My Life as a Writer
by Claudia Carroll
A little bit about my average writing day
My writing schedule is to keep it as close to a nine-to-five job as possible. I’m at my desk early, as I find the best time to write is before the phone starts hopping. I’ll work right through till maybe early afternoon, then take a break. In the afternoon, I’ll go back over the morning’s work and clean it up a bit. After eight and a half books, I’ve got very disciplined about not answering the phone or door unless it’s work-related. Just as though I worked in an office, really.
My writing process
I would spend roughly a year writing a book, the first draft being the long part, which can take me up to eight months. However before I sit down to write a line of it, I’d have the skeleton of the story all mapped out, so the building blocks are in place, so to speak. I find this really helps, and although I may meander off in slightly different plot twists and turns, once the ‘roadmap’ is there, it’s always great to keep coming back to. It takes me a long time to get to know characters, and I always have to allow for that. Then off it goes to my wonderful editor who’ll come back with notes and comments and from that will come a second draft, always a vast improvement on the first one. Then it goes to a copy editor, who’ll go through it with a fine toothcomb, sorting out any nitty-bitty references that aren’t accurate and generally ironing it all out before publication. So I’d be fairly clear at the outset as to exactly how a book will end. Having said that though, part of the joy of writing lies in characters coming in who take your story in a direction you could never have foreseen! Have to say though, writing is without doubt, the single best job in the whole entire world. Even on the days when nothing’s coming and I’m half ready to fling my computer up against a wall, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love the creative process and the idea of being my own boss, it’s the best.
My journey to being a published author
I was working as an actress on a long-running soap opera in Ireland and, like so many others, had always dreamt of writing a book, but never really had the guts. Then one of our directors on the show, a good pal of mine, published her first book and advised me to get three chapters of mine to her agent who she very kindly asked to look them over. So I did, the agent, the fabulous Marianne Gunn O’Connor took me on and had a book deal for me a few weeks later. Nine years on and I’m still pinching myself…
Advice I’d be cheeky enough to give any readers who want to write a novel of their own
Persevere, persevere, persevere! And write every single day, as every day that you do is a day that your work is improving, trust me. Be brave too; remember it’s highly unlikely that a publisher is going to knock on your front door and ask if you’ve any manuscripts lying around they could publish. Nothing will happen unless you take the first step and get your work out there. An agent is your best friend though, and I’d advise anyone starting out to secure an agent first and the rest will follow. And best of luck!
What I’m working on at the moment
The book I’m working on right now is called A VERY ACCIDENTAL LOVE AFFAIR and it’s a romantic comedy about a newspaper editor called Eloise Elliot who uses a sperm bank to become pregnant, then gives birth a year later to a beautiful little girl, Lily. The story kickstarts three years on when Lily has started playgroup and is starting to wonder why every other kid in her class has a daddy and she doesn’t. Lily grows up a gifted child, and pretty soon Eloise herself becomes initially interested and then obsessed with finding out who her baby daddy really is. If you had a child this special, is her reasoning, then wouldn’t you want to know about it? A leading cardiac surgeon, she reckons, or maybe even a conductor with the New York Philharmonic. Definitely someone highbrow, cultured and intelligent though, she assumes. Anyway, she sets about tracking him down and discovers he’s none of the above – he’s actually in prison with a police record the length of your arm.
Of course, Eloise panics and tries to circumvent fate by setting this guy on the path to middle class-dom, so that in years to come, should her daughter try to track him down, she’ll find a Dad she can be proud of and not an ex-con sleeping rough and on a methadone program.
So, just like in My Fair Lady or Pygmalion, Eloise sets about making a gentleman of this rough diamond, like Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, except gender reversed. It’s out this summer and I’m down on my knees praying that you’ll all enjoy!!