INTERVIEW

March 2012

CAROLINE FINNERTY

Caroline Finnerty’s debut novel In a Moment is released this month. It was runner-up in Poolbeg’s Write a Bestseller Competition. She lives in Co. Kildare, Ireland, with her family. (Interview by Shirley Benton-Bailey)

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  1. 1. Tell us about your debut novel.

    It is called In a Moment and it centres on a couple, Adam and Emma who are being torn apart by their past. They are on the brink of splitting up and their relationship is only held together by a thread. But what has brought them to this point? And why is Adam having recurring nightmares? Meanwhile Jean McParland is a single mother living in terror in her own home. But in just one moment Adam, Emma and Jean’s lives become inextricably linked and are changed forever.

  2. 2. What inspired you to write it?

    I was inspired to write In a Moment after I had my first child in 2009. Before you have a baby everyone tells you how it is the most amazing feeling but I didn’t really understand it until she was born and then I was blown away. I was overwhelmed by the strength of the love I had for her and how much I wanted to protect her and that planted the seed.

  3. 3. How long did it take you to write?

    I started it while I was on maternity leave and then I went back to work and it took me nearly a year to write 50,000 words - working full time, being a mum etc. then I heard about the Poolbeg/TV3 Write a Bestseller competition so that gave me a deadline to finish it so I wrote the other half in three months and sent it off.

  4. 4. What was your path to publication?

    Well I have always been a huge reader but besides school essays, I only really started writing in my mid-twenties. I wrote one really awful story and sent off a synopsis and three chapters to publishers and needless to say no one was banging down my door offering a six-figure advance. Deep down I knew it wasn’t good enough so it wasn’t really a surprise when the rejections came piling through the post-box. One particularly memorable rejection arrived when I was in labour on my first daughter! Then when she was a few months old, I had the idea for In a Moment. I had about half of it written when my Mum and friend told me about the Write a Bestseller competition. I got the rest of the book finished by writing when my daughter was in bed in the evenings or having her naps at weekends and sent it off. I never thought I had a hope of winning so then you can imagine my shock when Paula Campbell from Poolbeg called me to say that I was a runner-up in the competition and that they would like to offer me a three-book deal! Anyway I’m sure it was one of Paula’s most bizarre phone-calls involving trains, buses, howling wind, me standing at a bus-stop being 34-weeks pregnant with the twins and chasing my two-year-old daughter to stop her from running into the traffic. After that conversation I was sure that I wouldn’t hear from her again but sure enough she sent the contract through and here I am about to become a PUBLISHED AUTHOR - I still can’t quite believe it!!

  5. 5. As a busy mum of three, what is your writing schedule (if you have one)?

    Hmmh, a writing schedule? I must get one of those! At the moment, I am on maternity leave after having the twins last November, so with 3 children under the age of 3, it's manic. My daughter is in playschool four mornings a week so I get everyone up and ready and we drop her off then rush back and hope the babies sleep so I can write. Some days they'll co-operate, most days they don't. Sometimes one might sleep and I will write with the other in my arms. Throw in a few nappy changes and feeding time and then it's time to load the twins back up into the car to pick up their big sister. So it is in fits and starts that I write - if I have five minutes I run to the computer to write and close my eyes to the messy kitchen and the table covered in Play-Doh. At weekends my husband will bring the three of them off for a couple of hours so I can get some writing done. He gets lots of sympathy from older ladies in shopping centres when they see him with the trio and wonder what kind of lady of leisure his wife must be to abandon him with three young children like that.

  6. 6. What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received?

    I used to love reading writers' websites and interviews and remember coming across an interview with a well-respected writer who said that everyone thinks what they write is awful - that it is completely normal to feel like this. This was a revelation to me - I always assumed that all the best writers are struck with creative genius and that the words just flow but I think that only happens to a lucky few. Most people have to write, re-write, and re-write again. That gave me the confidence not to scrap my early work and to keep trying to make it the best I possibly can.

  7. 7. Who are your favourite writers?

    Well I think Marian Keyes is a national treasure - I went along to one of her book signings once and I was mortified when my boyfriend (now husband) told her I was "writing a book". I almost thumped him because I'm sure every second person she meets tells her they are "writing a book" but she was so lovely and encouraging. She asked me what my name was and told me that she'd look out for me! Also, Melissa Hill is brilliant for twists that you didn't see coming. I love David Nicholls too - his attention to the tiny details is amazing - he really sets the scene and you feel you are right there in the room with his characters. Plus he is hilarious. And anything by Sinead Moriarty and Sophie Kinsella is always a great read too.

  8. 8. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?

    That writing makes you fat. I'm constantly hopping up from the table to have "just one more Digestive" rather than tackle a tricky part of the plot or sort out some weak dialogue.

  9. 9. Which comes first for you - characters or plot? If it's plot, does that influence your decision to write in first versus third person?

    I'm definitely a plot first person; then, normally a main character follows pretty soon after. I started In a Moment writing in the first person but it just wasn't working and it was too limited a perspective so I changed to the third person and it allowed me to bring in all the other characters too.

  10. 10. What advice would you give aspiring authors?

    See 8) above and also to just put the words on the page - there isn't any great secret and you can read all the "how to" and "how not to" books (believe me I've read them all) but at the end of the day if you don't put the words on the page, the book won't get written. Even if it is just the most basic sentence like "Ann and Barry went to the shop" then come back the next day and see how you can make that sentence better. What can you add to it? I always use this technique if I'm finding it hard to think of what I want to say and then I come back and edit it later. It always works. Also I find it helps to write in scenes and then come back to stringing it altogether afterwards - it keeps you moving forward. Finally, self-belief is probably the most important thing an aspiring writer could have. I really believe if you want it badly enough and work hard you will achieve your dream.

  11. 11. Can you tell us about your next novel, and what you're working on at the moment?

    Well it's a comedy with a few teary moments in there too about a girl called Lily who faces the prospect of being a divorcee before she has even reached the age of thirty. It deals with the reactions she encounters from her friends and family and the obstacles she has to overcome to move on again. It is written in the first person, which I think has allowed me to be more humourous. I haven't pitched it to my publishers yet though so I hope they'll like it.

  12. 12. What message do you hope readers will take from your books?

    You only get one life so enjoy every minute of it and also that we should tell the important people in our lives that we love them every day.

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