has been your most proud moment as an author?

Getting the first book published in print. Holding it in my hands was an emotional moment.

Was there ever a time you wanted to pick up your laptop, and then launch it out the window with frustration?

Every day. If an author says they never have those moments, they’re lying through their teeth.

Are you a “plotter” or a fly by the seat of your pants “pantser” as a writer? 

A total unapologetic pantser. Plotting takes the pleasure out of writing. The whole fun of writing is not knowing where the story is going to go next.

Am I the only one who gets hung up on commas? Do they make you go blah! when you’re writing? 

No, I am madly in love with the Oxford comma. Or, the, William, Shatner, comma.

What three tips would you give any aspiring writer? 

  1. Write drunk
  2. Edit sober
  3. Don’t give up. Writing is still better than flipping burgers.

What are you working on now? What will you release next? 

Book 8 of Department 89. The title is “Operation Eternal Vengeance”. Due out July 1st.

So where can we get your books? 

If you go to https://www.markoneill.org/books/, there is a list there, along with buttons to the online stores.

How would you define what being a successful writer means?

When you can bang out 3,000 words a day before thinking about your first double vodka.

Does a big ego help or hurt writers? 

You MUST have an enormous ego. So many people like to put you down and tell you your books are terrible. You need a huge ego to ignore all of that.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I don’t do too much research. I mean, when you watch an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and you see him jump on a jet fighter in mid-air, rip off the cockpit, throw the pilot out, jump in himself, and fly off, how much research do you think the scriptwriter did beforehand? Exactly. None. It’s called “suspending disbelief”.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones? 

I read them then ignore them. They used to bother me, but I have better things to do now than get worked up about online trolls.

What’s your writing schedule like?

I write full-time for professional clients (blog posts, copywriting, etc), so that comes first. My fiction writing normally comes at night (around midnight) and lasts until I eventually fall asleep.

How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story? Is the process the same for every book you write? How long does it take you to write a book?

Being a pantser, I don’t plan the start of the story so it does tend to be a long drawn-out agonizing birth where I am screaming for drugs. Once I have the germ of an idea, I will just start and see how I get on. Inevitably I will hit a brick wall eventually and I will spend days despairing about getting over the tall wall I have built myself.

But when I “get it”, I REALLY get it. When I finally had the last book all figured out (after months of writer’s block), I did almost 11,000 words in one day and finished the book with about a week to spare before the deadline.

How have your family and friends accepted your career as a writer? Are they supportive?

My family were…shall we say….initially skeptical when I told them. My mother asked me if there was any money to be made doing eBooks. But eventually, she was won over I think when she saw my work being published. My wife is overwhelmingly supportive as always.

Everyone else….well, the only two people in my family who reads my work are my dad and my uncle. And my uncle readily admits he is more of a science-fiction and fantasy kind of guy!

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

My imagination. Unfortunately, I have no connections in the real German Intelligence community (maybe one day….)

Which one of your characters is your favorite and why?

Everyone thinks it is Decker (the chief) and I admit I do have a fondness for her. I would never kill her off. But my favourite is actually her deputy, Wolfgang Schmitz. He wears nice suits (which get wrecked in every book!), he tells bad jokes, and he reads Asterix books in his downtime. So people tend to underestimate him. But when the crap hits the fan, he is there by your side, ruthless as hell. He’s kind of like the good cop to Decker’s bad cop but he can flip to the dark side in a micro-second.

What would you like readers to know?

The box-set of the first four full-length books is now available, which is cheaper to buy than each one individually. The link is here.


I will shortly be bringing out the short story “case files” as a box-set on their own soon. You can sign up for the mailing list – and get three books free of charge – by going to https://www.markoneill.org.


Contact Info.:

Mark O’Neill



About eve culley

Children's Author, micro-farmer in the great state of Texas
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