Thursday, 15 January 2015

Author Interview: Ciara Geraghty

Today it's publication day for Ciara Geraghty's fifth novel Now That I've Found You and it's my pleasure to welcome her to the blog to talk about her book.  First let's find out a little bit about your writing process before moving onto what Now That I've Found You is about. 

©Doreen Kilfeather
What does a typical writing day look like for you? 
I am very much a working mother. So, I work (for ‘work’, read ‘write’) after I drop my six-year-old to school, the other two can get there on their own steam by now. I get back to the house about 9.15am, make tea and toast and head to the office - the attic - for about 9.30am. Then I stay there until picking up time which is 2.30pm (with occasional lunchtime beach walks with my dog and / or husband (who also works from home), for good behaviour).

Do you set yourself a daily writing target?
Definitely. I am Saturday’s child and Saturday’s child ‘works hard for a living.’ So I am typically a hard worker. Let’s add some ancient Catholic guilt in there and I am every corporate boss’ dream!! I MUST write a thousand words every day. Any less is ‘hellfire and brimstone’ and any more is….well, it makes me smile when I’m making the Bolognese sauce for dinner :)

Are you a plotter or a pantster?  
I would love to be a plotter. And when I’m starting every new project, I chant ‘Be A Plotter, Be A Plotter’ but it seems that it’s definitely nature over nurture here because I am destined to be a pantster - in every aspect of my life (eg. I have three children and one adopted dog and I never planned any of that….).

Vinnie is an ordinary man. Ellen is an ordinary woman.

Ellen is unable to move on after a terrible accident that left her mentally and physically scarred.

Taxi driver Vinnie is struggling to cope with bringing up two children on his own.

Everyone deserves to find that one person who's meant for them, don't they?

Fall in love with the story of Vinnie and Ellen. Because ordinary lives can be extraordinary.

Before we read Ciara's answers to what Now That I've Found You is about, here's a teaser video for you to watch.

Can you tell us a little bit about your new book Now That I've Found You?  
This book is all about family. Parenthood mostly. Different types of parenthood. Parenting children. And still being a parent when your children are all grown up and your job is done but you just can’t let them go. The main character is Vinnie Boland, a single father who is struggling to raise his teenage daughter and his young son on his own - with insistent help from his elderly mother. He is doing the best he can but remains convinced he’s falling short. Vinnie’s wife - his childhood sweetheart - left the family over a year before the story begins and some part of Vinnie wishes she would come back, if only so he won’t be the only one his children can blame when they get older and realise what a mess he’s made of things. Then he meets Ellen, a reclusive woman who used to be a doctor, who used to have a life and a burgeoning family of her own. One day, Vinnie has a panic attack while he’s driving Ellen to one of her weekly physiotherapy sessions in his taxi and she gets into the driver’s seat and takes him to hospital. It’s the first time Ellen has driven a car since she was involved in a horrific car accident over a year before. This simple act, getting behind the wheel again, releases something in Ellen. The panic attack - its causes and its consequences - forces Vinnie to stop and think about his life. The pair embark on a cautious friendship. 

The story is about life and how it throws things at you when you think that it should have stopped that carry on. It’s about second chances, and all the chances after that. It’s about how you should grab them. Expect the worst. And hope for the best.

Ellen and Vinnie both are at a low point in their lives, where did the inspiration come from for their paths to cross on a weekly basis?  
I liked the idea that theirs was no ‘meet-cute.’ They knew each other for about a year before they became cautious friends. Vinnie is a taxi driver. He drives Ellen where she needs to be (her physiotherapy sessions) without asking her any questions. He senses that she doesn’t want to talk and that suits Vinnie fine - he has a lot of customers who talk more than he’d like. Ellen loves that Vinnie is taciturn; it suits her reclusiveness no end. So when something happens - Vinnie’s panic attack, Ellen’s reluctant drive to the hospital - it feels like both of them have arrived in a cul-de-sac. They can no longer go forward, they must pause, perform complicated three-point-turns, reverse around corners, in order to be able to move forward. It is in the performance of these difficult manoeuvres that our two characters have a chance to know each other, to develop their relationship.

What message do you hope readers take from reading this novel?  
Familes are not perfect. In fact, like Osgood Fielding III tells Daphne / Jerry at the end of ‘Some Like It Hot, “nobody’s perfect”. We’re all just doing our best. Not every day, but lots of days. We’re doing our best. On the days when we’re not, we do our best to get by. In fiction, these imperfections are called ‘the human condition.’ But they exist!! In real life! Let’s embrace them and stop worrying about the neighbours!!

Are you currently working on a new book? If so, are you able to give us a teaser about it?
Oh yes I am, and I’m very excited about it! The ‘working title’ is ‘This is Now’ and it centres on the lives of five seemingly unrelated characters. There is [what I hope will be] an ‘explosive’ prologue that involves all the characters (one of them dies!!) and then we go back, to particular incidents in each of the characters’ lives that form them, that make them the people they become. I suppose it’s about how events in your life inform on the person that you eventually become. I’ve always wanted to write a novel like this - different characters, interwoven in some way, to produce some type of a narrative arc. Hopefully, this is it!! 

And now for a few more general questions...

Which phase do you find the hardest  during the writing/publishing process?
Oh, is there an easy bit? No, but seriously….I find the first 20,000 words the hardest.  You have this idea that you think is GREAT!! Then you start writing and as it evolves, so do your doubts. You think, what? You thought this was a good idea? This is a TERRIBLE idea!!! You keep going because you remember what a great idea you thought it all was back in the summer when the smell of honeysuckle was all around and the  jug of Sangria you brought back from holidays was still full….

You keep going….

You keep going….

And I suppose that’s it really. You keep going. That’s the worst part. And the best part.

If you could write a celebrity into one of your novels, who would it be and why?   
I’m not mad about our ‘celebrity’ culture. I prefer making people up (fictional characters are less likely to disappoint than any of our celebrities, mostly because you can’t meet them in ‘real life.’). But if pushed, I am going to say Dylan Moran. Love him and like him and….okay I’m just going to say it….I fancy him a bit. I want to sit at a bar counter with him and have pints and laugh so hard there’s a chance I might - slightly - pee my pants. I think he’s a fantastic character; funny, clever, self-deprecating, sarcastic, quirky, disorganised, a bit wild. I love that in a character…

What is the best advice you have ever received about writing?
I think it might have been Marian Keyes who said this one and I love it:

The bad news is: There’s no magic.


The good news is: There’s no magic.

Those words make it easier for me to be in a chair with my pen my notebook, my laptop, chiselling away at the words and the story. Some days it’s pants. And some day’s it’s golden…And the only difference between those days is hard work, stamina, determination and some sort of belief in myself. It’s not romantic, but there it is….

When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
No. But because I smoke and drink and eat sausage rolls pretty much throughout the whole writing process, I feel this is reward enough….But I have to say that the words, ‘The’ and ‘End’ are two of my favourite words. There’s a natural sort of a high that comes from that.

If you could write collobratively with anyone else, who would it be and why?
There is no doubt that I prefer working alone than in a team. Even when I had a ‘real’ job (I was an insurance loss adjustor), I was a bit of a ‘lone ranger’ in that I handled the French accounts since I was the only loss adjuster in the office who spoke French so, for the most part, I worked on my own and, so long as my fee targets were in the black, the boss never bothered me. Recently, however, I’ve worked on some screenplays with other people which has been challenging and exciting. I think it’s good to try new things, to flex the writing muscles in different directions.

Where would you perfect writing retreat be?
The first writers’ festival I ever went to took place in Listowel, Co. Kerry which happens during the June bank holiday every year. I was alone, very much alone, unpublished, feeling pretty much like a fraud because who was I? To go to such a thing on my own? At that time, I knew no writers, published or otherwise. Nobody in my family wrote. Nor did they have any aspirations to. I never told them about the desires I harboured. The ones where my name was on the cover of a book. In a bookshop. And so I went, sick  with nerves and excitement. And there, I met what I fondly refer to as my ‘tribe’ - Emma McEvoy, Bernie Furlong, Yvonne Cassidy. Fellow writers who showed me that it’s okay to want to be a writer. Who told me that you don’t have to be published to be a writer. You just have to write. That was my first perfect writing retreat. I’ve been back several times. And each time, it reminds me, of the woman I was, and of the writer I have become, and the writer I still want to be.

Ciara Geraghty’s new novel Now That I’ve Found You is out now published by Hodder & Stoughton, £6.99. Visit Ciara’s website or follow her on twitter @ciarageraghty

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