Too Close For Comfort, and thought it was a great read. I was also given the opportunity to interview Clare and ask her a few questions about the book and a few other things as well. I'd like to thank Emily from Headline for organising the interview and of course Clare for agreeing to be interviewed by me! I hope you enjoy the interview :)
Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'Too Close For Comfort'.
It’s about sisters, and how they can drive you mad, but also end up being your biggest cheerleader. In ‘Two Close For Comfort’, sisters Ali and Emma have lived separate lives on different continents for years – then are thrown back together when their relationships simultaneously implode. But the big question is, can they recapture the closeness they had?
Q2. I found Ali and Emma to be complete opposites, and if I'm honest I found Ali quite hard to like, disagreeing with how she went about coming back to Ireland with her children. How was it writing about Ireland from Ali's point of view as someone who is coming back after many years away, and did you agree with Ali's choice regarding her marriage and children and coming back home?
Ali’s decision to leave the way she did was a disaster! But I love characters with flaws, and she certainly has her fair share. She’s ended up trapped in a bad marriage, and her decision comes out of a desperation to escape. I really felt for her, being so far from home, and so culturally alienated in the deep south of America, and I really wanted to explore her loneliness and need to get back to where she feels she belongs.
Q3. Emma goes through quite a harrowing time in Too Close for Comfort, and I certainly didn't expect that particular storyline to appear in the book. What made you want to include this topic in the book, and how much research had to go into it to ensure you covered it correctly?
We tend to think that really bad things only happen to other people, or at least only certain types of people, and I wanted to look at that with this particular storyline. Emma is a middle-class, educated high achiever, and the last person you would think would land herself in this particular mess. I’m a bit of a medical anorak – I’d be a doctor in another life! – so I already knew a lot about the subject matter. But I’ve tried to address the impact on Emma’s life rather than get into the nitty gritty of medical detail.
Q4. Your books all seem to revolve around family dramas, be it pregnancy, affairs, divorce, or having a baby alone. Where do you get the ideas for your stories, and do you ever find it hard to write about the topics that you do, and the emotional situations your characters find themselves in?
Great ideas never occur to me while I’m on the bus, unfortunately, or at the supermarket check-out. It’s always a case of sitting down with a notebook and trying to figure out what interests me for the next book; then, how to put an original slant on it. I think that women make the world go round in terms of sustaining relationships and family ties, and for me, that’s where the real stories lie. There’s nothing I like better than getting stuck into a messy emotional situation – in my books anyway; not so sure about real life...
Q5. You've now had 8 books published, with your 9th out in 2012. Do you have to be strict with yourself to get your books written on time, and do you find it easy to write a book a year?
I really need to hire somebody with a whip to stand behind me for five hours a day. I’m terrible for making cups of tea, checking the post, and going online ‘just to check’. Then I realise two months have passed and I’ve achieved very little. I tend to be very, very slow to start a book, as it takes me ages to get to know my characters, but then I’ll speed up, and towards the end I’ll be working fourteen hours a day, mostly because I’m wildly behind deadline. Luckily, I have a wonderful and patient editor!
Q6. Your book covers have been redesigned so that they all match each other, albeit in different colours and slight design differences. Do you like the new look that your books have been given, and do you think book covers are more important than ever?
I absolutely love my new look. We wanted a clean, fresh design, and I think the Headline team have really pulled it off. Covers are vital – if readers aren’t tempted to pick up your book, then you’ve lost them straight away. It’s really tricky getting the look right, but it’s your calling card, and as important as what’s inside.
Q7. What is your opinion of the term 'chick lit' and how do you feel about your books being classed as such?
I get very irritated when the term is used in a derogatory fashion, to imply that these books are only about women who shop and seek out men. The genre is a very, very broad one, and a vast array of women’s experiences are covered by the books in this field, a lot of the time expertly, movingly, intelligently and in a way that enriches the reader. So to dismiss them as fluff is to say that what happens to real women doesn’t matter. It does, so chick-lit detractors, button up.
Q8. How do you feel about the fact that your books are doing well in the UK as well in Ireland? Do you think Irish women's fiction is becoming more popular in the UK, and why do you think this is?
I’m thrilled to be making an impact in the UK. I think Irish authors have always been really welcomed by UK readers, and there’s no sign of that letting up, thankfully. We share the same sense of humour and way of looking at things, I think. In turn I love books by UK authors such as Jill Mansell and Katie Fforde. I ‘get them’ and I think UK readers feel the same about Irish writers.
Q9. You have recently joined Twitter (www.twitter.com/clare_dowling) and also have a fan page on Facebook too (http://www.facebook.com/claredowlingauthor). Are you enjoying using social networking so far, and do you think it's an important tool for authors to use to keep in touch with readers?
I was petrified starting out. I’m a keep-my-head-down kind of person, and the idea of announcing to the world what I had for breakfast made me go weak. But of course it’s not about that at all, and now that I’ve got the hang of it, I find it a completely invaluable way of keeping in touch with colleagues, friends, readers and anybody interested in books. It’s the perfect antidote to writing at home all day long, and having worryingly long conversations with yourself.
Q10. You have your next book Would I Lie To You already due for release in 2012, but are you working on a 10th book yet?!
Yes! I’ve wanted to write a ‘stalker’ book for years. I used to have this weird guy who’d ring me up religiously wanting to know the colour of my undergarments. I hadn’t a clue who he was, and I thought it was funny, but also a little disconcerting. He’s stuck in my mind ever since. Stalking is, unfortunately, on the rise, and a real problem for many women, and it’s the subject matter of my next book.
Thanks so much, Clare!
You can buy Too Close For Comfort in paperback and on eBook/Kindle now. (links go to Amazon.co.uk)