Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Irish Fiction Month Interview: Patricia Scanlan

I've been a huge fan of bestselling author Patricia Scanlan ever since I first read her City Girl trilogy when I was in my twenties 
Over the years I've read all of her books including her latest book With All My Love which I've recently reviewed so I was very happy when she agreed to to an Interview for my Irish fiction feature month.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
No it happened unexpectedly when I wrote my first novel City Girl to win a competition in Cosmo magazine to win a word processor and see my novel in print. I didn’t win…but I became a writer! 

If you weren't a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I would love to have been an artist or an animator.

Why do you think Irish Fiction has become so popular worldwide?
Who knows better about writing for women than women? And we have some FANTASTIC Irish women writers. I think that Irish fiction is so popular, because, if we authors have done our job properly, the readers can identify with the characters and their life experiences. It may be the ups and downs of family life, the stresses of looking after elderly or sick parents, sibling resentments, getting dumped by a rotter, feeling fat and frumpy, the frustrations of parenthood, having a horrible boss, trying to juggle career and motherhood, being elderly and feeling like a burden on your children, marriage break up or whatever. There are so many scenarios that we write about that our readers, worldwide identify with. I call it the ‘Universal Experience.’ It’s probably our Celtic heritage but we can tell good stories and bring warmth, compassion and empathy to our novels.

Do you have a set daily writing routine?
I start off writing very slowly because I don’t know my characters and may only write for an hour or two a day, but as the novel progresses I spend much longer at it and by the end I can be writing from 8am until midnight.

Which of the characters that you've created is your favourite?

That’s a hard question to answer, as they are all different and when I’m writing about each one I enjoy them. Devlin Delaney in City Girl was very special because she was my first. Cassie in Finishing Touches was special because it was the first novel I wrote after giving up the day job and felt like a ‘proper’ author and I got a huge postbag about her as she was caring for her mother who had Alzheimer’s. Francesca in Francesca’s Party was special because it was the first time I wrote about a single character who was in her forties, and it was challenging.  I love Lily who is an elderly woman in Forgive and Forget and Happy Ever After? and who’s learning not to be selfish, Melissa, in the same novel is a young teenager on the brink of anorexia and I worry about her!  And Lizzie and Valerie in my latest novel, With All My Love. Lizzie is a true friend who says it as it is and sticks by Valerie’s side through thick and thin

Would you say that any of your characters are like you?  If so, which one(s)?
Any of them who say ‘let’s put the kettle on,’ when they’re in a crises are the ones I ALWAYS relate to.

Have your ever had writers block?
Nothing that tea and ginger nut biscuits can’t shift!!!

Are there any books by Irish authors that you wish you'd written?
We have a very talented best-selling author called Ciara Geraghty who wrote Saving Grace. She’s perceptive, observant and you laugh out loud reading her. Saving Grace was a terrific read, she does light and dark superbly and you really chortle laughing when reading her books.

Which Irish authors, if any, inspired you to become a writer?
Maeve Binchy was a huge inspiration and was always accessible and a source of knowledge and advice for a fledgling author so it was great to know that if I was unsure of something I could ask her advice. I remember telling her I hated flying and was nervous and she told me to keep an eye on the cabin crew and if they looked calm everything was fine!!! A few years later she held a big party in her house for women in the book trade. Cathy Kelly, Marian Keyes, Sheila O’Flanagan and myself, who are all great friends, had a terrific time and were all made so welcome. The great thing about Maeve was that she never begrudged any of us our success and she was very proud of us and would put our books out to the front of bookshelves if she felt we weren’t displayed well enough! She set the bar high.

Brian Moore who wrote The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne was also a huge inspiration. His depiction of Judith Hearne a lonely spinster of a certain age who has come down in society is riveting. I was so impressed that a male writer could get inside the head of this utterly compelling and complex character. I wanted to do the same with mine.

When you've finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
Red wine and chocolate preferably, but it’s usually the middle of the night and I’ve neglected my shopping so a few times it’s been something like hard cheese and stale brown bread and flat coke! And then, when edits etc. are all done a day in a spa!

Where would be your idyllic Irish location for a writing retreat?

I have the idyllic location in Wicklow with a beautiful vista of hills and fields to look at. Peaceful…no landline…not a great phone signal and no internet. Bliss.

What was the first book by an Irish author that you can recall reading?

The Grey Goose of Kilnevin, by a magical children’s writer called Patricia Lynch. It fired my imagination and I can still remember it to this day.

Can you tell us a little bit about your current book? 
With All My Love is about the lives of three generations of women that are set to change forever as the past is revisited and the truth unfolds when a granddaughter finds a letter from her grandmother, which was never given to her. Secrets, lies, betrayals and sacrifices are revealed and the complex bonds between mothers, daughters and granddaughters are intricately explored as my new novel takes the readers into the hearts and homes of a family at war. Does time heal? Can great injustices be forgiven or will spite and bitterness prevail to ruinmore lives? Meaty themes I enjoyed exploring.

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