This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
The lovely Roisin Meaney – whose latest novel, After the Wedding, just hit the shelves – joins us now to talk about pinching scenes from everyday life, the enthralling (and inspiring) work of novelist Anne Tyler, and heavily disguising her cat in most of her books.
Everywhere. Things I see, things I hear (or overhear), news items on the radio or in the paper, things I’m told, things I discover by accident. There’s inspiration in every day, and I’m constantly trying to find it. Last week I was having lunch with a pal in a restaurant, and we saw a trio of waiting staff approach a nearby table. One of them, bringing up the rear, was holding a cupcake with a lighted candle on it, but just before she got to the table the candle blew out, so she wheeled and walked rapidly back towards the kitchen. This went unnoticed by her colleagues, who carried on to the table in question and then realised, as they were about to launch into ‘Happy Birthday’, that they were unaccompanied by the birthday cupcake, so they smiled apologetically and scuttled away. It was only a tiny thing, but it made us giggle, and it slotted itself into my head. That scene will be in a book soon, maybe even the one I’m currently writing…
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
My writing day doesn’t really have an average – it can vary from an hour of intermittent bursts at the laptop, after which I flip it closed it in disgust and go shopping, to eight uninterrupted hours of steady writing that only ends because my brain has turned to mush. The only constant is that I always start in the morning after breakfast. Amazingly, given my erratic schedule, I always meet my deadlines.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
I never use famous people, but sometimes characteristics of acquaintances – a facial expression, a mannerism, an irritating or endearing habit – might sneak into some of my characters. And my cat usually features in the books, heavily disguised as another cat entirely.What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler. She’s one of my favourite authors and this was the first of hers that I read, back in the early eighties. The family saga in the book drew me in and kept me enthralled to the last word. I love her quirky memorable characters, believable dialogue and original plotlines. Her writing is simply wonderful: she can make you laugh out loud or she can break your heart with a couple of sentences.
What female writer has inspired you?
See above – and also Kate Atkinson, Joanna Trollope, Carol Shields and Anita Shreve.
Can you give us three book recommendations?
Only three? Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road and Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. All magnificent reads, in my humble opinion.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
Sadly, my process is as erratic as my ‘average’ writing day. Sometimes I plan, sometimes I dive. I’m currently diving, which is exhilarating and terrifying in roughly equal measure. I do two drafts before submitting to my editor, who usually demands one more.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I started adult life as a primary school teacher. Two years later I got bored and went to Africa where I taught English to teenagers for two years. Back to the Irish classroom for another five years, followed by three years of working as an advertising copywriter in London (lucky break). Back to Ireland again for another few years of teaching, until I decided to head for the hills once more. This time I found myself in San Francisco, where I wrote a book. It won a two book publishing deal, which encouraged me to write a few more…
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That writers are rich, or that writing is easy. Sadly, neither is true in my case (but I still wouldn’t do anything else).
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Figure out what’s stopping them, and get rid of it, or find a way around it, and then sit down and write. Anne Enright was once asked ‘what do you have to do to be a writer?’ Her response (allegedly) was: ‘write’.
What are you working on at the moment?
A new novel about a widowed estate agent.