Saturday, 12 January 2013

Author Interview: Martina Reilly

I've read quite a few of Martina Reilly's books over the years, A Moment Like Forever is my current favourite, so I was delighted to be able to welcome her to my blog for a chat about her new book What If? amongst other things...

Can you tell us a little bit about What If?
What If? is about three women and one diary which changed their lives.

The diary is written by Lily and was started when she was fifteen. It chronicles her life and as she slowly loses her memories to Alzheimer's, she asks that her diary be read aloud so that her daughter may listen. It is Lily's way of explaining her choices and asking her choices and asking her daughters forgiveness. 

The book also follows the lives of Deirdre, Lily's daughter and Zoe, the helper who reads the Diary.   

Which came first, the characters or the plot?
The idea of the diary being a force for change was the driving factor in this book. To be honest, the way I write is a bit slap dash. My characters develop along with the plot as I write. I am not a planner, so the vaguest idea sets me on the track to writing.

What would be your What If...moment? 
My what if moment is when I was offered two jobs in one day (never happen now in recession Ireland!). On another day, I would have jumped at the first offer as my friend was working in the same place... but that day I'd had an argument with her and wanted nothing more to do with her, so I took the second offer and met my husband! I subsequently made up with my friend but what if we'd never disagreed...

Are you able to give us a hint as to what your next novel is about?
All going my agent is reading it's a bit of a risky's narrated primarily by a man whose estranged wife has died and left him in charge of their two children. In order that he does a good job, she leaves him a note to say that five women who she wishes to remain in her children's lives will take him out on various date.

Nick is a fairly morose narrator, a man's man, and the idea of school gates and parent and toddler terrifies him. Part of the book is narrated by his young daughter who misses her mother. It is a love story to fatherhood. I suppose.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Yes. I've been writing since I was eight or nine. My early attempts were Enid Blyton rip offs - a sort of fan fiction I guess before I finally found something I wanted to say and went off on my own. The result was The Gang Books, about a girl who started secondary school and met a boy...I wrote those books when was 11 and kept writing them until I turned 14.

Have you ever had writer's block? And how did you overcome it? 
The only times I've had writers block was when I knew there was something fundamentally wrong with my plot. It's a terrible feeling because you know you are writing yourself into a blind alley and some serious rethinking will be involved. But even the smallest spark or suggestion from someone (usually my husband) will set things on the road again. I believe writers block is your subconscious telling you that this plot point is a mistake.

If you weren't a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I'm not sure. I suppose teaching English would have appealed to me or failing that, I'd have been an actress. I've been acting since I was young and spend way too much time doing amateur dramatics. I love it.

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, Facebook and Twitter, a blessing or a hinderance?
A bit of both I suppose. I've met some nice people through the social media, it's also a useful tool for promoting my books and doing interviews like this one!! On the downside, it is a distraction and I am VERY easily distracted.      

How long did it take you to get your first book published?
Good question. I wrote it when I was 15 and put it aside for many years. Then at age 25, I bought a Word Processor with my sister and I typed my book up and sent it off to a few publishers. Between one thing and another (mainly the fact that I had no clue how long a teenage book should be) it was published by Poolbeg when I was 27! So 12 years....)

Do you have a set daily writing routine?
I write in the mornings and afternoon during the school term. That is it really. I try not to work on school holiday as I know I'd find the noise very frustrating which isn't very fair on my children. I have occasionally pulled a late nighter but very rarely. I write very quickly and never really have to do a lot of editing.

How hard is it to keep coming up with fresh ideas for new books?
Getting a little harder now that I'm on book 17. But at the same time, I think the ideas I get for my books are becoming more complex and interesting - probably my age...

Would you say that any of your characters are like you? If so, which one(s)?
I'm not a very introspective person - if I was I'd go screaming madly in the other direction, I think - so I don't really know if any of them are like me. Though, I suppose they all come from my mind and are a product of the life I've led, so in a way they are all facets of me. I honestly couldn't say.

If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
I don't consider my books a particular genre. I know they are markteted in the 'romance' category and some of them are romantic, but they are just stories about life and what can happen in it. They're pretty gritty and a lot humourous, which is life, I just really like writing about people, I suppose. If I was to write a crime novel, I think it's be from the POV of the criminal because I would find him/her a lot more interesting than the police.  

Have you got a favourite out of all the books you've written? If so, which one and why?
No favourite at all. Love them all.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
If you love it, keep at it. If you're doing it for fame or money or recognition, forget it. You need a passion for words, for story and for people and if you have that you'll get there.   

If you could invite any three authors, alive or dead, to a dinner party who would you choose and why?
That is a tough one! I have lovely writer friends who I regularly have dinner with but I'm assuming you're talking about people I would never get to meet so...

I'd pick Shakespeare because he is a genius. His plays are exceptional and I'd pick his brains probably by handing him a few of my plays and asking for advice.

I'd pick Emily Bronte because she penned Wuthering Heights, one of my favourite books.

And I'd pick Anne Tyler, again because another favourite book of mine is 'The Patchwork Planet'. I'd ask her how on earth does she make the ordinary so extraordinary.
Then I'd pick up the dinner tab and follow them all on twitter.       

Do you have much spare time to read books? If so, what was the last book you read or what are you currently reading?
The last book I read was 'The Talented Mr Ripley'. It was given to me by a friend and I loved it. I'm currently reading 'Edith's Diary' another Patricia Highsmith novel. Before that, I'd read Ciara Geraghty's 'Lifesaving for Beginners' and thought it was fantastic.

Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books?
I've never read an e-book and I'm not sure I'd like to. I love the hard copies.

Are there any books you've read that you wish you'd written?
Wuthering Heights and The Patchwork Planet!   

If you could have any of your books made into a film, which one would you choose and why? Who would you cast in the leading roles?
I would take the last book I wrote - Even Better than the Real Thing - and adapt it. It is a cross between a romance and a thriller and concerns a fake painting and a con man. It's set in Ireland and Florida and was great fun to write.

Eve - Amy Adams because she is a wonderful comic actress and has that perfect blend of innocence and fun that my character had.

Larry -  if Brad Pitt was only younger... I suppose it'd have to be Chace Crawford. Perfectly cheeky for Larry.

If you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with you, which ones would you choose?
I suppose Wuthering Heights, The Patchwork Planet and a 'How to build your own boat and escape from a desert Island!'

Can you describe What If? in 20 words or less?
What If? is about three women and a diary that changed their lives. 

I recently won a copy of What If? in a Twitter competition which Martina ran which I cannot wait to start reading once I've read my review books for this month.

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