Sunday, 4 November 2012

Guest Post: From Breakfast to Bestsellers by Roisin Meaney

Some people love it and others hate it but whatever your feelings are there's no doubt that social media plays a large part in our lives nowadays.  I for one love it as it's through the likes of Facebook and Twitter that I'm getting to meet... albeit virtually... a whole host of wonderfully talented authors.

Today I'm pleased to welcome to my blog one such author, Roisin Meaney, who I met through a Facebook group, to talk about her journey into writing. Hope you enjoy reading it.

Long, long ago, when I was eighteen, I was having breakfast (Cornflakes) and reading the back of the box. They were running a competition to win one of six Ford Fiestas, and on impulse I entered. I had to complete the sentence ‘I would like to win a Ford Fiesta because....’ using ten words or less. I used seven – ‘my father won’t let me drive his’ – and won a green car. It was my first experience of the power of words. Over the next decade I entered every competition I came across that required a sentence to be finished, and won everything from holidays to mountain bikes to watches to air miles. Words became my means to a free thing.

In the meantime I became a teacher, but after ten years of talk and chalk I wanted a fresh challenge. ‘You’re good with words,’ a cousin said. ‘Look for a job in advertising.’ I was still under thirty (just) and brave enough (foolish enough?) to put together a homemade portfolio and knock on doors in London. Incredibly, an agency took me in and paid me peanuts to come up with eye-catching slogans and natty one-hundred word magazine ads. I was in heaven – I would have worked for nothing. I adored playing around with words and ideas, and coming up with new ways to make teabags/tights/butter sexy enough for consumers to feel they couldn’t live without them.

It was around this time I decided to write a book. With my teaching background, it seemed sensible to aim it at children. I put together a collection of stories loosely based on nursery rhymes and called it Once Upon a Humpty Dumpty. I sent it off to every publisher in the UK and sat back and waited for the bidding war to begin. It was rejected by them all. I gave up on the idea of being a writer. 

In due course the glamorous world of advertising began to pall and I returned to Ireland and the classroom. Ten years later I decided to give the writing another go – and this time I decided to aim at adults. I took a year off teaching and flew (using air miles which I’d won) to San Francisco, where one of my brothers happily lived. It was there I wrote The Daisy Picker, which won a Write a Bestseller competition which a new Irish publisher was running to launch itself. The prize was a two book deal. For the sake of nostalgia, I gave my Daisy Picker heroine a Ford Fiesta to drive.  

That was eleven years ago. I am now the proud owner of eight adult novels and two children’s books. I gave up teaching in 2008, just after my fourth novel was published, to become a fulltime writer, and I’m still at it, and hoping that it will last as long as I do. A few of my books have been translated into several languages, and two have gone to the US. Several have gone into bestseller lists. I’m not rich by any means, but each book earns me a little more – and money was never my motivation. 

I feel I’m doing what I was put on this earth to do. Starting each new book terrifies and thrills me in equal measure – it’s the hardest and most exciting thing I’ve ever done.

When I write, time loses significance. I miss appointments, skip meals, forget to feed the cat or put out the bins. My sleep is seriously disrupted as I tease out a plot or tweak a storyline. Because I can’t afford to be less than fully alert when I write I’ve resorted to sleeping pills to get me through the broken nights, and have grown quite fond of warm milk before bedtime.

Throughout the process of writing a book I’m extremely focussed. I get up in the morning and work at the kitchen table till my brain says stop. I always arm myself with a plot before I start: sometimes it’s quite sketchy and I fill in as I go, and other times it veers seriously off-course and ends up miles away from where I was aiming. I become ridiculously attached to my characters as I write and miss them desperately when the book is finished. I’m devastated if someone I’ve grown attached to dies. I often write through floods of tears. 

But really, it’s all good. I wouldn’t change a thing. I love being a writer. I get beautiful messages from happy readers. Truly, I am one of the lucky ones. 

You can find out more about Roisin and her books by visiting her website and blog,  

I bought her latest two books, One Summer and The Things We Do For Love, published by Hachette Books Ireland, earlier in the summer but haven't managed to find the time to read them yet. Hoping to finally get to these over the Christmas/New Year period once the reviews ease up.

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