It's our pleasure to bring you this interview with the wonderfully warm Clodagh Murphy! Her newest book Girl in a Spin is out in March
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I have a day job, so it's more a case of writing nights. I'll stay up late rather than get up early. I've tried it, and I'm not good at getting up early. Otherwise, my writing days are at the weekend, and they're also my days for shopping, laundry, socialising, etc. I don't really have a routine - I just try to fit writing in where I can. If I'm being disciplined (which doesn't happen often) I'll come in from work and get down to writing straight away, take a break for dinner and some TV, and then make a pot of strong coffee and work late into the night. Luckily I'm not a stickler for getting eight hours' sleep.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
Yes, I do. A lot of characters are purely from my imagination, but my heroes do tend to be inspired by celebrities. I do that a lot when I'm reading too – it helps to fix the character in your mind if you can't get a clear image of them. I'm a bit reluctant to talk about it, though, because people's tastes are so different. For instance, I wrote Dev in Girl in a Spin with Richard Armitage in mind, but in a Twitter conversation recently I was shocked to discover that some women don’t fancy him at all – imagine! (Personally, I think their membership of the female sex should be reviewed.)
I sometimes use people I know as inspiration too, but not in the literal way people seem to imagine. I'd use aspects of someone's personality mingled with other made-up bits. What ends up on the page is quite far removed from any real person.
What is your favourite Women's Fiction book of all time and why?
That's a tough question, but I'd have to say Rivals by Jilly Cooper. I love it because it's big fat escapist fun, full of gorgeous men, big drinks, amazing houses and beautiful food. What's not to love? It's pure self-indulgent pleasure, like a big box of chocolates. And I like that Jilly Cooper writes proper unreconstructed alpha males. I loved Riders, but Rivals is even better because it's the one where Rupert Campbell-Black falls properly in love. He's completely besotted and it's so romantic.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I don't plan at all on paper. I've tried, but I just can't get on with it. However, I do spend a lot of time daydreaming my book, imagining scenes and dialogue. I run it in my head all the time like a film while I'm going about my daily activities. So that's all the planning I do. I know the basic story arc before I start – the beginning and end, and usually a key turning point or two in the middle and then I just dive in.
I don't really write drafts. I rewrite and edit as I go along, so there's really only one draft that gets constantly reworked. Of course, when I get editorial feedback, that's another draft – sometimes two.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I always wanted to be a writer, and wrote all sorts of different types of things over the years. It was only when I started writing romantic comedy that I felt I'd found what I was really good at. It was a eureka moment - like when Hugh Grant started making romcom movies! It took me a very long time to come to that point, and then it took a long time again to finish my first novel. After that it all happened pretty quickly. I started submitting The Disengagement Ring to agents in September and I had a book deal by Christmas, so the whole thing only took about four months – four months and half a lifetime. And of course that four months of living on my nerves waiting for decisions felt like a lifetime in itself.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That once you get a book deal you've 'arrived' and it's all plain sailing from then on, and the rest just falls into place. I don’t know if anyone ever feels like they've really arrived in this business – maybe a handful of people.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Do it – stop talking and dreaming about, and just do it. Put in the time and write the words. Find your own voice and write the kind of book you'd love to read.
What are you working on at the moment?
That's a very good question (not wanting to sound like a politician). I have a lot of ideas floating around in my head at the moment and I'm not sure which one to concentrate on. I'm terrible at making decisions. Right now I'm gearing up for NaNo, which starts in a couple of days, so by the time you read this I will have chosen one and I'll be deep into my NaNo novel. Definitely.
How does being Irish/living in Ireland inspire your work?
I've never thought about this before, so I had to give it some thought, and at first I didn't think it influenced my writing at all. I mean I write about relationships, and that's pretty universal. But Irish people are generally very family-oriented, and I think that's probably reflected in what I write about. I always find it slightly peculiar in books when the characters seem to exist in a vacuum, and I wonder about their families. It happens sometimes in chick lit, and it used to bother me about Sex and the City. It just strikes me as unrealistic.
I love writing about the dynamics of family relationships, and Kate's family plays a very important part in The Disengagement Ring. Jenny in Girl in a Spin, on the other hand, has no family, but in a way that's another side of the same coin. It's a big gap in her life and she's very aware of what's missing. She longs to have the happily family life she never had growing up, and it's a huge motivating factor to her and what makes her so anxious to persevere with relationships.
I guess there's also a particular Irish sense of humour that seeps through in the writing. And swearing. Quite a lot of swearing - because that's how Irish people speak!