Driving Home for Christmas which is out in the UK today.
Can you tell us a little bit about Driving Home for Christmas?
It’s a curl up and read in front of the fire type of book. Obviously from the title it encompasses all things Christmassy, but my main aim was to create a warm story around characters who come to realise the true meaning of family.
Whether you love or loath Christmas this time of year evokes all sorts of emotions and I wanted to channel that sense of nostalgia and the longing that most of us have to be with our nearest and dearest at this time of year.
How hard is it to write a Christmas themed book when it’s not Christmastime?
Sadly, I am utterly addicted to Christmas. I would gladly have Christmas several times a year. So it gave me a wonderful excuse to listen to Wham’s, Last Christmas well into spring time. I genuinely adore Christmas and have great childhood memories to draw upon, so it’s actually incredibly comforting for me to be in a position to prolong the whole thing – even if it’s only fictional!
With Driving Home for Christmas being about a family get together I guess there’s not too much research needed for that element of the story, how much research do you normally do for your books?
There’s very little research for the actual family get together, but there are always sub plots and even events that happen in each story that require attention to detail. Joey, one of the characters, does triathlon, so I needed to ensure I got that part right. Silly things like training schedules need to be confirmed.
In my latest novel ‘Perfect Wives,’ there was a child with ADD in the story line. I would be uber aware of writing about any medical issues. If it’s wrong, that’s totally frustrating for a reader in the know. But that goes for most things.
When I’m writing I always assume my readers are more intelligent and better informed than I am (which they probably all are!) and I endeavour not to make blunders where ever possible.
Are you currently working on a new book? If so, are you able to tell us anything about it?
Yes! I am always working on a new book, pretty much. My next release is due out in Spring and has a working title of ‘Summer at Caracove Bay’ which is about an older lady who returns to Ireland having emigrated sixty years before. She gets to know the family who live in her old childhood home and reminisces and rediscovers Ireland. It’s at the final edit stage now, which is incredibly exciting.
I’ve already started the next one, but it’s still a secret…
Which comes first for you, creating characters or the plot?
Probably the characters, to a certain extent. I get an idea of someone in my head, I jot down his or her physical description (as in eye colour, hair colour, height, weight, hobbies etc.) and that usually leads me neatly on to what he or she might do for a living etc.
All my stories are planned to a skeletal level and the flesh and skin are all added as I write. For me, a lot of the story has to happen organically. But I know I wouldn’t be able to sit at my desk with no forward planning at all.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
In a word – no! I fell into writing quite by mistake. I was ill (I carry the BRCA 1 cancer gene and have had cancer many times) and had a moment in my hospital bed where I thought I might die of boredom let alone, cancer. So I began to write.
Eight books later, I’m still at it. Now, I couldn’t imagine what I’d do instead. Writing is my saviour, my therapy, my escape, my pleasure, my privilege and wonderfully, my full time job. I adore it and feel very blessed.
How long did it take you to get your first book published?
From the time I wrote, The End, to signing a deal? Two months. I was incredibly fortunate.
Do you have a set daily writing routine?
Yes, I used to work from home when the children were smaller and I was ill. But now I have a very grown up office in my local town. I drop my children to school and I’m usually at my desk by 8.45 until 4.00. Once home work and dinner are finished I usually do another couple of hours in the evening on my laptop. As a result I have about fifty versions of each book between my computers! I’ve tried using a memory stick and all the usual things ‘normal’ people do. But all the versions remain!
Have you ever had writer’s block?
Never. I have the opposite problem. I have so many ideas whizzing around my head, it’s often more of a chore to tame them! I’m sure the day will come when I’m bereft of stories, but until then, I’ll keep tapping away.
If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I tried a number of things. I trained as a chef when I left school and enjoyed that. I taught cookery for a while and ran my own catering company. Then I decided to become a beauty therapist and after that I worked in an engineering company. This sounds awfully twee, but I hadn’t found myself! Now I know I’m doing what I adore. Lucky me!
Where do you get the inspiration from for your stories?
All sorts of places. It could be a comment from a friend. An article in a news paper, a documentary on TV or a burning desire to write about a certain subject. My book ‘The Pink Ladies Club’ is about three very different women who have cancer. I wanted to do a fiction book that deals with cancer in a very frank manner. The story is obviously made up, but the content and all the cancer treatments channel my own experience. I hope it helped lift some taboos about this disease.
Would you say that any of your characters are like you? If so, which one(s)?
Not totally. I’m sure all my characters have a tiny bit of me in them. Of course they do. They come from my head!
But I’ve never consciously written about myself. My first novel ‘Designer Genes’ deals with a lady who discovers she has the same cancer gene I have, BRCA1. But that character, Emily certainly isn’t like me.
If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to write any other genre. I have written a non-fiction memoir called ‘Talk to the Headscarf,’ but I love what I’m doing now.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Be honest, write from the heart and don’t try to mimic someone else. Channel your own voice and stick to it. Above all else, work hard. Put in the hours and know dedication is the key. Enjoy it!
Being a writer appears to be such a solitary lifestyle, especially when you’re in the midst of writing, so do you consider the influence of social Media, Facebook and Twitter, a blessing or a hinderance?
I’m very fortunate that I am a regular panellist on TV3 in Ireland. I also do quite a lot of radio, so I manage to get out and about a bit! I go through phases with Facebook and Twitter, but in general I’m not what could be described as an addict in any shape or form. If I’m mid edit for example, I simply stay away. It’s too distracting. But it can be great fun and very entertaining too.
If you could invite any three authors, alive or dead, to a dinner party who would you choose and why?
Oscar Wilde – for the sharp wit and satire. Roald Dahl – for more wit and sheer brilliance. Jane Austin, well she wrote Emma didn’t she?
Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books?
No question, my vote goes to physical books. But I appreciate that people find e-readers useful especially for travel.
Are there any books you’ve read that you wish you’d written?
Yes! Most of the books I read! But in recent times it has to be Jo-Jo Moyes, ‘Me before You.’
What’s the last book you’ve read that has made you cry?
I’m not a cryer.
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
I do a lot of whooping and air punching, but I don’t treat myself until some money comes in the door!
Where would be your idyllic location for a writing retreat?
My parents have a holiday home in Connemara which is on the West coast of Ireland. I overlooks the sea and is miles from civilization. I love it there.
If you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with you, which ones would you choose?
Roald Dahl, Tales of the Unexpected.
Jo-Jo Moyes, Me before You
Marian Keyes, This Charming Man
I was recently sent a copy of Driving Home for Christmas to review but as I've previously read and reviewed this book earlier this year, after I'd been lucky enough to win a copy off Emma's Irish publisher, I have decided to give one of you lucky readers the chance to win it to read for yourselves.
Christmas at Huntersbrook House has always been a family tradition - log fires, long walks through the snowy fields and evenings spent in the local pub. And this year the three grown-up Craig children are looking forward to the holidays more than ever. Pippa to escape her partying lifestyle and mounting debts in Dublin; Joey the demands of his gorgeous girlfriend who seems intent on coming between him and his family; and Lainey to forget about her controlling ex and his recent engagement to another woman.
But with the family livery yard in financial trouble, this Christmas could be the Craig family's last at Huntersbrook as they face the prospect of selling the ancestral house.
As the holiday season gets underway, the family need to come up with a way to save their home, and face the problems they've been running away from in Dublin. And what better place to figure things out than around the fire at Huntersbrook House?
To enter simply follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter form below. Entries will close at midnight on 2nd November when the winner will be picked at random and contacted for postal details. In the spirit of Christmas I have decided to offer this giveaway Internationally so good luck to all who enter x
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