This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Ciara Geraghty is the author of five novels and her latest, Now That I've Found You, is out now. Here, she tells Novelicious about her writing process, her journey to being a published author and her no nonsense advice for aspiring novelists.
Things have changed since I started writing. I wrote Saving Grace mostly under cover of darkness, when my unsuspecting family were asleep in their beds. It was a very exciting time as I told no-one of the dangerous dreams I was harbouring.
When I got my second publishing deal, things changed dramatically. Now, I don’t get leave my house, hop on the train in a suit, put on some slap (Irish make-up) and talk to people in the office kitchen about Orange Is the New Black and Masterchef and I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here etc. Instead, I sit at my kitchen table in jeans and a teeshirt, often without brushing my hair, crank up my laptop and ‘make stuff up’ (that’s what my husband calls it). I do this at about half nine in the morning, after the school run. It took some getting used to. The worst bit was the fear that I would never be able to write / be creative at that ungodly hour. But I got used to it. And you know what? Half nine in the morning is not as bad as I had originally feared … I mean, yes, it’s bad, of course it is … but not as bad. I work until 1pm when I then pick my youngest daughter up. When there’s a deadline looming, I work at the library on Saturdays (there’s no way I could work in the house when the children are here; they’d never let me get away with it!).
What female writer has inspired you?
I remember Maeve Binchy saying, in a radio interview, that she was reading a book and thought to herself, "I could do that" and she started writing a book that turned out to be Light a Penny Candle. I remember being amazed. That someone could just have a thought like that and then go ahead and do something about it. Her words – and her books – inspired me, made me begin to harbour hopes that perhaps, I could do that too.
Can you give us three book recommendations?
1. An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan. The book tells the true story of the imprisonment of Brian Keenan – an Irish writer and academic – and John McCarthy – a British journalist – from 1986 to 1990 in Beirut. While the book deals with the hostile and sometimes brutal conditions the men endured during their captivity, it also captures the essence of friendship and companionship and love and this, for me, is what makes this book sing like a song you’ll never forget.
2. I always seem to be pressing copies of Dark Lies The Island and There are Little Kingdoms by Kevin Barry into people’s hands and telling them they will laugh out loud – and not in a Facebook LOL way but actual belly laughs that will make their stomach muscles ache. These darkly comic short stories are beautifully written and the author’s keen appreciation of the vernacular makes the characters leap off the page and thump you in the face.3. Yvonne Cassidy’s latest novel, How Many Letters Are in Goodbye is a gripping family drama and compulsive page turner. Cassidy’s writing is accessible and powerful and will drag you into the story, whether you like it or not. And you will like it. I promise.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
The short answer is no. However, I will admit to using bits and pieces of people I know. Their quirks, if you like. Foibles, if you will. But because I do it in a sort of ‘mix ‘n match’ fashion, I’m pretty sure that no-one recognises which bit of them I have stolen for my fictional purposes …
I hate this question; it’s too bloody difficult. But if pressed, I suppose the first title that jumps into my head is Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes. I have read it many times (more than two, less than six – that’s as much as I’m going to admit to …) and can recite tracts of the text off by heart! The reason I love it is because of the main protagonist, Rachel Walsh. I adored her and was in her corner every step of the way. She touched me as if she was a real, live person. This is the gift that great writing can bring to readers. Marian does it every time but this one is definitely my favourite one …
What is your writing process? Do you plan first of dive in? How many drafts do you do?
It depends from book to book. With Saving Grace, I had what I thought was a killer line (‘it all started with a bottle of Baileys that was a year out of date but I drank it anyway’) and the story went from there, without me having any idea what was going to happen, to whom and why and what the consequences might be. It’s the long way around but I had all the time in the world because nobody knew I was writing it and there were no deadlines.
For the other books, I had a plan. A loose one, granted but a plan nonetheless. However, I never know how the story will end until I get there. So I think I have to have a certain amount of mystery when I’m writing. It’s almost like I have to keep on writing to find out what happens in the end…
What was journey to being a published author?
While I was writing Saving Grace, I submitted a short story called Waiting to a competition run by the Seoige and O’Shea show on the telly. It was picked as one of 14 stories and was published in a book. I mean an actual book, not a pamphlet or leaflet. A proper book with a title (Do The Write Thing). This was my first time getting published and the phone call I got from the show to let me know that my story had been short listed remains one of those bright, clear moments that stand out in the dusty archive of memory. It’s up there with passing my driving test (first time around I’m proud to say), learning how to breastfeed (it took me three babies to get it right) and the first time I tasted a Mars bar icecream …
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That we live in tall towers and wander around wearing caftans and smoking cigarettes in long, slender cigarette holders and wait for the MUSE to arrive. I’d love a gig like that.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Get your arse in a seat. Make it a nice comfy one, because you’re going to be sitting in it for a long time. Get a caftan and a cigarette holder if you must. But do not, under any circumstances, wait for the MUSE to arrive. Just start scratching words on the page and keep doing it until the work is done.
What’s are you working on at the moment?
I’m beginning the process of writing my sixth novel. I have five – seemingly unrelated – characters, one central incident that connects them and then flashbacks to significant moments in each of the characters’ lives that shaped them and brought them to the present day which is where the book begins. I’ve never done anything like this before so it’s pretty daunting but exciting too. I am a believer in challenging myself and, at the moment, this novel certainly feels like a challenge. But I’ve just read a piece of writing advice from Irish writer Peter Murphy in the Irish times that makes me feel okay about this plan. He said: "Don’t be afraid to fail." So, here I go …
Why do you think Irish Women’s Fiction is so popular?
It’s reality Jim, but not as we know it. Who wants a serving of cold, soggy reality when you can have it with humour and pathos on the side, am I right? This is what Irish women’s fiction brings to the table.