14 September 2009
Author Interview: Claire Allan
Irish author Claire Allan recently caught my eye when I read her second book, Feels Like Maybe. I loved it, and was excited to see that Claire has another book out this month, Jumping In Puddles. Claire was nice enough to grant us an author interview and we chatted about her experience of motherhood, where she gets her ideas and her new book too! Read on...
1. Tell us about your latest book in a sentence.
Feels Like Maybe is all about friendship, babies, infertility, sexy gardeners and feckwit exes.
2. In 'Feels Like Maybe', you approach the journey of motherhood from two very different viewpoints. How much did you draw on your own personal experience to write these storylines and characters?
Aoife's birth scene was scarily like my own first time around - although I did have my husband standing beside me.
I think experiences of motherhood, especially in those early days are universal in a lot of respects. You feel sore, exhausted, paranoid about your appearance and yet a little blissed out by your knew baby. With Beth's story I spoke to several woman who had experienced or were experiencing fertility problems to make sure I set the tone just right. My first book 'Rainy Days and Tuesdays' examines post natal depression - and I did use my own experience to write that.
3. Aoife's birth scene and after-effects are quite graphic. Did you always intend to speak of birth and such things in an honest way rather than sugar-coating it?
Well after I gave birth the first time I think I was actually in shock at the experience! And for me I found that old adage of "as soon as the baby is in your arms you forget the pain" to be a load of rubbish! I still remember the pain 5 and a half years on (although I did get a refresher course in March this year when my daughter was born). I wanted to be honest about it, but funny too. I don't think it crosses the line to crudeness, just a very honest look at what we women go through.
I think we do a disservice to other women when we aren't honest about our experiences but I also didn't want to be one of those women who delights in telling expectant mothers all the very graphic gory details of labour and delivery with the intention of scaring the life out of them!
4. Where do you get your ideas for your storylines from?
I can get inspiration for anything and any one. It might be a location, a snippet of an overheard conversation, an observation of how people behave with each other. I have a vivid imagination and am always day-dreaming and that certainly helps. Rainy Days and Tuesdays was a very personal book - I had survived Post Natal Depression and wanted to write about it in a light-hearted way which would make the issue accessible to people and which would help break down the taboos surrounding it. But it's also just a fun book about friendship, self esteem and falling in love again.
Feels Like Maybe started as Aoife's story but Beth's infertility storyline creeped in and I had a delicious amount of fun working on that novel.
My new book Jumping in Puddles, due for release in October, was inspired initially by my Sunday shop when I was buying a tin of Pea and Ham soup for my husband and my mind raced away from me. (Trust me that will make sense when you read the book!)
5. How long did it take you to get published? How did you go about it?
I am one of those "jammy" people as we would say here in Northern Ireland who had a relatively easy road to publication. I started writing Rainy Days and Tuesdays as a challenge to myself for turning 30. I wrote it in six months, found an agent with three months of finishing and had signed a four book deal with Poolbeg within another three months. It was a mad rollercoaster and I still can't believe I had my first novel published! And to be published with Poolbeg has been amazing as many of my idols started out there.
6. We see on your blog you have a new book coming out soon. Can you tell us a bit about it? Are you writing a fourth novel too?
Jumping in Puddles is set in a remote seaside village in Donegal in the North West of Ireland. Four lone parents come together to form a support group under the leadership of the fabulously quirky Detta O'Neill - who has a big secret of her own. The book deals with bereavement, teen pregnancy, domestic violence and new romance. It was a tough task for me as a writer to get everything just right, but I'm very excited about the release and very proud of the novel.My fourth book is an out and out comedy about the quest for happy endings, the ability to self sabotage our own lives and very hairy men from Donegal!
7. What's the best thing about being a published author?
There are two things (if I can be so greedy) which are fantastic. The first is walking into a bookshop to see your own novel stare back out at you, complete with your name and lovely reviews.That just feels wonderful! The second is to get feedback from readers who have genuinely found the books to have entertained them, or changed their lives in some little way. That is humbling.
8. Irish authors seem to be growing in popularity at the moment, who are some of your favourite authors, Irish or otherwise?!
I've always been a fan of Irish authors and there are some newer names coming on the scene at the moment who are fantastic. Melissa Hill is amazing - I love how her books have these unexpected twists which knock you for six.
Sharon Owens is also wickedly funny and witty A new author called Clodagh Murphy is also one to watch - her writing is brilliantly funny.
Marian Keyes, of course, rates up there for constantly pushing the boundaries and reinventing the genre.
I'm also a big fan of English writer Kate Long - her novel Queen Mum was amazing.
9. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Keep at it and be true to yourself. Write what you feel passionate about and don't waste time trying to be the new Marian Keyes or whoever. Be the first "you".
Set a routine if you can be it 200 words a day, or 500... whatever you can manage and remember when you are submitting that it only takes one yes. Most of us have rejections in one form another not - it certainly doesn't mean you are not good enough just that you haven't found your home yet!
Thank you very much, Claire!