28 September 2009
Author Interview: Fiona O'Brien
1. Tell us about your latest novel (No Reservations).
No Reservations began as a idea of a restaurant chasing its first Michelin Star. But then the characters who frequented it kind of took over the story......here’s preview of what’s going on:
Newly opened Dominic’s is the hottest restaurant in town.
On any given day, rock stars, fashionistas, politicians, and celebrities can be found drooling over the food or the latest gossip - and the most delicious item on the menu is its divinely handsome proprietor, Dom Coleman-Cappabianca.
But Dom has rather a lot on his plate: his Italian mother Cici for starters - a glamorous Sophia Loren lookalike, who’s behaving very naughtily indeed.
Then there’s his blonde PR exec girlfriend Tanya, who seems hell bent on promoting her own interests.
Enter Italian American beauty Carla Berlusconi fleeing her native New York to escape her old fashioned father and three macho brothers. Arriving in Dublin, she hides out in Dominic’s as a waitress. But who is she? And what is her real story?
P.J. O’ Sullivan is always getting himself into hot water: the sexiest doctor in town, he loves good food, good company, and his adoring dog Bones. But can he ever forge a relationship with his resentful son Alex? And will he ever heal from his beloved wife’s death and find true love again?
Charlotte Keating is the perfect daughter, the perfect mother and now, the perfectly behaved divorcee . But her daughter Candy is about to change all that. Thanks to her indulgent and very rich father, Ossie Keating, Candy knows there’s nothing money can’t buy – until having too much of it proves a recipe for trouble.
From loquacious Dublin, to the eternal delights of romantic Rome, and New York, the city that never sleeps, a series of sizzling revelations ensure Dominic’s glamorous patrons discover that some things are definitely better off the menu.
And while Dominic’s chases its first Michelin Star, more than one person is forced to admit – that when love is the dish of the day, and family fidelity is tested to its limits - there’s always second helpings when it comes to love.
2. Your stories revolve about relationships. Where do you get your inspiration from?
Life. People and relationships fascinate me – particularly family dynamics. Also, while a lot of fiction delivers happy endings, it’s important to remember that in real life, any happy ending involves a lot of compromise or indeed sometimes heartache to get there. Life is never black and white – its shades of gray. I like to take a situation whether its a family, a marriage or a relationship and say to my reader: you might think this appears to be this way – but in fact, if we scratch beneath the surface, we’ll see that things are not quite what they appear.
3. Are any of your characters like you? If not, do you base them (roughly or otherwise!) on people you know?
All of my characters are a bit like me I think (which is a bit alarming) I draw a lot on my own life experience which has been colourful and at times dramatic. I have also been blessed to meet fascinating people throughout it. I may sometimes base smaller character parts on people or a person whose turn of phrase, say, has struck me as amusing or who has a funny outlook on life. It’s a tricky question to answer, because however a character starts out – they always end up taking over themselves if they’re any good! If a character is flat or difficult to work with, chances are the reader won’t warm to them either – you must really love your characters, even the baddies! If things are going well, I find the characters start writing the book for me and I’m racing to keep up with them – that’s when you know you’re on to a winner.
4. In 'None of My Affair', the book travels over to Spain - do you get to visit the places in your book to research them?
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit, especially in my previous career as an advertising copywriter. Flying to Australia and America or South Africa to shoot an ad was not unusual. I also love to spend time in Europe, especially a city break or long weekend. I chose Marbella for None of My Affair because so many Irish people (of the type I was writing about) had holiday homes there – or rather mansions! But yes, whether it’s business or pleasure, I always make sure to take notes of wherever I am. You can do an enormous amount of research on the net – but nothing beats the unmistakable sense that the author really knows the place she’s talking about.
5. How did you go about getting published? How long did it take you to get published?
I showed my first book Charity to a dear actress (now author) friend of mine, Kate Thompson, who I used to work with in my advertising days, she had already begun writing herself and had several books under her belt by then. She read my manuscript, encouraged me hugely and introduced me to New Island publishers, who took on the book immediately. My second book Sold, was also with them (a favourite of mine still!).
After that, I decided I wanted to write about more complex and grown up relationships (although still with a lot of humour) and I began None of My Affair. This time my dear friend Cathy Kelly read it and loved it and was instrumental in putting me in touch with Breda Perdue and Ciara Doorley of Hachette Ireland and Hodder&Stoughton UK. Happily they felt the same way and I was signed for a two book deal. I am now lucky enough to have Vivienne Schuster of Curtis Brown as my agent – which is a dream come true, as she also represents Jilly Cooper – one of my heroines!
I was lucky – by standards I was published pretty quickly. But that’s only the beginning, it still takes a lot of time and hard work to build a career.
6. You told us you weren't aware people outside of Ireland were reading your books. How does it feel to know your books have reached a wider audience than you thought?
It’s wonderful. I did know that both None of My Affair and No Reservations were out in the UK and some English speaking countries, but I’m very much a new arrival in the commercial women’s fiction stakes and I don’t think a lot of people have ever heard of me or know my books. In Ireland I would be better known. However I livid in London for five years in the early nineties and have always adored it, I go over at every feasible opportunity! I would love English readers to try and hopefully enjoy my books, and I think they would! Every new reader wherever they are from is a wonderful gift.
7. Have you got a third book in the pipeline?
Yes, I have. Although technically this is my fifth book – it is my third with Hodder&Stoughton. The working title is Without Him and I’m very excited about it. It is set between Dublin and Cape Town South Africa, and is about a very charismatic man who has vanished, leaving his business affairs in disarray. The book deals with how the women in his life cope with his disappearance (his wife, mother, daughters, mistress even!) but also, more importantly the true character of Charlie as he is called, is revealed bit by bit though the women who shaped his life.
Are his family really better off without him? Do you really ever completely know anyone? And is blood thicker than water? And why does darkly enigmatic Russian Oligarch Lukaz Mihailov want to talk to Charlie - and what is he doing in Dublin? And will Charlie ever come back? All this and more will be revealed!
8. Who are some of your favourite authors? What do you enjoy reading yourself?
I enjoy reading almost everything, but my old reliable’s are Jilly Cooper; Penny Vincenzi; Jackie Collins; Catherine Alliott; Jodi Picoult; Marian Keyes; Cathy Kelly and Kate Thompson. I could go on and on, but these are who I reach for when I need a fix!
9. What's your favourite part of being an author?
Being able to take a bath in the middle of the afternoon if I feel like it! Only kidding!
Really, for me, it’s hoping that I’ve made someone chuckle through a rainy weekend or indeed if they’re lying on a sunny beach. The feeling that I’ve reached out to someone and hopefully struck a chord with them and that maybe they will feel better about themselves or a situation they have been involved in. We women are fabulous creatures – and we have to remember how wonderful we are, how strong, how much we can and do cope with. It’s also important to remember what is really important in life – and not get sidetracked by the stuff we are so often bombarded with. Being a writer gives you a platform, and I believe that brings a responsibility. Above all, for me, that responsibility obliges me to entertain my reader – and hopefully that’s what I achieve. The feedback, thankfully, so far has been good! The Daily Mail review of None of My Affair was fantastic, the reader loved it and said ‘if you enjoy Jackie Collins type thrillers – you’ll enjoy this!’ You can’t buy that kind of publicity...I’m dying to hear what readers think of No Reservations – please do let me know – feedback is so important to me.
P.S. For any information on me or the books/reviews – check out my website www.fionaobrien.com
Thanks so much Fiona!