February 2010


Journalist Claire Allan’s debut novel Rainy Days and Tuesdays was inspired by her own experiences with post-natal depression. Her fourth novel It's Got To Be Perfect will be out in October and she’s currently working on her fifth, tentatively titled The 30 Something Crisis Club. She lives in Derry, Ireland. (Interview by Shirley Benton-Bailey)

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  1. 1. What inspired you to write your first book, Rainy Days and Tuesdays?

    There were a number of things which inspired me to write RD&T. The first is that I was turning 30 and wanted to do something a little different to mark the occasion. The second is that a friend of mine had passed away after a battle with cancer and she had always encouraged me to write - so I kind of felt I owed it to her. The book is therefore dedicated to her. The final thing is that I had experienced post-natal depression and a loss of identity after becoming a mammy and I wanted to write a book about all that - but in a way that was accessible to everyone and with a fair dose of humour thrown in.

    2. Can you tell us about your other two books, Feels Like Maybe and Jumping in Puddles?

    Feels Like Maybe was a dream to write. It tells the story of two best friends, Aoife and Beth. Aoife is coping with an unplanned pregnancy, a disappearing boyfriend and a mother from hell while Beth and her husband Dan are desperately trying for a baby with no success. I thought juxtaposing the two situations would make for some good interaction and it sure does! Jumping in Puddles is a little more serious in tone, telling the story of four lone parents in a small village in rural Ireland brought together by the dynamic Detta O’Neill to form a support group. It deals with bereavement, teen pregnancy, domestic abuse and - in a first for me - a man’s perspective on parenthood. It was tough in places to write, but I’m exceptionally proud of it.

    3. Your first two books were written in the first person. In Jumping in Puddles, you wrote in the third person. Do you feel that your writing style changed because of that, and was it difficult to make that transition of voice? Which do you prefer to write in?

    I think third person suited the tone of Jumping in Puddles which was a little more serious. Using third person allowed me to effectively introduce more characters but it was a difficult transition. I do love writing in first person and getting really into the heads of my characters. My fourth book is back in first person (with just one protagonist) while the book I’m working on now is in third. I think it keeps me on my toes to chop and change.

    4. How long does it take you to write each book?

    I’m contracted to write a book a year - so I set myself that as a deadline. I’m a journalist by day so I live by deadlines. My new book (It’s Got to Be Perfect) took a little longer, but to be fair I had a baby halfway through writing it and she distracted me for a while.

    5. Which of your books is your own personal favourite?

    It’s a toss up between Feels Like Maybe and It’s Got to Be Perfect. Feels Like Maybe just flew on to the page and it really was a joy to write and It’s Got to Be Perfect is a light-hearted fun read which I just had a laugh writing. It still deals with some serious issues (step-parenthood, the desire for children, the need to have the perfect life) but it is the most comedic book I’ve written to date.

    6. Which comes first for you – characters or plot?

    Characters for me - definitely and a vague notion of where the plot will go but I tend to start with a couple of strong (or neurotic) women and take it from there.

    7. Have you based any of your characters on real friends/family?

    Not really - but I do have a very lovely Scottish best friend who is not unlike Daisy in Rainy Days and Tuesdays. Some times friends ask for wee cameos so you will see the odd name pop up now and again referring to real life people and their jobs.

    8. How do you feel about the label “chick lit”?

    I quite honestly don’t mind it. It only annoys me when people associate the term with it being some sort of inferior genre of writing. I know - and everyone who writes chick lit knows - that, as Nathaniel Hawthorne famously said, easy reading is damn hard writing.

    9. Which books have had the biggest impact on your life?

    First of all Marian Keyes’ Rachel’s Holiday which made me look at writing and reading in a whole new light. I still remember buying it in Eason, Castlecourt in Belfast and thinking it was about a girl going on holiday! My eyes were opened and I laughed and cried my way through it. More recently Waiting for Birdy by Catherine Newman resonated deeply with me. Brilliant!

    10. What's the best and worst thing about being an author?

    The worst thing is waiting for the reviews to come in and worrying about how people will react to your writing. The best is getting good reviews - more specifically positive feedback from ordinary readers who take the time to tell you they enjoy your work.

    11. Has being an author taught you anything about yourself?

    That I say “feck” far too much!

    12. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing? What's been the biggest lesson you've learnt about publishing?

    That is a long road and a tough business with no guarantees - but that when it goes well there is no better feeling in the world.

    13. What advice would you give aspiring authors?

    Be yourself. This business is tough so write what makes your heart sing. Don’t try to be anyone else - just be yourself with your own unique voice and most of all enjoy it!

    14. Tell us about your next novel, and what you’re working on at the moment?

    My next book (It’s Got to Be Perfect’) is out in October and is the story of Annie - a woman about to hit the self-destruct button on her life - messing up her seemingly perfect relationship, job and friendships. It’s of how she falls but also how she pulls herself back together again and it makes me laugh out loud to read over it even now! I’m currently working on an untitled book five - about three friends all suffering a bit of a mid-30s crisis. I’ve just signed a new three-book deal with Poolbeg and this will be my first book of my new contract and the start of a whole new era!

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

    I hope they see that even in the darkest of situations, there is hope. I also hope my books show the strength of modern women, the power of friendship and that feck isn’t really a bad word.
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