Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Debut Spotlight: Rachael English

Today's it's my stop on the blog tour for Rachael English's debut novel Going Back which is published tomorrow. 

Rachael English is a presenter on Ireland’s most popular radio show, Morning Ireland. Going Back is her first novel. It spent seven weeks in the top ten when first released in Ireland last year and was shortlisted in the Newcomer of the Year category in the Irish Book Awards. She lives in Dublin with her husband.

You can contact Rachael on Twitter: @EnglishRachael or via Facebook: RachaelEnglishwriter

In the summer of 1988, Elizabeth Kelly and her friends leave recession-hit Ireland for a summer of adventure and opportunity in Boston. The next four months change all of them, especially Elizabeth. Quiet and dutiful at home, she surprises herself and everyone else by falling for Danny Esposito, a restless charmer with a troublesome family.  

More than twenty years later with opportunities in Ireland scarce once again, a new generation looks to America, awakening memories of a golden summer for their parents. When a crisis occurs, Elizabeth returns to Boston where she is drawn back into the life she once lived. But will she be able to reconcile the dreams of her twenty-year-old self with the woman she has become?  

Going Back is a story of family, friendships and love, of difficult decisions and lifelong consequences.

Can you tell us a little about your debut novel Going Back?
It tells the story of five young Irish people who go to Boston in the summer of 1988. Four of them are desperate for adventure. But, as is often the way, it’s the quietest of the group, 
Elizabeth, who has the wildest time. The first part of the book is about what happens that 
summer. The second part picks up on their lives more than twenty years later when the 
repercussions of decisions they made back in 1988 start to hit home.

Where did the inspiration come from?
Three or four years ago, I went for a drink with some college friends. As tends to be the way 
with these occasions, we lapsed into reminiscences about our teens and early twenties; when 
everybody was thin and idealistic and broke. The conversation turned to a summer spent 
working in Boston. Back in 1988, six of us had shared an apartment there. We must have spent four months without sleep because we all remembered life as an endless cycle of working and partying! 

From that, the idea came to me of a character - Elizabeth - who gets the opportunity to return to a city where she spent several very eventful months. What would it be like for her to revisit the places that meant so much to her? And what if she went a step further and tried to track down the people who had shaped that summer?

The book is written from several different points of view. Why did you decide on this 
approach?
When I started writing, I only told a couple of people. It was my private project, so I did what 
was most enjoyable - and one of the joys of writing fiction is that you get to walk in somebody 
else’s shoes. I loved the challenge of trying to imagine how different people would feel and 
react.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
As a child, definitely. I loved reading so much that I worried there weren’t enough books in the world for me to read! Unfortunately, like a lot of people, the older I got the less confident I 
became. I was convinced that writing was for ‘other people’: people who had an author in the 
family or people who could afford to write full time. But, really, these were just excuses. So, just over three years ago, I decided to give it another go. Now, I love writing so much, I’m sorry I didn’t start sooner.

Like a lot of writers, you also have a ‘day job’ - you’re a radio presenter. How does writing fiction differ from journalism?
Where do I start? The most obvious difference is that while I’ve been a journalist for a long time – almost twenty-five years – I’m a complete newcomer to novel-writing. I still get anxious about my work as a radio presenter, but I have a lot of experience to fall back on. When it comes to writing, I learn something new every day. Another big difference is that news is ephemeral. You interview somebody for five or ten minutes and then move on. Every day is a new day. When you’re writing a novel, the characters are with you for months or years. You think about them constantly. By the time I finished Going Back it wouldn’t have surprised me to see Elizabeth and Danny – or even secondary characters like Vincent or Michelle – walking down the street.

Are you currently working on a new book? If so, are you able to tell us anything about it?
I’ve just finished my next book. It’s called Each and Every One, and it will be out in September. It tells the story of a successful Dublin family and how they all cope when life start to go wrong. I’d love to say that writing a second book is easier, but if anything it’s harder because you set yourself different challenges. When I was writing Going Back, I treated it like a bit of escapism. It was my hobby and if it didn’t work out, that was fine. The second time around, I was tougher on myself. Oh, and I had a publisher looking over my shoulder too!

Where would be you idyllic location for a writing retreat? 
Last year, we went to Croatia on holidays. We spent two weeks on a tiny island called Kolocep, and I wrote - in longhand - almost every day. It was so wonderful that I ended up setting a small part of my next book there. So, I’d love to go back to Kolocep - but for far longer than two weeks!

If you've missed the other stops on the tour this week, why not pop over to Reading in the Sunshine and The Book Corner to check them out, and don't forget to pop over to Bronagh at Handwritten Girl tomorrow for more from Rachael. 

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