We LOVED Ciara Geraghty's debut, SAVING GRACE (one of our highest rated books ever) and are super pleased that Ciara has answered some questions for us...
1. Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
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 ‘MadMen’ and ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘X Factor’ 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!!)
2. How does Ireland inspire your writing?
I have been inspired more by Irish writers than by Ireland herself. Irish writers are some of the most well-regarded in the world. They made me feel that perhaps I could do it too. They still do.
3. When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
For Saving Grace, the character of Grace O’Brien arrived in my head, fully formed and rearing to go. She looks like a friend of mine and she has the spirit of someone who is very close to me.
For Becoming Scarlett, the main character – Scarlett O’Hara – was inspired by two women I have worked with in the past. Very meticulous, very focused, ambitious and in control. But of course I have never mentioned this fact to either of them because you just don’t know how people are going to react to that kind of news, do you? But while the concept of Scarlett the character lends itself to a couple of amazing women I know, I then take HUGE liberties with the character so the end result is not someone anyone would recognise from my life (I think).
Dara Flood is entirely a figment of my imagination but I got the idea for the story from a radio phone-in show I heard about 20 years ago, when I had no idea that I would be a writer. A woman rang in to say that her husband pulled up in front of the house in his truck. She asked him for help in shifting a flat-pack piece of furniture that had been delivered to the house that day. He told her he would park the lorry up the road and be back in a flash. He drove up the road and she never saw him again. The story stayed with me for years and years and I often thought about that man and wondered why he left and if he ever came back and what happened to the woman he left behind.
Dara is the daughter Mr. Flood left behind. The one he never saw. So I imagined her as being small and pale, vulnerable and worried. A little anxious about the world. Careful to avoid such things as expectations. Which ruled out things like disappointment and uncertainty and eventual, inevitable decline. So I suppose the bottom line with Dara is that I created her character to suit the story and she is not based on anyone I have met.
However, friends and family often say that they see bits and pieces of me in all of my main characters. Not sure how I feel about that...
4. What is your favourite Irish Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
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...
5. 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 Scarlett and Mr. Flood, I had a plan. A loose one, granted but a plan nonetheless. However, with both, I never knew how the story was going to end until I got 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...
6. 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 (1st 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....
7. 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...
8. 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.
I wish I could follow that advice because it’s damn good...
9. What’s are you working on at the moment?
I’m beginning the process of writing my fourth novel. I have two characters, one image and a sort of idea that may or not be a plot. That’s it. That’s all I have. This is the scary bit. But exciting too. Like that feeling you get when you’re moving – ever so slow - towards the highest part of a rollercoaster, just before you reach the top...
By the way, I hate rollercoasters....
10. 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.
Thanks so much, Ciara!
Ciara's latest book, Becoming Scarlett is out now