I love hearing authors talk about the nuts-and-bolts day-to-day minutiae of their writing lives. The rituals, the quirks, the paralysing self-doubt – it’s all gold! I thought I’d chance my arm and email some of my favourite authors and see if they’d tell me about their world.
Today’s kind volunteer is best-selling author Claire Allan from Derry, Northern Ireland. She has a warm and witty writing style and creates wonderfully relatable characters that you cheer on through all their triumphs and disasters. Her fourth novel It’s Got To Be Perfect was recently published by Poolbeg.
1. As well as writing novels you’re also a journalist and mother of two. I hear a lot of people say, “I don’t have time to write” but you are proof that it can be done, you just have to make time. How does your busy-ness affect your writing? Do you find the variation in your days keeps you inspired or do you fantasise about writing full time with a really great nanny?
I absolutely fantasise about writing full time in a quiet office, with a nanny downstairs and a cleaner five days a week. And maybe a personal trainer and a chef. I would be lying if I said that it’s fine and I have a perfect routine.
Since having my second child, Cara, 20 months ago it has become tough going – but I do enjoy it most of the time so that definitely helps. There are times, however, when I have to write through my lunch break at work, forgo my favourite programmes and vow not to read another novel until my own is finished. Like any job or goal, if you want it enough you will make the effort!
2. Do you ever fancy your characters? I was all a-flutter for Owen in It’s Got To Be Perfect – almost made me want to fling myself in front of a taxi like Annie did to see if he’d show up.
I was really quite madly in love with Tom Austin in ‘Feels Like Maybe’. I’ve also quite a notion on one my new leading men in the book I’m writing at the moment – he’s French, looks like McSteamy from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and is called Jean Luc.
One of the best part of my job is making up lovely male leads. Truth be told at times I’ve even fancied some of the bad boys in the books – you have to find something appealing about them so that the reader believes your characters could fall for them in the first place.
Generally it’s one spark of an idea and then I build a quirky character around it. Annie in ‘It’s Got to be Perfect’ was so much fun to write because she was such a flawed character but so likeable too. I get such a thrill for finding the perfect name or setting for a character. I’m already very excited about my lead character for the next book I will be writing – she’s knocking at the door dying to get in.
4. What do you think is the most common misconceptions that the general public have about writing and/or the author’s life?
From my experience it is definitely that we are all rolling in money! I wish! Because my books have done so well in Ireland and hit the bestseller lists people think I have a secret stash of cash locked away somewhere. The average author makes £4000 a year from writing – it’s nice pocket money but not life changing.
5. Can you describe what it feels like when you’re in the middle of a good writing day?
It is the biggest rush in the world. I get stupidly excited and start reading bits out loud in character’s voices and want to call people to tell them all about it. When it works, it is brilliant. Those are the days when you can leave self doubt at the door for a bit and just absolutely enjoy the experience in its purest form.
I like all the characters for different reasons. I’m particularly fond of Aoife from ‘Feels Like Maybe’ and Annie from ‘It’s Got to be Perfect’ but I think their stories are told. I do get the occasional urge to go back to ‘Rainy Days and Tuesdays’ and write a sequel telling people how Grace and Daisy are getting on. Daisy, I think, would have a brilliant story to tell.
7. After four books, do you still get the same rush from finishing one? Is there a mourning period after you finishing writing about a set of characters or are you already thinking of your next book?
I definitely still feel a rush. I feel a rush when I finish a book, get an idea for a new one, get the approval from my editor, see it in print for the first time. But there can be a real grieving period for the characters you have left behind. You can’t be so intensely in someone’s mind for a year and just let go of that. Then again, there are some characters which really make you work hard and when you are done with them you breathe a sigh of relief.
Thanks for chatting to us Claire! ‘It’s Got To Be Perfect’ is out now from Poolbeg. You can find out about Claire’s books and read her blog Diary Of A Mad Mammy at ClaireAllan.com.