Today it's my pleasure to welcome one of my favourite Irish authors Roisin Meaney back to the blog. We'd originally planned to do this interview as part of next week's Irish Fiction feature week but I was then invited by her publishers to be a part of the blog tour for her new book Two Friday's in April so we're bringing the interview forward to today.
But don't worry as Roisin will still be a big part of the feature week as I'll be reviewing After the Wedding, which has been sat neglected in my TBR pile since last Summer, and hopefully Two Friday's in April as well if I manage to read both books between now and then...
It's Friday, April 2. Daphne Darling knows that she should be celebrating her stepdaughter Una's 17th birthday, but it's hard, because the date also marks the one-year anniversary of her husband's death and she and Una just can't seem to connect anymore. Daphne can't turn to her own mother Isobel for advice as their relationship is distant, to say the least, and Mo, Finn's elderly mother, is still grief-stricken at the death of her only son, so she is of little help. But by the end of that day in April, marking the occasion with a slice of cake and a glass of wine will be the last thing on anyone's mind...
Before that Friday, Daphne, Mo and Isobel were all stuck in the past, with their grief and their loss. And then Una takes matters into her own hands, and even though she makes a terrible mistake, she teaches Daphne, Mo and Isobel something about life: that it is to be lived and that, in spite of everything they've been through, happiness can still be a part of it.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest novel Two Fridays in April?
Sure: as the name suggests, it all happens during two Fridays, both of which happen to fall in April. The story is told from the point of view of four women, and the book follows each of them as they make their way through the days in question, sometimes interacting with one or more of the others, and sometimes not. The book begins in the morning of the first Friday and ends on the evening of the second. A LOT happens in between, to each of the women!
What message do you hope that readers will take from reading this novel?
The overriding themes of Two Fridays in April are recovery and forgiveness. Each of the women is damaged by past events, and it is only by confronting their various pasts and making their peace with what happened can they learn to find joy again.
Two Fridays in April features three generations of a family, which character did you have the most fun creating?
I think the older woman, I’m not sure why. Maybe because she’s the most contrary! I get a kick out of creating characters that readers would really want to dislike, and then making it impossible for them to do so! I think I’ve succeeded here…I hope so.
What can we expect from you next?
Oh boy….working on the next book set on the island of Roone, the third in the series. It’s Christmas, and the island is experiencing its usual shenanegans, with a few twists thrown in just to keep it fresh. I so love writing about this island, I’m seriously considering setting all future books there!
Sharon - Yes, please do as I LOVE Roone
How did your writing journey start?
After thinking about it for almost a decade, I took a year off teaching in 2001 and moved to San Francisco (where one of my brothers lives) and wrote my first book, The Daisy Picker, which incredibly won a write a bestseller novel competition and was published two years later, followed by a second, Putting Out the Stars a year after that. (The prize was a two book publishing deal!)
Do you do much research before you start writing your novels?
Some need more research than others. I generally prefer to find real people to help me with research. I’ve interviewed policemen, sheep farmers, nurses, teachers, company directors, immigrants and accountants, among others. I love doing research, and I find that generally people are delighted to help.
Are you a plotter?
Oh crikey, I sure am. Having said that, my plot wouldn’t be very detailed before I start writing but I’d always have the bones of a story sorted beforehand. I prefer to fill in the spaces as I go, which sometimes causes a change in direction, which is fine, but I’d never dream of starting a book without some kind of a plot, and fairly well-defined characters.
What is the best writing advice you have ever received?
Just do it. If I had a euro for everyone who told me they’d love to write a book but don’t have time/can’t get started/feel intimidated by the amount of writing, I’d be a millionaire several times over. There’s no secret to writing, if you feel you have a story in you. It’s a case of putting your bum on a chair for a certain amount of time each day (and if you want it badly enough, you’ll find the time) and repeating the exercise until you get to the end.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Up in the morning, do my run, shower, make breakfast, sit at the laptop. Stay there until I feel like my brain will explode if I ask it to come up with another word. Repeat the following day until the job is done. Having said that, I take a five minute break every hour and hop into social media – I feel it gives me a little recharge.
What would you say is the best thing about writing?
Being able to do it anywhere. I regularly pack up my laptop and head somewhere new for a few weeks (I discovered Roone when I was on one such trip, to Valentia Island in Kerry). I’m lucky to be unmarried with no kids, so I’m really free to come and go as I want, as long as I have the funds.
Where do you get your ideas from for your books?
Everywhere. Something I might hear, or overhear (I’m very good at overhearing!) or something I see when I’m out and about that strikes a chord. Something I hear about on the radio, or read in the paper, or am told by a friend. I’m always on the lookout for ideas, and I store them in my head until I get home, where I transfer them onto a file on the laptop called Ideas for Future Books.
If you could write in a collaboration with another author, who would you like to write with?
Anne Tyler, so I could see how she works, and steal a few of her habits. I ADORE her books.
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
Yes – usually a trip to TKMaxx, where I buy a few small bits and pieces. I’m easily pleased!
Do you read much yourself? If so, what was the last book that you read?
I read every night before bedtime. I’m a very slow reader so it takes me forever to finish a book. Consequently I have a never-diminishing tower of books on my bedside locker. The book I’ve just finished is called Feeding Johnny: How to Build a Business despite the Roadblocks. It’s SO not my typical book – I’m novels all the way – but the author is a friend of mine and I was curious to read it. Thankfully, it was an easy read and completely free of business jargon, which would mean nothing to me. The last novel I read and loved was The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce, who also wrote the excellent The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I’ve just begun A Passionate Man by Joanna Trollope, another author whose books I normally love.