The Strictly Writing family is spread far and wide. Like all families we trade opinions, offer support and celebrate one another's successes. We don't send socks at Christmas though.
Our very own Fionnuala Kearney has much to celebrate (which I'll leave her to tell you about in her own words below), and it's a genuine pleasure to bring her to the virtual and comfy interview chair. Join me please for a writing story with a happy ending.
Hello again, Fionnuala. Do you have a set routine for writing, or a favourite time and place?
Nowadays, writing is my job and I try really hard to stick to a routine. I work every day, Monday to Friday and very often at least some hours over the weekend as well – so it’s pretty full on. On the week days, I write from about nine in the morning through to lunchtime and then keep the immediate hours afterwards for emails/Facebook/Twitter. That sounds like complete procrastination but it’s not! They are now vital tools to keep in touch with other writers and readers. That’s the time I write other non-novel things like blogposts, etc., or update my website. Then, later in the afternoon, I pick up the novel work from the morning which is either writing/editing/revising, depending where I am in the process.
I work from my study at home, which is the smallest bedroom upstairs. I work surrounded with pictures and notebooks and I face the front garden so have a view to stare out at when I’m in ‘thinking’ mode. Next to my desk is the most enormous whiteboard – where I make notes and draw lots of arrows and stuff. (It’s plotting. Really.)
Tell us about your book deal moment – where were you and how did you react?
I was at home, waiting and waiting and willing the phone to ring – had been for days! MY agent called and I knew from her voice she had good news. It was, without doubt, one of the best moments I’ve ever had. After the phone-call, I did a little jig; 80’s ska-style around the kitchen.
‘You, Me and Other People’ has a dual narrative with the story of a marriage in freefall being told from both the husband and wife’s POV. How was it writing from a middle aged man’s POV and how did you find his voice?
When I’m writing, I start with characters first and I have an idea of what particular conflict/dilemma/trouble they have in their life. Beth, the wife, came to me fully formed and more or less insisted I hear her husband out! Adam came relatively easily – I constantly asked myself the ‘what if’ with both of them.
I really wanted to write both points of view because, real life often shows that nothing is ever completely one sided and nothing is ever as simple as the word ‘betrayal’ - it is our flaws as well as our strengths that make us human. Adam is certainly flawed but I found it remarkably easy to get into his head.
As a reader, two of my favourite books are ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls and ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte. Two completely different books but both with tortured male protagonists! It was probably inevitable that I would try to write a male voice.
How are you finding life as a ‘published author’ under contract in comparison to life before? Do you approach your writing differently now?
Well, it’s certainly busier now! I think I’m having to approach things a little differently as my writing evolves. I’m a natural ‘pantser’ but I no longer have the time to be, so do find myself having to plot and plan the story out more in advance of starting. I structure my working life differently because I have to, in order to get everything done – I am aware of deadlines! And I’m very aware of a readership and delivering to them.
Also, it’s not such a solitary existence, in that, I am working into an editor who is also involved in the process with each book. This does mean that I have someone to keep me on track and to help make the novel the very best it can be.
You have been signed by Harper Collins on a three book deal (huge congratulations by the way!) - can you say anything about your plans for the next two books?
I’m currently editing my second novel The Day I Lost You and it is, again, a story told from a male and female perspective. Where in You, Me And Other People, the relationship examined was husband and wife – this relationship is one of friends. It’s obvious at the beginning of the book that one of them has suffered an enormous loss and you’ll have to wait to hear more! I will start writing book three in September this year and though I have some ideas, I’m not quite sure which one I’ll run with yet. Current favourite is one where I want to tackle three perspectives of siblings, though that may change next week!
Did you get feedback on what was it about ‘You, Me and Other People’ that sealed the deal?
I think years and years (some of which were played out on here on ‘Strictly Writing’) of practising and honing my writing skills; of writing three other novels before You, Me and Other People actually stood me in good stead. Practice, while not making perfect, has certainly helped… I’ve heard it time and time again that it is all about the writing.
My editor did tell me that my ‘emotional delivery’ works and I think having the male voice in this particular story helped too.
Is there anything you’d change looking back on your journey?
I’m tempted to say it would have been nice to reach this place quicker, but honestly? I don’t think it would have been possible. My writing experience from the time I sat down first to ‘write a book’ right through until now has been exactly what it should have been – a slow and steady burn, a constant learning process.
I’m so glad that during the ‘rejection years’ that, somehow, I toughened my skin and kept going. It would have been so easy to give up. In fact, there were many times that I did, only to return to it weeks later saying, ‘I’ll just try one more time.’ If nothing else, I am a lesson in perseverance…
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to write?
Keep going! Never give up! And even if you only write the tiniest of atoms of a story, persevere. Another day, you will write more.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Do writers even have spare time?!
Spare time?! Ha! Seriously, I love to read. It was my love of reading that first made me want to write so I still love to lose myself in a good book. I’m a foodie – love good food and a glass of vino with family and friends.
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