My first novel >>Watch video>>
I had been acting for years and I was expecting my first baby so I was like, “Even if they want a pregnant actress they’ll put a bump in, they won’t hire me”. I had always wanted to write a novel and I’d messed around and put things away and messed around and put it away, but on this particular day, ten years ago, I was lying on the couch stuffing my face with minstrels and I just saw this “Write a Bestseller with TV3” thing with a six week deadline.
My husband was going out to work that day and he was like, “Well, what are you going to do today?” I was like, “Yeah, I’ve got the laptop out, I’m going to write a novel”. “Do you not need like a pinboard with notes and stuff? “No, I think it’s all in my head”, and I went and wrote it in six weeks.
I wrote the book with the thoughts, “Oh this will never be published”, which is the most freeing way to write. The process of entering the competition was fantastic because it made me finish the novel. When Love Takes Over was my first novel and with it, I got a three-book deal from that competition.
Switch off >>Watch video>>
I think as a writer you can never switch off your brain. Most people finish work and it’s gone but you’re sitting there looking at the TV, thinking, “Ah maybe the character should do this? Or she should do that.” I’m finding it very difficult to switch off mentally from my job.
It drives my husband mad. We’d be sitting watching something on TV and then I’m gone. I can’t seem to keep focus and it annoys me myself because I want to be present. I don’t want to be working 24 hours but I think that happens when you are on a deadline.
I’ve put out a book every year for the last 10 years nearly, so it’s a lot of words on paper and there are a lot of characters. I’m gonna try and find a way to actually try and switch it off. I’d rather find the tools to be able to turn that off.
Primal need >>Watch video>>
At the moment now I’m editing my ninth novel. It’s been a hard enough edit just because the kids are off school. Normally, I get my head down in the morning and I go through it but my priority is always my children so I work around them.
Creatively, I’m in the kinda headspace now where I don’t want to see the keyboard for a long time. I feel like everything has just come out and I’m creatively drained. I’ll tell you I’ll never write another book as long as I live.
Everytime when it gets to the end of a novel, it’s exhausting and you’ve written 100,000 words, but when you let it go, after about three weeks, there is a primal need to go back. Sometimes I’ll find myself even just starting to write, “So Tara walked in and opened the dishwasher and not expecting…” I just have to release words. I know it sounds mad but the page and the ritual and the noise of the keys, I think it’s something that calms me that I actually need to do.
When I was in school for English when they gave me an essay, I was gone. I loved it and I kept diaries so there’s obviously a part of me that needs to make up stories and tell stories and find characters.
Women >>Watch video>>
I think there’s such snobbery around writing. “A writer? What have you done?”. I’ve written a book. That makes me a writer. You wouldn’t ask a fisherman, “Well, how many fish have you caught?” It’s ridiculous. I always get, “Well, what would I know that you’ve done?”
I think women especially suffer with that. I found that at the beginning, I felt like I had to explain myself. People used to say “What do you do?” and I’d be like, “Well, I sort of write books”, but now I can just go, “I’m a writer. I write stories, I write stories that women enjoy”, and I’m very proud to say that. I’ve learned to trust what I do and embrace the fact that my work is good and it’s really enjoyed by people.
There are so many of us writing within that one window, there’s Patricia Scanlan, Sheila O’Flanagan, Cathy Kelly, Cecelia Ahern, me, Carmel Harrington, there’s loads. The acting background that I came from was kind of unsociable, but I found with the female writers, we really big each other up and post if someone’s book is out. It’s just a really nice community.
Second novels >>Watch video>>
I know so many fantastic writers who have finished their first books and I’ve read them and helped them and they’re amazing but they can’t find a publisher. It’s extremely, extremely frustrating, so what I advise is, “Park that one, just put it away, just leave it and start on something else”. Take all the tools with you from that first book and go again. You’re definitely a better writer at that point, you’re more used to the process.
I find second novels are really your first, whereas your first, is your .5 – sometimes it’s barely there. I just think you’re a better writer the second time round.
First three chapters >>Watch video>>
People find a word count overwhelming, 100,000 words. Only concentrate on your first three chapters because that’s all a publisher is ever gonna ask for and it just seems less overwhelming.
Get the first three chapters down and go back over them and go back over them and back over them because they’re your calling card. Anything can happen after them. That’s where a book is bought, on those first three chapters. I always think writers always forget them to get to the crux of the story but no, it’s those first three chapters that are really, really important. I wish I had known that when I was starting out because I was kinda throwing those chapters away but they’re vitally important.
Outside Ireland >>Watch video>>
It’s so frustrating because so many books are so great and it’s such a small pond here so never be afraid to cast outside Ireland. Go for UK agents, go for American agents, don’t just keep knocking on the same doors here because it is a very saturated industry. Especially what I do, fiction writing. You put your book out, you’ve two weeks of shelf space and that book’s gone. Then there’s another one coming in so it’s very short.
I would definitely say look to the UK more so than here even because they’ve a huge market and they’re always looking for Irish writers.
Self publish >>Watch video>>
Amazon. Self publish, self publish self publish. It’s fantastic. The amount of writers I know who’ve started off that way and their careers have soared. I think we’re very lucky as writers now to have that tool. Write your stuff. If you can’t get an agent or a publisher, put it up there on Amazon and then keep going. Just own the fact that you’re a writer.
Netflix >>Watch video>>
I’ve been at the Galway Film Fleadh this summer pitching my feature film, which is called Bride Squad. It’s based off of a book that my friend and I wrote. We’ve been tirelessly developing the script for the last five years and it’s finally ready to go to market. There are something like 30 production companies or studios at the fleadh so you pick your top ten. We wanted to go because Netflix were there for the very first time, so we got to pitch to Netflix.
Even though I have a really good agent in the UK, it’s still really hard to get any script to Netflix so this was kind of our goal this year – try and get to the fleadh and get to sit in front of them so we did. The script is now in the Netflix gods’ laps.
Novel number 9
The book that I’m editing now is the first time I’ve ever done a sequel. My last book that was out was called, “The Unexpected Love Story of Lexie Byrne (aged 39 1/2)” and the sequel to that book will be out in September, “It’s a Wonderful Life for Lexie Byrne (aged 41 and a quarter)”. It’s a Christmas novel so that’s my Novel Number 9.
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