In a nutshell, to try to keep the writing day as close to a nine to five job as possible! Easier said than done though…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.
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!
Having said all that though, being a full-time author really is the single best job in the world. I’m incredibly lucky and still pinching myself that I can do it full-time now. Imagine a job where you can haul yourself out of bed and be ‘in work’ five minutes later? What’s not to love?
Are you joking? I’d be afraid of getting into too much trouble! Mind you, friends occasionally think that they’re in a particular book and you’d roar laughing at some of the blind assumptions. I’m not messing, I’ve a pal who’s five foot one with brown hair who works in a call centre and she asked me if a six foot tall Hitchcock blonde model in one of my books was based on her!
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Desert island all-time favourite? I’m a huge Jane-ite, and really believe she was mother of women’s commercial fiction. It all began with Jane Austen and a lot of plot lines you read now can be directly traced back to her. While I loved Pride and Prejudice best when I was younger, now I’m a huge fan of Persuasion. It’s got an, ahem, slightly older heroine, which appeals!
What is your writing process? Do you plan first of dive in? How many drafts do you do?
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 everyone 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.
What was your journey to being a published author?
For about as long as I can remember, I’d been scribbling down stories and embarrassingly rough drafts for novels. But then like a lot of people, I just assumed that book deals were something that happened to other people so I’d just shove what I’d written into the back of a drawer and vow not to mortify myself by even talking about it. Took me a very long time and a LOT of courage to get brave and actually put a book out there.
In the meantime though, 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 took a very deep breath and went for it, sent off my chapters, then spent the next few weeks down on my hands and knees praying till I heard news back. But thankfully the agent, the fabulous Marianne Gunn O’Connor very kindly agreed to take me on and had a book deal for me a few weeks later. Nearly nine years on and I’m still pinching myself…..
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That’s writing a book is in any way an ‘easy’ gig. 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 forgot 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.
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 really is your best friend though, and I’d advice anyone starting out to secure and agent first and the rest will follow. And the best of luck!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just delivered a new book to be published next year and will start editing it very shortly. It’s sort of The Lady Vanishes meets Rebecca, if that makes any sense!
It’s about a heroine called Kitty, who goes missing. Just vanishes off the face of the earth. So her best friend Angie does what any concerned pal would do, spirals off into a complete tailspin of panic. She calls Kitty’s boyfriend Simon and between them they start searching, but….. nothing. Just dead ends everywhere they turn. By now their initial concern has morphed into full-blown panic. In desperation, they go to the police, who keep repeating one key phrase at them time and again. That most people who disappear do so electively. Some people don’t want to be found. Your friend clearly wanted to walk away from her life, they take great pains to stress. And sometimes we just have no choice but to let go.
A nationwide search follows and bubbling under it all is another development; Simon and Angie’s ever-growing closeness. They say two people who suffer a mutual bereavement will bond so strongly you can’t imagine, and coping with the trauma of a much-loved missing person is effectively the same. But Kitty is like a constant shadow lying between them. Almost like a latter-day Rebecca.
Part two of the story is about the missing girl, and we re-live exactly the same time she went missing except from her point of view, explaining exactly why she had to go and more importantly why she can never return. But then her circumstances suddenly alter and she finds herself having to come home. To find Simon and Angie are now very much a couple and she’s walked right into a love triangle….
Not telling you any more…you have to wait till 2013!!!
Claudia' latest novel A Very Accidental Love Story is currently on kindle offer for 99p!