It's been a busy week of interviews this week but my final interviewee is Irish author Carmel Harrington whose debut book, Beyond Grace's Rainbow, was published last year.
Can you tell us a little bit about Beyond Grace’s Rainbow?
Beyond Graces Rainbow follows the story of Grace, a single mother to Jack, who finds out that she has cancer. She needs a bone marrow transplant and the best chance of a donor match is with a family member, but as she’s adopted, this means she must embark on a journey of discovery to find out who her biological family is. This quest uncovers a web of lies and deceit that has spanned decades.
Where did the inspiration come from to write about such a sad topic as cancer?
Well initially I decided to write a story about an adopted person, who would need to find her biological family for medical reasons. I wasn’t sure initially what the medical issue would be at first, but then my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and I was with her throughout her illness. So as I unfortunately got to know a lot about cancer and its devastating effect it has on not just the person diagnosed, but the family and friends too, I decided that this would be the illness that Grace had to deal with.
The novel is sad in many parts, as you said cancer is a sad topic. But there are lots of parts that will make the reader smile too. I think that’s what life is like really isn’t it? Full of twists and turns, good and bad times.
Which came first, the characters or the plot?
Definitely the plot with this novel. I had an idea where I wanted the story to go and then the characters developed as the plot did.
Are you able to give us a hint as to what your next novel is about?
Of course! My next novel is about Sarah a mother of three children, whose husband has gone missing. She’s struggling both financially and emotionally to cope on her own. In the midst of this trauma, she starts seeing an angel called Edward who claims that she has psychic abilities and that she must use these abilities to help solve a murder. Sarah’s life gets very complicated very quickly as she starts having psychic dreams and with the help of her brother James she tries to unravel the dreams meaning so that she can help those that need her help.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Yes, from a very young age I wanted to write. I kept a journal as a young girl and still have quite a few of them! They make an entertaining read now! I’ve always written short stories, long before I decided to write a novel. I loved our local library and would happily read several books a week, dreaming that one day I would see my name on a book sitting on a library bookshelf.
Have you ever had writer’s block?
Thankfully no. I never have a problem writing, but I do have a problem finding time to write! I have two small children, Amelia is 3 and Nate is 17 months old. That means that my time is not my own!
If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
Oh great question. I’m quite creative and love to throw a good party. I think I’d love to be an events planner, but of the extravagant kind where budget wasn’t a factor!
Being a writer appears to be such a solitary lifestyle, especially when you’re in the midst of writing, so do you consider the influence of social Media, Face book and Twitter, a blessing or a hindrance?
For me social media has been a blessing. I’ve found it a great way to keep in touch with readers who have enjoyed Beyond Graces Rainbow and my blog posts. And it’s also a great way to find new readers too and to connect with other writers.
How long did it take you to get your first book published?
It was a relatively quick process once I decided to do it. I had written the first draft of Beyond Graces Rainbow years ago but it sat under my bed in a box. When I decided last year that it was time that I once and for all went for this, it was a pretty quick process to get the first draft rewritten and ready to be published.
Do you have a set daily writing routine?
I don’t get to write every day. My two children are in playschool 3 afternoons a week, so I write Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons religiously. However, when I’m on a roll, I have been known to write when they are in bed up until the wee hours of the morning.
Would you say that any of your characters are like you? If so, which one(s)?
I think that there are little bits of me in a lot of my characters. It is inevitable that I would draw on my own life experiences and that seeps into each of them a little. But they are all products of my imagination at the end of the day. However, there are similarities between Grace and myself. We’re both mothers and our children come first. End of.
If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
I love thrillers, so I would say that.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Write and then share what you have written. Get feedback and keep writing. Interact with similar minded people, use twitter and facebook to make connections. Use the resources that are available to you. I have found www.writing.ie invaluable. Just write, no excuses, set a deadline for yourself and do it.
If you could invite any three authors, alive or dead, to a dinner party who would you choose and why?
Jane Austen, because she is after all one of the Queens of Chick lit!
Dean Koontz., I’m intrigued to know what type of guy writes tales of horror like he does. His imagination is unparalleled and he is a great storyteller. I’ve never been disappointed with a Koontz novel.
Oscar Wilde. Delicious wit. Enough said.
Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books?
I’ve been going through an e-book phase since I got my iPad. I love reading books on my iBooks reader and I love the fact that I can have hundreds of books on my bookshelf , so neat and tidy! But eBooks will never replace the physical joy of holding a printed book in your hand, in my opinion. Both have their place.
Are there any books you’ve read that you wish you’d written?
Too many to list. But I wouldn’t mind being JK Rowling! I loved the Harry Potter series. I also loved the Hunger Games actually, I think Suzanne Collins is a very clever writer.
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
As it happens I do. I’ve had a glass of brandy each time I finished a novel. And it’s actually been quite late each time that I finished too but despite it being ridiculous o’clock in the morning, I still poured a glass of cognac and sipped it whilst looking at those beautiful words, The End.
Where would be your idyllic location for a writing retreat?
Somewhere warm with wifi! I love Florida, one of my favourite places to visit, so I’ll say there. And I wrote the majority of the first draft of Beyond Graces Rainbow in Florida actually. And that turned out ok!
If you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with you, which ones would you choose?
Little Women, Lord of the Rings and To Kill a Mockingbird. Although if you ask me that question next week it might change slightly.
Can you describe Beyond Grace’s Rainbow in 20 words or less?
A poignant tale of a young mothers battle with cancer which will have you smiling and crying at the turn of a page.