Sunday 4 May 2014

Author Interview ~ Clare Dowling.

Today we're joined by the lovely Clare Dowling who kindly agreed to answer some of my interview questions.

Tell us about yourself and your writing journey.

I fell into writing by accident. I trained as an actress, and ended up forming a theatre company with some friends. But we couldn’t find many decent parts for young actresses, or plays that seemed relevant to us as young women. So I ended up writing a play for us to produce, and discovered that I much preferred creating characters than acting them out! After ten wonderful years in theatre, supplemented by waitressing and typing, I needed something more stable. I had my first baby the same year as my first book was published, which was a pretty stressful time! He’s now a strapping teen and I’m writing book number twelve. I also write for television, mostly for Irish soap Fair City, and for kids TV programmes.

Can you tell us about your latest release?

A Special Delivery is about a Dublin family called the Bradys, who discover a baby abandoned in their front garden the day before Christmas. The note with the baby alleges that the father lives in the house … and it all kicks off from there. It’s a story of mistaken identity, teen pregnancy and family secrets, with lots of laughs along the way. It was in the Irish top ten charts for a month, which I was thrilled about.

How did your publishing deal with Headline come about?

My second novel, Expecting Emily, had done very well in Ireland with an Irish publisher, and I was lucky enough to catch the eye of my agent, Darley Anderson. He’s wonderfully enthusiastic, and managed to secure me a two book contact with Headline, and I’m delighted to have been published by them ever since.

You’ve written and released a lot of books – which book have you enjoyed writing the most?

It might sound trite to say the one I’ve just finished, but it’s true. A Special Delivery was a little bit of a departure for me into grittier, more fast-paced fiction, with big emotions and plot twists and turns. I’m also a television writer, and I’ve brought some of that to this book – plenty of zippy dialogue and action. I also decided to write it from three points of view, which kept it fresh for me as I went along. My female characters are pretty ballsy and memorable, I hope.

Which book have you found the toughest to write? Does it get easier with each book or harder?

I’ve been a jobbing writer for over twenty years now, so I tend to approach each book with a clear sense of deadline and ‘just get on with it’ attitude. Having said that, some books do flow a little better than others, for reasons that you often can’t fathom. Sometimes you just like your characters more. Certainly, your hone your craft with each successive book, so from that point of view it does get a little easier. Reader feedback is important too – you know better what appeals to people and what doesn’t. One reader told me she hated exclamation marks as a rule – and that has stayed with me since! (Oops, I’ve just typed one …)

Do you celebrate or treat yourself after your books are released? If so – what do you do?

Eat! I go out for a nice meal with my family, mostly to say ‘sorry’. They’ll have put up with my overwork and stress during the writing of it, mostly because I’m behind deadline, and they definitely deserve a treat. In the days after publication, I can often be found skulking around bookshops in a trenchcoat, and admiring it on the shelves.

What have you found the most rewarding aspect of being an author? The most challenging aspect?

It’s great being your own boss, and to have artistic control over your work. And speaking as a mum, the flexibility of working from home is a really practical advantage. It can be a long time between books, though, and all that time on your lonesome can start to make you hear voices in your head … Motivation can be a problem too, especially on a wet Monday morning! But on the whole, I feel very lucky to be doing what I love.

All your books have lovely covers. Being published by Headline, do you get any say in the covers or is it all down to someone else?

I’m consulted once the creative team has come up with a cover, and we might do some back and forth over details. But while I might have an opinion, I think that it’s my job to write the book, and my publisher’s job to sell it, and I’d defer to their expertise. They’ve done a great job on all my books.

How supportive are your family about your writing? Do they read your books?

They have no choice – I hand them all copies! Mind you, my husband has fallen behind with one or two, so I might give him a gee-up. My kids are too young, although my teenage son did tell his teacher gravely that he wasn’t allowed to read my books as I wrote ‘adult content’. Have been a bit red-faced at pick-up time ever since.

Do you prefer ebooks or print books?

Print! Mostly because I have a stash of paperbacks by my bed that will take me several years to get through. Ebooks are wonderful for travel, though, and great for kids.

With the time you spend writing, do you get a lot of time to read other books? What was the last book you read and loved?

I’m constantly bemoaning the lack of reading time. I like to read in bed, but it’s a struggle to get there in time to read a good chunk of a book. I’ve just finished Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand That First Held Mine and I adored it. It’s the first of her books that I’ve read and I’ll be reading many more. Tonight, I start JoJo Moyes The One Plus One, which I’m dying to get stuck into.

Who are some of your favourite authors to read?

Marian Keyes, Anne Tyler, Roddy Doyle, Jaqueline Wilson (my daughter and I swap them). I’m not a massive fan of crime as I’m of a nervous disposition, but apart from that I like to read as widely as possible.

Which one book that you have read would you love to written yourself, and why?

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. What an amazing book – funny, dark, human, with two wonderful characters you’ll never forget. I’m so impressed with the way she has tackled such a complex issue in such a real and compassionate way.

Thank you!

Thanks for your great answers Clare!

Clare Dowling is a screenwriter and bestselling author. She's had many jobs, including as an actress, a waitress and a legal secretary before turning to writing full-time. She's had eleven novels published, and she also writes scripts for television. She lives in Dublin with her family.

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  1. Very interesting interview. I have two of Claire's books languishing on my bookshelves - I must get to them! :)


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