IT’S 4.30am and author Olivia Kiernan is contemplating dark deeds.

But the crime writer isn’t upset in the slightest – she has deliberately cut short the night’s sleep as she knows it’s the time of day she can be most creative.

The Irish novelist now living in Oxford with partner Matthew Alden and four-year-old daughter Grace is actually living her dreams right now.

The 39-year-old’s debut Too Close to Breathe was well received by the critics and now her second novel featuring Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan is gaining a lot of attention and positive reviews.

Realising that it’s vital to build a brand in a very competitive market, the author is already writing the third novel in the series, which currently has the working title If Looks Could Kill.

Read also: Forgotten Tolkien archive found at Oxford University Press

In 10 days’ time she will have to deliver the first draft to her editor and is determined the new story is told precisely the way she wants it, before any amendments are made.

“If Looks Could Kill will be published at the beginning of April if all goes to plan, but that might change,” Ms Kiernan revealed.

After being born and raised in County Meath, near the heritage town Kells, the author gained an MA in creative writing at Sussex.

In 2003 she relocated to Oxfordshire to work as a chiropractor in Abingdon.

While staying at a B&B in Boars Hill she met Matthew, who runs Aldens Butchers in Oxford.

“He is very supportive of what I do – when you are trying to get a publishing deal I think it can be quite hard for your significant other to watch but I’m in a much better position now,” she explained.

The Killer in Me, set in a suburb of Dublin, is not for the faint-hearted.

Oxford Mail:

DCS Sheehan is called to investigate when two mutilated corpses are found in a church.

Meanwhile a 17-year-old ‘cold’ case is the subject of a TV documentary and the detective has to consider possible connections between the two cases.

Ms Kiernan left Ireland when she was 19 and promoting The Killer in Me has given her the opportunity to enjoy a homecoming of sorts.

She recently attended a launch for the novel at Dubray Books at Grafton Street, Dublin, a stone’s throw from the location of her fictional detective’s flat.

She added: “The signing at Dubray Books went really well – it’s a lovely chain. The following morning we went round some other bookstores to sign copies.

“Irish crime fiction is enjoying something of a moment.”

The author worked as a chiropractor for a number of years in Abingdon, so she was delighted to accept an invitation to appear at a crime writers’ evening at Mostly Books in Stert Street, alongside fellow authors Cara Hunter, JP Delaney and William Shaw.

Read also: Oxford City Council is taking back unused graves

“It was great that such a small shop could accommodate so many people and I think that shows just how popular the genre is at the moment,” said the mum-of-one.

“On the night an interviewer guided the conversation between the four of us – one of the subjects we touched on was nature versus nurture and whether, potentially, there is a killer in all of us.

“Crime fiction holds a mirror to society and examines nature’s extremes.”

The writer’s willingness to discuss crime writing in depth, and the reasons why female authors write and read crime fiction, is winning her friends in high places.

Much to her surprise, she has been invited to speak as part of a panel at The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate in July.

The festival is one of the country’s most prestigious for crime writers and Ms Kiernan said she felt honoured to be invited.

Some of the biggest names in crime fiction return year after year, including Val McDermid.

Read also: All Oxfordshire schools will now receive a copy of this book

Ms Kiernan said she admired Ms McDermid’s work and the way she shone a light on debut authors.

“She certainly sends the elevator back down,” she added.

Now Ms Kiernan is perfecting the final edit for her third novel she doesn’t have to set the alarm quite so early.

But she feel safe in the knowledge that there is a time of night when she can be at her most creative.

The author explained: “I sleep during the day then get up at 4.30am - Grace doesn’t get up until about 7am.

“It’s so quiet and I go straight to my desk downstairs, open the document and start typing.

“I’m almost too tired to let the critic in me come in and I get the story moving forward very quickly.

Oxford Mail:

“If things are going well I can get 2,000 words done and then I feel less stressed during the day.

“That process only lasts for about a month to six weeks while I get the story down.

“Now I’m editing I try to get up at a more normal time with my daughter.”

Ms Kiernan admits that the editing process is a painstaking one - sometimes it feels as if she has been staring at the same sentence for a couple of hours, even if this is not actually the case.

“As I move forward I think I’m becoming more critical of myself as a writer,” she added.

“I don’t work as a chiropractor any more – I’m here on my own.

“But before I got my publishing deal this was a dream of mine for years.”

Profile: Meet the head of the Oxford's Reuters Institute of Journalism

Ms Kiernan told literary magazine Storgy that one unshakeable thing about Irish culture was the desire to tell stories.

She added: “It’s not too much to say that in Ireland, writer or no, the ability to spin a good yarn is seen as a very favourable quality. And I grew up around some great storytellers.

“Some of my earliest childhood memories are of sitting on the gate of my uncle’s farm where my aunt would tell us stories around the banshee legends and other ghostly apparitions that she knew of.

“I can recall those summer evenings vividly, the gradual dialling down of the day, the shuffle of the cattle in the dairy sheds and the slow stiffening of fear through our limbs as we sat enthralled by the stories she told us. Ever since, I’ve not been able to resist a story with a good dose of suspense at its heart.

“Like many writers, even though I dabbled in writing on and off from when I was old enough to hold a pencil, it did take me some time to get here. But over the years, I read from my favourite writers, Maeve Binchy, Sebastian Barry, Anne Enright and Seán O’Casey – just to name a few – and every time I closed a book there was the urge to write; to put down on paper the many stories that were in my head, to revel in playing with words, with sentences, language.”

Read also: Olivia Kiernan's female detective wins rave reviews

Ms Kiernan added that writing continued to be a huge draw, through her years of study, work in science and as a chiropractor but she was unsure about how or if she could make that jump from idea to novel.

She added: “I tried a few writers’ workshops but eventually embarked on an MA in creative writing, completing it in part-time study while I worked.

“By the time I’d finished my MA, two years later, I’d finished my first novel.

"It was a big learning curve for me but it proved that I could, at least, produce a piece of work. I think this is the hardest part for would-be authors, getting to the end of a novel. Once you’re there, you realise there is little mystery around it. I wrote Too Close to Breathe, my first crime thriller/police procedural when my daughter was ten months old.

"I wrote it mostly in the middle of the night, grainy-eyed but possessed with a rare kind of writing fever. Now The Killer In Me has been published and I’m delighted to return to Dublin and to Frankie with more than a little dark storytelling.”