Friday, December 5, 2014


 National Novel Writing Month took place during November. It was brainchild of Bob Clary,
Community Manager, Webucator ( - Google Analytics/AdWords Trainer, and was hugely successful. The spin-off is being run through December, and Bob asked me to write a Blog, explaining my writing journey and answering the questions listed...  

 I always knew I’d write. When the other girls in my class were dreaming of being models, air hostesses, actresses of having a career in banking or business, as many were, I dreamed of having a book – one book – on a shelf for sale in a real bookshop in Dublin city.

Before I started writing, I had a variety of jobs – all very interesting in their own way but it wasn’t until I got married and had my first child that I began real writing. I’d an ancient typewriter on the dining room table and churned out short stories for magazines. Several were printed; then the rejection slips began. After too many rejections, I decided to give feature writing a go. It worked. I freelanced for Irish newspaper groups and magazines. It was my career for a good 15 years. I primarily did interviews with celebrity actors, writers, business people as well as features like House of the Month, hotel brochures. You name it I wrote it.

Next I tried my hand at radio documentaries, plays, talks. A documentary titled Dying with Love led to my first book of the same title. And I was hooked. It was a real book, not only for sale throughout the country, but favourably reviewed and garnering good publicity. Four more non-fiction titles followed. Now it was time to step into fiction. My first was Once Upon a Summer; second Felicity’s Wedding; followed by Time & Destiny, A Type of Beauty, the story of Kathleen Newton, and this year The Interview. Next year I’m on a book tour in Israel.

I was delighted to get the invitation from Webucator’s Bob Carey to write this Blog. Pressure of work and looming deadlines meant I couldn’t write the novel in themonth – I couldn’t anyway, ever.

 I wouldn’t change my writing life for anything

What were your goals when you started writing?
I just wanted to write, to play with words, to put words on paper and as they began to flow, I was back to my childhood dream of being published. Having had a successful, well-paying commercial career,  I was amazed at how little magazine short stories paid and they took a long time to write and edit to professional standard.

What are your goals now?
After my first story was published, I looked at it with a critical eye and knew it could be improved on. Since then I’ve been highly critical of my own writing, spending time re-writing and re-writing. I consider it pays dividends for quality of work. My goals now are to write as well as I can – I try never to send anything out until it is as good as I can make it. For my novels, I use a freelance editor who knows my work and can look at it objectively. I don’t believe writers can be the final editors of their work.

What pays the bills now?
 I also look to negotiate fair contracts where I’m paid for my work. That said, fiction would not pay my bills, though its pluses are invitations to talk in libraries, at literary functions, book fairs.  I‘ve written two how-to manuals on writing and run various writing courses, including Writing Fiction (1) & (2) in University College Dublin. These are other strings to my money-earning bow.

Assuming writing doesn’t pay the bills what motivates you to keep writing?
I write because I love it. A day when I don’t research, write or edit seems to me to be a day wasted. I also love the whole business end of writing and publication. With this in mind, I self-published’ A Type of Beauty, the story of Kathleen Newton’, French artist James Tissot’s
 mistress and muse. I learned a lot and found the process fascinating but
 incredibly time-consuming. I was glad to have The Interview picked up
 by New Island Books, an independent publishing house. 
And next year I'm going on a book tour to Israel.

And optionally, what advice would you give young authors hoping to make a career out of writing?
This is raised frequently during my various classes/lectures. My advice is to write every day, to make writing an integral part of your day. When you have that niggle that something is not quite right, you, the author, are usually right, and should stay with it until you can resolve whatever the issue. Not to send out material too soon (When I’m editing, I frequently return the manuscript for the author to carry out more work) While those of us who want to write usually have a way with words, writing is like any other skill, it needs to be worked at, practiced and nurtured.
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