23 March 2011

Author Interview: Claire Irvin

Debut author Claire Irvin, author of the brilliant new novel Cougars, has kindly agreed to an author interview with us, and we were really excited to ask Claire lots of our burning questions about her and her new book, so with thanks to Claire and Hannah at Little, Brown, enjoy the interview with the lovely Claire Irvin!

Q1. Tell us about your book "Cougars" in one sentence!

Cougars is the sexy, sassy and sophisticated story of one woman’s journey of self-discovery – a glamorous, zeitgeisty tale that will resonate with every reader’s life, whoever she is and whatever she does…

Q2. The subject of cougars seems to be quite popular these days, even creating aTV show starring Courtney Cox. How much notice did you take of shows such as this, and other celebrity news about cougars when writing the book?

As Editor of SHE it’s my job to channel the zeitgeist and pick up on social trends, and celebrities’ lives – even though they are so much more extreme than my life or the lives of my friends – are often a good way to spot them. With cougars, it wasn’t so much that women weren’t already dating younger men, but that society was about to accept it as normal rather than something a little out of the ordinary. So when Demi, Madonna and Sam started proudly showing off their younger beaus it was a sure sign that the women I know were about to start doing the same. And yes, I do watch Cougar Town – I love the self-deprecating humour and the way Courtney Cox’s character, like so many women, is at the hub of her own busy, crazy, kooky world – but I watch it for enjoyment only!

Q3. Your book cover is quite striking - the bold red certainly makes it jump out from the shelf. What was your initial reaction when you saw your book, and is this what you pictured your first book cover to look like?

As an Aries red is ‘my’ colour – it’s also one of my favourites – and so I loved it instantly. I wanted it to be memorable, sexy and classy – like the story itself – and the fact it pops so well on shelf was an added bonus!

Q4. What was it about the theme of Cougars that made you base an entire book around it?

The term ‘Cougar’ was originally coined as a derogatory phrase by elements of the media who, shall we say, like to keep women in their box. They saw ‘cougars’ as predatory vamps. But in reality, the women it describes are feisty, strong, intensely likeable women. The feminist in me loved the idea of turning the phrase on its head and reclaiming it, helping make it a positive term that celebrates gorgeous go-getting women. And the novelist in me loved the opportunities that this kind of trend – and all the psychology, the humour and the social commentary that go hand in hand with it – would give a story. I hope it’s worked!
Q5. How easy did you find the process of writing 'Cougars'? How long did it take you from start to finish? And did you intentionally leave the ending open so you can bring these characters back again?!

Writing a book is never ‘easy’ – it’s a long process, and I have a full-time job as Editor of SHE that my book writing has to fit around – not to mention a gorgeous two year old daughter who quite rightly commands a lot of my time and attention! But I quickly fell in love with the characters, and enjoyed every minute of it. That said, I’m lucky in that I seem to be quite a quick writer (with everything else going on in my life I need to be!) and it probably took me three to four months in total.

Q6. Caroline is quite a strong female character, despite the upheaval in her personal life. Did you base her on anyone, and was it important to you that she be quite an independent and strong character?

Despite her privileged background, Caroline is something an everywoman – she is a natural multi-tasker, juggling work, motherhood, and family commitments. In my work life and my personal life I’m always astounded by how strong women are and how much we achieve every day – as Editor of SHE, I often talk about our ‘mini miracles’ (getting to the end of the day having not just done the school run, a full day at work, a supermarket shop, but also having cooked dinner, counselled a friend in need, done a wash and probably ironed it too, renewed the car insurance, paid the window cleaner, got packed lunches ready and painted nails for the next day etc). Caroline is all of this and yet also displays those inner insecurities and uncertainties that we all have. Like all of us, she’s complex – and she rocks!

Q7. As well as an author, you are also a magazine editor. How did you go from this job to becoming an author, and do you think it helped you prepare for writing a book?

I think that being a journalist and an author go hand in hand. As Editor of SHE I am lucky that every day I get to meet interesting people, hear their fascinating stories and see social trends in the making. All of these make for amazing stories – I come up with a book idea on a weekly basis! – and it’s a real treat to be able to let your imagination run wild and enable some of these people, stories and ideas to meet in your own story. That said, nothing prepares you for the practical issues juggling writing a novel with a demanding full time job create – that’s just down to sheer bloody-minded determination! I also try never to let it compromise my family time – time with my daughter and husband is very precious to me and I guard it fiercely

Q8. What are you working on at the moment, can you tell us anything about it?

I’m working on something VERY exciting! I’d love to tell you all about it but let’s just say it’s not only glamorous, gorgeous and totally of the moment but there is a huge element of intrigue too…

Q9. Do you enjoy reading chick-lit yourself? Who are some of your own favourite authors, and favourite books?

Yes! I grew up devouring glamorous bonkbusters by Judith Krantz and Jackie Collins. Chick lit doyennes like Marian Keyes made me realise that these kind of books could also be about people like me, too, and my life and my friends.

Q10. If you could have written any book in the world, what would you chose and why?

Reading One Day by David Nicholls, I felt like I was living my twenties all over again – it really felt like it had tapped into my generation in a way no other book ever has. Hopefully Cougars will touch other people in some similar ways.

Thank you very  much, Claire!

1 comment:

  1. This is a great interview, and I cannot wait to read it! It's on my to buy list. Thanks :)