I have followed Pauline Lawless' career ever since she got her first publishing deal with Poolbeg Press as we were both members of the same online forum so it seemed only fitting to invite Pauline to be part of this Irish Fiction feature week to talk about her sixth novel Meet and Delete which was published in January.
"No more meeting crappy men in crappy pubs! Online dating is the modern way to meet Mr Right." declares Viv to her two friends and housemates. All three are in their mid-thirties and have been unlucky in love. "Out of every ten replies I'll probably get two perverts, two nerds, two frauds - usually married - and four genuine guys. Not a bad percentage really."
Claire is apprehensive about it and Megan downright sceptical but Viv with her usual joie de vivre, takes to it with gusto. Many en and many dates later - from the boring to the bizarre - Viv thinks she has found her Mr Right. But does the course of true love ever run smoothly?
Meanwhile she coerces a doubtful Claire into joining the dating site too. Add to this mix Claire's nasty sister Sarah, who bored with her marriage, embraces online dating with even more enthusiasm than Viv. Not to mention Megan's thrice-married mother who's looking for a toy boy not a husband...
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest novel Meet and Delete?
Meet and Delete is about three girls who have been unhappy in love and then one of them discovers online dating. She takes to it with gusto and has some hilarious experiences with the guys she meets online. She tries to convince the others that this is the modern way to meet Mr Right. One friend absolutely refuses to have anything to do with it but the third girl is persuaded to do so. Unfortunately, her experience is not so hilarious and is in fact downright scary. Add to the mix her nasty sister who, bored with her marriage, is looking for excitement. She certainly finds that.
Where did the inspiration come from to write about internet dating?
I was giving a book talk and afterwards the women started talking about the men they'd online. Their stories were so funny that I thought it would make for a good storyline.
How much research did you do about internet dating to enable you to write Meet and Delete?
I spoke to people who had been online dating and googled a few sites. I resisted my daughter's suggestion to join a site myself.
Meet and Delete is a light-hearted read, but you also deal with some strong topics througout, how did you find the right balance between humour and dealing with these issues?
I try to put myself in my character's shoes and keep my story as real-life as possible and life is never plain sailing. There's good and bad, happy and sad in all our lives and I try to reflect that. It's not always easy to get the balance right.
Who was your favourite character to create, Megan, Viv or Claire?
Viv was probably my favourite because she's so positive and perennially optimistic. I like that in a person.
Are you currently working on a new book?
I've been in Florida for over five months now and life is so full here that my writing always takes a back-seat. Who can sit at their computer when it's 30 degrees and sunny outside? We also have an Olympic-size heated pool in our community and are 10 minutes from a beautiful beach. I rest my case! I am however, taking a break from this genre and have been researching a historical novel, something I've always wanted to do.
How do you think you have evolved creatively since you first started writing?
Writing has given me a whole new lease of life. Can't believe it sometimes, when I hold one of my books in my hand, that I've actually written this. It's been an enormous achievement for me, especially as I started so late - at age 62.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I don't have a typical writing day. I have such a busy, varied life, especially here in Florida, but once I start a book I completely immerse myself in it. I get carried away by the characters and sometimes write for four hours straight without a break. Thinking up the characters and then seeing where they take you is so exciting. I never plan ahead, I let the characters dictate the story. Crazy, but it works for me.
What would you say is the best thing about writing? And on the flip side, what's the worst?
It is so thrilling to see your book in print. No feeling quite like it, especially with your first one. Also hearing from readers who have enjoyed my stories is very rewarding. Gives me a warm glow and makes it all worth while.
The flip side of writing; I'm never happy with what I've written. Even after editing for weeks, I still feel I could improve on it. I never read my own books when they're published because I would want to change almost everything! Self-doubt is a writer's failing. But then I'm over the moon when a reader says she couldn't put my book down.
What is the best writing advice you have ever received?
I suppose "write about what you know" which I have always done until Meet and Delete, but to be honest I was running out of ideas. My best advice to would-be writers is: once you start, write something every day, however little. It's the only way to keep in touch with your characters.
What writers inspire you?
Writing is story-telling and I love writers who tell a good story. Í loved Maeve Binchy's earlier books, and Patricia Scanlon too. I particularly like historical novels which bring us back to another era such as those by Theo Aronson, Nancy Mitford, Amanda Foreman, Stella Tillyard. Reading a great book at the moment Madame Tussaud By Michele Moran. It's set in the French Revolution.
If you could write in a collaboration with another author, who would you like to write with?
I would love to be able to write a crime novel but have no idea how to go about it so I would have to choose Mary Higgins Clark. She is superb at this genre.
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
Most definitely. Always a great moment when you write "The End". Usually it's shoes or a bag. And also when it's actually published of course! I've quite a collection of both now.