Saturday, 23 March 2013

Irish Fiction Month Interview: Claire Allan

Tonight I'm pleased to welcome bestselling author Claire Allan to the blog for a bit of a chat. I've read most of Claire's books but have to confess that her last book If Only You Knew is still sat in my staggering TBR pile and I don't have a copy of her latest book What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? yet although I do have it on pre-order for its paperback publication next month.

Why do you think Irish Fiction has become so popular worldwide?
As the late Frank Carson would have said, it's the way we tell 'em!  I think Irish writers tend to write with a warmth and honesty that makes their work accessible and welcoming.  The Irish popular women's fiction writers can tell a story like no other - it does become like sitting down for a chat with a friend. You don't have to work too hard at reading what we write, but that doesn't make it any less worthy or any less important. The humour in our books - even dark books - also helps. 

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? 
Yes - always. Even as a young child, before I could write, I would spend hours making books - drawing pictures and clumping them together. That never changed. Whether or not I ever believed I could be a published author is another story - but the desire to write was always there.  And when I was facing my 30th birthday I decided it was definitely a case of "now or never" when it came to writing a novel. I had to put up or shut up! 

If you weren't a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
Well my career path is writing - but under a different guise! I'm a print journalist by day and I suppose that was something I was always interested in. For a while I thought I would love to have been a primary school teacher but I don't honestly thing I would have the patience or stamina for that. Entertaining and educating my own two children is tough enough - it takes balls to take on a full classroom!

Do you have a set daily writing routine?
Ideally - yes. When I'm on my best writing behaviour I aim to write at least 500-1000 words a day. However every book is different and some require more research than others so on some books I have ended up with less writing time and more researching time. This can be fun when it comes to deadline. Thankfully as a journalist I'm used to working to deadlines. The most I have written in a day is 6000 words! The muse was on my side then.  

Which of the characters that you've created is your favourite?
That's a really tough question - I'm not sure I have one stand out favourite but I have characters which have stayed with me. I loved Aoife in Feels Like Maybe, and Aunt Betty in If Only You Knew. The character of Stella, in the book I've just finished writing, is probably up there as well. She is really something special.

Would you say that any of your characters are like you? If so, which one(s)?
I'd say some are - some definitely reflect aspects of my personality. Grace's (Rainy Days and Tuesdays) life experiences most closely mirror my own, but I think there is probably a little of me in Ava in If OnIy You Knew as well. (Stressed out mammy alert!). 

Have you ever had writer's block?
Oh God yes. Hateful thing. Some times I have to walk away and some times I just have sit and bash at a keyboard until at least one usable sentence is written.

Are there any books by Irish authors that you wish you'd written?  
This is exceptionally predictable but I wish I'd written Rachel's Holiday, although it is uniquely Marian and no one could do it better.

Which Irish authors, if any, inspired you to become a writer?
All the greats, Patricia Scanlan, Cathy Kelly, Sheila O'Flanagan, Maeve Binchy and Marian Keyes. 

When you've finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
Yes, something small but just for me. In the past I've treated myself to a bottle of Jo Malone perfume, a charm for my charm bracelet, a pair of shoes and a handbag. Really girly, pamper-y stuff!

Where would be your idyllic Irish location for a writing retreat?  
A wee house I stayed in once in the Downings in North Donegal, overlooking the Atlantic. It was stunning - and totally inspiring.

What was the first book by an Irish author that you can recall reading?  
I'm not sure, but my first "chick lit" book was City Girls by Patricia Scanlan - I absolutely adored it. I wanted to be Devlin (the main character) and run my own City Woman. I told all this to Patricia when I met her in Dublin last year. I'm sure she thought I was a mad stalker! 

Can you tell us a little bit about your current book?
My current (released book) is What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? - and it looks at whether or not broken hearts can ever be mended. Most people in the world have had an experience where something negative has happened which rips the lining out of your world - this book follows two characters in difficult situation and how they come back from those life changing moments. It is set around a wedding gown shop - which was delicious to write!

Can you describe your latest book in 20 words or less?
Some times what you think is the end is really only the beginning! 

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