Violence against women is explored in Derry author Claire Allan’s new novel

NURSE Nell Sweeney comes and goes from the hospital where she works every day believing that no harm can come to her. Until the day she is taken.

Derry author Claire Allan describes her latest book, The nurseas “a gripping, fast-paced thriller” focusing on a missing 22-year-old nurse, and “the mysterious stalker who feels wronged by the world”.

A former journalist, Allan began her writing career in the genres of historical and popular fiction, before migrating to crime fiction with her 2018 psychological thriller, Her name was Rose.

The nurse is her sixth thriller and she admits it was the most exhausting to write, which took a toll on her physically and mentally.

The intensity of the writing experience for Allan, who suffers from fibromyalgia, a complex rheumatic disorder that causes chronic pain, was heightened both by the subject matter and by the fact that she wrote it for containment.

“Normally, if I’m writing something heavy, I could turn off the laptop and go to my mum’s or a friend’s house for a cup of coffee. That wasn’t an option during lockdown, where the world felt scary place. I scared myself and even got nervous going out to walk the dog,” she admits.

The propulsive thriller digs into the subject of misogyny, gender-based violence and in particular the incel (involuntary celibacy) movement.

Incel is defined as a member of an online subculture of men who want to have sex but are unable to find sexual partners, usually blaming women.

Allan first heard of the movement in 2014 when American Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured 14 others before committing suicide in California.

Rodger, who had self-identified as an incel, posted videos on YouTube detailing his beliefs and left a 137-page manifesto.

“For many in the incel community, he is considered a martyr. His name and actions were referenced in later discussions and attacks and the movement grew,” says Allan, 45.

This growth came despite a crackdown on chat rooms and incel message boards in 2017.

While researching her book, Allan was always able to access archived incel threads on Reddit and admits much of what she read was “really awful”.

“When I first did my research online, I didn’t know if these people were serious. For me, it was like reading teenagers pulling their hands off,” she says.

“But the more you read, the more you see the level of their internal hatred for themselves and the utter resentment of all women.

“They think feminism has destroyed the world and left these men totally unable to satisfy their biological need and their right to sex.”

An avid Twitter user, Allan has herself been a victim of abuse in the past, but didn’t mind becoming the target of incels after writing The nurse.

“Anyway, I would sometimes get abused on Twitter because I’m pretty outspoken with my views on feminism and misogyny.

“I’m completely fascinated by how social media and the internet are changing the way society is constructed. My undergraduate degree was in ethics and philosophy, so the layers of debate that this book conjures up really appealed to me.

“This book was written because I saw how pervasive this ideology has become and how quickly it can spread. I also wanted to examine how someone could be indoctrinated into this sectarian community without even realizing it. account”, adds Allan, who points out that The nurse is far from being an argument for women’s rights.

It is written from the perspective of an incel and Marian, Nell’s mother, who is mad with worry about her missing daughter.

In the book it is mentioned that women should have the right to go home alone without fear of being attacked, but this is countered by saying that men should have the right to walk the streets alone without being labeled as predators .

Over the past year there have been many discussions about women’s safety following the murders of London marketing manager Sarah Everard and Co Offlay teacher Ashling Murphy.

Allan points out that The nurse was not written in response to these events and it was in fact the same day she handed her first draft to her editor that the body of Sarah Everard was discovered in the woods of Kent.

“It gave it a whole new meaning. I saw a figure on Twitter last week that said there had been 125 women murdered in the UK in the year since Sarah Everard was murdered. is more than two a week and it’s absolutely terrifying,” adds Allan, who has dedicated The nurse to “women who never returned home”.

Through the male character of the book, she explains how easy it is for disenfranchised young men to find a voice and get caught up in a movement and how easily people are influenced and manipulated into becoming adapt to schedules.

And as the mother of a 13-year-old girl and an 18-year-old boy, she is able to see both perspectives.

“My son will sometimes talk to me about how difficult it is for young men today to find their place and be valued.

“And as a mom of a teenage girl navigating this world, I wonder how to protect her and give her the skills and knowledge to protect herself, while promoting the fact that it is not acceptable for men to behave in this way.

“It’s a minefield. Sometimes on social media people are very black and white. Violence against women is never right, but the reality of this world is that we all have a role to play. to ensure our safety.

“I’m not here to tell people how to think, The nurse is simply a frantic race against time, a thriller.”

Need a little relief after writing The nurseAllan was delighted to be approached by her editor to work with fellow Derry mum and TikTok star Serena Terry, to advise her on her Granny joking delivered.

“It was so much fun and the perfect palate cleanser after writing The nurse“, she says of the experience.

Allan has also recently worked as a story consultant on the upcoming BBC drama blue lights. Created and written by the authors of The Salisbury poisoningsDeclan Lawn and Adam Patterson, it follows three rookie police officers working in Belfast.

“I’ve been helping with the script and giving feedback on the scripts with Declan and Adam. Seeing the story and these characters evolve has been really exciting. People are going to really relate to it, but it has that added benefit of representing the police here. , which is not like elsewhere.”

Along with working on another thriller and toying with ideas for a new romance novel, which she is writing under the name Freya Kennedy, she is beginning to adapt her novel for television. The liar’s daughterwhich dealt with sexual abuse.

“It’s a really steep learning curve and it’s definitely outside my comfort zone, but writing thrillers too and it’s worked out well,” she laughs.

The Nurse is published by HarperCollins/Avon and is available now.

Irene B. Bowles