Today it's my pleasure to welcome author Clodagh Murphy to the blog to talk about her latest book For Love or Money which was published this week.
Hi! I’m an Irish writer and I live in Dublin – currently in a city centre apartment, but I’ll shortly be moving to a house in the suburbs, where I plan to build the writing shed of my dreams.
I wanted to be a writer from a young age, and I was always scribbling stories, poems and bits of novels. The first thing I had published was a short story in a national newspaper. But when I started writing romantic comedy, I felt I’d found my niche. I was surprised - and delighted - to discover I could actually make people laugh with my writing. My first novel The Disengagement Ring was published in 2009 by Hachette Ireland, and I’ve had three other novels and a novella published since then.
If you had to give an elevator pitch for your latest book For Love or Money, what would it be?
I’m so bad at elevator pitches! I really need to work on that. I’d say it’s a sunny, funny, sexy romantic comedy with a lot of heart. But if we can pretend it’s a very slow elevator in a very tall building, this is a short blurb:
Lesley has always fancied herself as an amateur sleuth, so when Al wants to hire her to investigate his elderly uncle’s fiancée, she jumps at the chance. It doesn’t hurt that the job will involve posing as Al’s girlfriend and joining his family on holiday in Nice.
Stella can’t quite believe she’s engaged to legendary actor Sir Peter Bradshaw. She accepted what she thought was a deathbed proposal. Now she has a living, breathing fiancé and a wedding to plan. But first she has to get through a holiday in the South of France with Peter’s extended family, who all seem convinced she’s a gold-digger.
As Lesley bonds with Stella over shopping trips and bottles of rosé, she thinks she has it all figured out. After all, it’s no great mystery why a young woman would marry a fabulously wealthy seventy-two-year-old with a heart condition, is it?
And Al may be the nicest boyfriend she’s ever had (even if he is fake), but Lesley believes in instant attraction and there’s just no spark. So there’s no chance he’s going to grow on her.
But people have a way of surprising you, as she’s about to discover ...
Which comes first for you, characters or the plot?
It’s hard to say because they’re intertwined. If the character comes first, they bring some plot with them, and vice versa. Lesley in For Love or Money was a secondary character in my third novel Frisky Business, so I already knew she liked playing at being a private detective, and when I decided to make her the star of her own book, the idea of her doing some kind of investigation naturally followed. That led to the story about her fake relationship with Al, and going undercover in his family on the trail of a potential gold-digger.
Conversely, if the premise comes first, I have to think about what sort of person would find themselves in the particular scenario I’ve imagined and why. So a lot of character can be baked into the idea from the start.
How do you decide on the titles of your novels?
I like having a working title for my projects, but publishers usually change them, so I don’t get too attached.
Occasionally the title comes really easily, but mostly I find them difficult. Song titles can be a good source of ideas. In fact, I thought a particular song title would be perfect for this book, but unfortunately it had been used on a recent novel in the same genre. So it was back to the drawing board. After a lot of brainstorming, I came back to For Love or Money, which was its working title. Nothing else seemed to fit, and as I’m publishing this one myself, I could keep it.
If For Love or Money was to be made into a film, who would you cast in the main roles?
That’s a tough one. I think Aisling Bea or Yasmine Akram would make a great Lesley, and Saoirse Ronan could be perfect for Stella. As for Al, I did actually have an actor in mind while I was writing it, but he’d be far too old now. That’s how slow I am! Maybe Tom Hughes ... he’s cute. Yeah, I think he’d be worth auditioning.
What essentials do you need to have close to hand when you are in writing mode?
When I’m writing a first draft and just trying to get the words down I often use the Pomodoro technique (25 minute intervals of working with short breaks between), and I have a little kitchen timer that I use for that. I also love my Alphasmart Neo for doing first draft writing. It’s a hand-held word processor that’s basically just a keyboard and an LCD screen that displays about three lines of text. It does nothing else - you just put words in and get words out, and that’s it. You can’t play games or connect to the internet, so it cuts out all distractions. It’s really portable too, so you can take it anywhere, and it runs on AA batteries that last forever.
What would you say is the best thing about writing? And on the flip side, what is the hardest?
I think the best thing is when other people enjoy what I’ve written. It’s kind of amazing being able to share these stories I’ve dreamed up with total strangers, and it’s always thrilling someone says they loved one of my books. It makes me so happy.
The hardest part for me is doing the actual writing. I love daydreaming about my characters, imagining the conversations they have and the things they do. I entertain myself running these stories like films in my head. But having to actually write it all out in words that will convey it to someone else, and be engaging and entertaining and funny and moving ... that’s hard work.
If you could write in a collaboration with another author, who would you like to write with and why?
Ooh, interesting question! I love the idea of collaborating, but I’m kind of in awe of writers who can do it, especially on novels. I can imagine doing it on screenplays, and I’d love to work with a screenwriter on an adaptation of one of my books.
I can’t imagine anyone who’d be more fun to collaborate with than Jilly Cooper. That would be a hoot! Failing that, I’d like to write with someone who enjoys the bits I hate, like writing descriptions of scenery or houses. That’s like pulling teeth for me, so it would be great to work with someone who found those bits easy, and would leave me to concentrate on the dialogue and sex.
What novel(s) have you read that you wish you had written?
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. It’s one of my favourite novels of recent years. Her writing is sublime and so insightful.
I remember having a serious case of author envy when I read One Day by David Nicholls. It’s so funny and clever, and I loved the characters. I’d have done some things differently, though, so it wouldn’t have been quite the same novel in the end. I’d also love to have written a character as beloved and iconic as Bridget Jones.
And finally, what can we expect from you next?
I’m working on another romantic comedy, which I’m hoping will be published in early 2021. I’m not a plotter (despite many attempts at learning to outline), so I don’t know a lot about it so far. But it’s about two people whose lives have been disrupted in different ways and they’re helping each other as they to reclaim their old lives and make up for lost time.
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