The Write Space – Rory O’Brien

The Write Space is a monthly Q&A series from Creative Collective covering a local writer and a North Shore Space(s) they associate with writing. Questions? Contact:

Give us your best writerly bio.

I grew up in New England, surrounded by books and history.  I read Poe and Lovecraft and Conan Doyle and Isaac Asimov and Michael Moorcock in high school and knew pretty quickly I wanted to be a writer.  I have written two mysteries set in modern-day Salem (Gallows Hill, and The Afflicted Girl), and am working on a third.  There is also a historical novel, Summerland, set in gilded age Newport.  I have a collection of short stories due out soon, titled Senor Lugosi and Other Stories

I’ve had an array of day jobs over the years, some of them a lot more fun than others.  I have worked at a city hall, a newspaper, a theater, and various bookstores.      


Tell us about a North Shore Write Space.

I like to do rough drafts in a coffee shop with a view, and a good window I can look out of and see people.  The Red Line Cafe on Essex is great for writing and people-watching.  Because the mysteries are set in modern-day Salem, it obviously helps to be out where you can see modern-day Salem in all its weird glory.  Subsequent drafts are usually done at home.        

“When I’m in the North Shore, not writing, I’m . . .”

I am a licensed public guide, so I give walking tours of Salem.  I have been doing tours here and elsewhere for over twenty years; I love telling people about the history that happened right where we are standing, I love seeing the lightbulb go off in their heads, see them smile and say, “I never knew that!”

I also give talks on various topics — the history of the Salem witch trials, the history of mystery fiction, and even Victorian spiritualism!  Aside from all that, I walk my dog and hang out with my wife of twenty-five years.    

What are your working on now?

A third Salem mystery, tentatively titled Spectral Evidence.  I’m also working on a horror novel, and planning out a couple of local history booklets.  Trying to stay busy during Covid!                   

“And finally” —

(An excerpt from my story, Senor Lugosi)

Gulping down his fourth cup of scalding coffee, George Melford wished once again that he spoke Spanish.

Directing a film was stressful enough.  Night shoots, working from sunset to sunrise, made things worse.  Having a producer hang around the set, making unfavorable comparisons to Tod Browning, was the sort of thing few would be asked to tolerate.  And on top of all of this, his cast and crew spoke Spanish.

“For this scene, I need Lupita here, and Barry over there.  Camera One, uno, in position, please.  Camera Two, dos, I’ll need you over here, ready for a tight focus on Lupita when I ask for it ….”

Esteban, his on-set translator, conveyed his instructions to the actors.  Working this way just slowed everything down, dammit.  He’d done several Spanish language films now, Esteban having worked with him on the last three, and still hadn’t gotten the hang of it.  He did a lot of pointing.

They were setting up one of the parlor scenes, where Eva describes her strange dream to her suitor, Juan Harker.  It was nearly two in the morning, and he’d call for a dinner break as soon as they got this in the can.

“I need more light on Lupita, please.  Can I have light three refocused?  Number Three?”  He looked over to Esteban.  “Where’s the guy who’s supposed to be running three?”

Esteban sent a few men running and shouting for Manuel, the light’s operator.

Melford turned and nodded to Lupita, nodding and saying “Uno momento,” which he’d been saying a lot lately.  That and “café con leche y azucar, por favor” was all the Spanish he knew.  He started to arrange his actors, mostly by pointing, while they waited for Manuel to appear.

There was a scream for somewhere, a shriek that echoed across the set.

A couple of the men, faces white with fear, ran over to Esteban, gesticulating wildly, babbling uncontrollably.  Everyone except Melford reacted in shock.

After calming the men down, Esteban turned to the director and said, “They found Manuel in the back.  They say he’s dead.”      

“Find out more at” —

Check out for info on the books, walking tours, and other things.  

This month, Creative Collective is celebrating Women’s History Month! Follow along as we tell the stories of women small business owners and woman-led organizations.

And make sure to use the hashtags #shareHERstory, #shareTHEIRstory*, or #shareyourstory to highlight the women, the femmes/fems, and the non-binary/genderqueer individuals in your community who have and are continuing to inspire you.

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