This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
An actress on a long-running Irish soap opera, Claudia Carroll wrote her first manuscript in the dressing room between scenes. Here, the author talks about her path to publication as well as the bizarre true story behind her eleventh novel, Love Me Or Leave Me, out tomorrow.
Oh from anywhere and everywhere really! For Love Me Or Leave Me I stumbled on an article about a hotelier in the Netherlands who happened to be going through a divorce. He was stunned at how long and dragged out the whole process was and thought, hang on, you could actually agree a divorce settlement in a weekend, that’s about as long it should take. So – and this is a true story, by the way – he opened up the world’s first divorce hotel and it took off from day one. The idea is you check in married and check out single … so of course, when I read that, I was instantly hooked!
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Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
For me, writing is the best job in the world and I feel so privileged that I get to do something I love every day. The tough part though, is trying to keep the writing day as close to a nine to five job as possible, which is easier said than done. Trouble is, when I’m writing from home, there can just be so many other distractions. Even as I’m typing this, I’m looking at a big mound of ironing, just winking at me to be done.
I constantly have to remind myself that when I’m writing I’m working, just as if I was based in an office or business setting, so I try my best not to take calls, answer emails from pals or surf the net. Believe me though, this took a long, long time to get used to! Soon enough though, my family and friends slowly copped on not to call during the day.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
Sometimes, though not always. Of course, my own experiences colour the prism of any novel, but then the whole joy of fiction is the freedom to do absolutely anything and to go anywhere with a story. Also, if I were to limit writing to just my own experiences, I’d dry up pretty fast!
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Absolutely anything by Jane Austen. If you ask me, women’s commercial fiction all began with Jane. To this day, I’m stunned that she wrote Pride and Prejudice at the tender age of 21. Can you imagine?
What female writer has inspired you?
I’m hugely inspired by a lovely coterie of Irish authors who I’m lucky enough to be pals with. So books by authors such as Marian Keyes, Sheila O’Flanagan, Sinead Moriarty and Cecelia Ahern I find so completely wonderful. And when I was starting out as a wannabe author, Patricia Scanlan and Anita Notaro bent over backwards to help me. And to this day, they both continue to inspire me. I’m a lucky gal.
Can you give us three book recommendations?
I’m currently reading The House Where It Happened by the wonderful Martina Devlin. It’s about witchcraft and six Irish women who were hanged for it. Utterly gripping and a perfect spooky read for Autumn.I’d also recommend The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes, for anyone not ashamed of blubbing while reading out in public. And of course absolutely anything by the magical Marian Keyes. She walks on water as far as I’m concerned.
For starters, I do a skeleton outline of any new story before I’d even sit down to write a line. It makes life so much easier later on, on the days when I find I’m a bit stuck. It takes me quite a long time to get to really know my characters, so I’d begin by writing out a rough biography for every one of them, to try to make them as three dimensional as possible, it helps me hugely.
A reader will quickly lose interest if they just don’t like the hero or heroine. You really have to try to layer them carefully so that they really jump off the page! Remember at the start of a new book, you’re asking a reader to go on a 400-page journey with your characters, and particularly your leading lady, so it’s vital to get character right early on.
Woody Allen once said: “There’s nothing to writing, all you have to do is sit down at a computer and open a vein.” And believe me we all have plenty of days where I know just what he meant.
But equally you get great days, where the words are just flying and where without even noticing it, it’s five hours after you first sat down and you completely forgotten to even eat. Writing is without doubt, the single best job in the whole entire world and I’m so lucky and privileged to be doing it. Even on the days when nothing’s coming and I’m half ready to fling my computer up against a wall, I wouldn’t change it for anything.
In a nutshell though, I try to try to keep the writing day as close to a nine to five job as possible. So I suppose here’s a little tip to would be authors who may be reading this; just ignore the door, put the phone on silent, don’t go online and you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll get done. Really. My mother is by a mile the worst ‘time bandit’ offender, but then she thinks I spend all day every day daydreaming out the window and that books appear on shelves by magic!
What was your journey to being a published author?
I had dreamt of being an author for about as long as I can remember. But I have to stress, never with any thought of publication. To me, book deals were always things that happened to other people. Anyway, I was working as an actress on a long running soap opera in Ireland and, like so many others, had always dreamt of writing a book, but never really had the guts. Then one of our directors on the show, a good pal of mine, published her first book and advised me to get three chapters of mine to her agent who she very kindly asked to look them over. So I did, the agent, the fabulous Marianne Gunn O’Connor took me on and had a book deal for me a few weeks later. Ten years on and I’m still pinching myself …
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
Hmm … tough question. I think the perception that this is in any way an ‘easy’ gig. Writing a book is exhilarating, but about the hardest and most concentrated work you’ll ever do. Trust me on that.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Persevere, persevere, persevere. And write every single day, as every day that you do is a day that your work is improving – trust me. Be brave, too; remember it’s highly unlikely that a publisher is going to knock on your front door and ask if you’ve any manuscripts lying around they could publish. Nothing will happen unless you take the first step and get your work out there. An agent is your best friend though, and I’d advise anyone starting out to secure and agent first and the rest will follow. And best of luck!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently editing my new book, to be published in 2015. Our working title is Would I Lie to You? And it’s about catfish … the internet kind, not the kind that swim.