This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Rachael English is a well known Irish broadcaster and is currently a presenter on the radio show, Morning Ireland. Her first novel, Going Back, is part of six figure two book deal that she recently signed with Orion, and is inspired by her own experiences of visiting Boston as a student in 1988.
I work full time, as a radio presenter, so there isn’t an average day. I’m fortunate to finish work early – I start at 5.30am – and I try to do at least an hour every day, usually in the late morning. Saturdays are sacrosanct. I tend to write for at least five or six hours then.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
Not really, but a couple of incidents in Going Back were inspired by people I know. For example, there’s a character who likes telling silly stories to American people about life in Ireland. I have a friend who did that, although his stories weren’t quite so crazy. The only real character in the book is Grover, a troublesome tomcat. In the real world, he belongs to my parents.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Gone With the Wind. I remember getting it from the library when I was fourteen, and not putting it down for the next week. I think it was the first book that really made me cry. Maeve Binchy’s Light a Penny Candle had a similar effect a couple of years later.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
For Going Back, I did a moderate amount of planning. I then discarded most of this because I realised that the plot was too reliant on coincidence. Before I sent the manuscript to an agent, I probably went through five or six drafts, although some scenes barely changed from the day I first wrote them. For my second book, I did as much planning as I could stand. I found I just wanted to get stuck in.
What was your journey to being a published author?
Both fast and slow! I had intended to write when I was younger, but like many people I got distracted by life. Gradually, I came to believe that writing fiction was for other people – people with Masters Degrees in creative writing or the means to work full-time on a novel. After more than twenty years as a journalist, a couple of things happened to make me realise that I was foolish not to give it a try. An idea had been lurking at the back of my head, and it took me about eighteen months to bring this to a stage where I was ready to submit the manuscript to an agent. I was very lucky to be taken on by Robert Kirby at United Agents. I was very, very lucky that he sold the book to Orion a week later.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
I think I was surprised by how much rewriting you need to do – and by how enjoyable this can be. I’ve since been heartened to read that even the most wonderful writers, like Anne Tyler, need to go through several drafts before they’re content to let go.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Make a note of every idea that comes to you, no matter how silly it might seem. Sketch out a rough plot outline. Give considerable thought to your main characters. Then, just do it. Don’t fret when what you write is awful – you will improve. Oh, and you know all that stuff you’ve heard writers say about characters taking over and bringing you in directions you hadn’t expected? Crazy as it sounds, this does happen.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m in the middle of my second novel. It tells the story of a successful Dublin family, and how they all cope when their lives start to go awry.Thanks Rachael!