May 2010


Clodagh Murphy’s second novel, a political romantic comedy called Girl in a Spin, is released this month. The Dublin-based author was named one of the Chicklit Club’s most promising authors after her 2009 debut The Disengagement Ring. You can find out more at her website. (Interview by Shirley Benton-Bailey)

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  1. 1. Tell us about the books you've published to date.

    My first book, The Disengagement Ring, is about a girl whose family don't approve of her fiancé and try to get her to break off her engagement, throwing in her teenage crush as a distraction. My second book Girl in a Spin is coming out in May. It's about a rather unsuitable girl who's romantically involved with the leader of a major political party. The party's spin doctor gets involved in working on her public image - trying to change her from a party girl to a Party girl while keeping the door shut on the skeletons in her closet.

  2. 2. Did it take you long to get your first book published?

    It felt like a long time to me – partly because I've wanted to be a writer pretty much my whole life and it took me so long to get down to finishing a book and giving it a proper go; and partly because the submission process is so slow, and it feels like forever when you're in the middle of it, constantly waiting for decisions. But in hindsight, I realise it all happened pretty fast. I finished the book and started submitting to agents in September, and I got a book deal just before Christmas.

  3. 3. How long does it take you to complete a book?

    It took me over four years to write The Disengagement Ring but I wouldn't have been writing it constantly in that time. My sisters were reading it as I wrote, and they had some very long waits between chapters. Now I'm under contract to write a book a year, so I have to work to that deadline.

  4. 4. Do you plan your books meticulously, or just start with an idea and see where it takes you?

    I'm not a planner at all, though I often think it would make life a lot simpler. But I do love it when I start writing and something comes up out of the blue that takes me by surprise. I usually start with a basic premise, a beginning and an end, and an important turning point or two in the middle. So I have the basic story arc. After that, I just see where it takes me and enjoy the ride!

  5. 5. What are the books that have had the biggest impact on your life?

    Probably Jilly Cooper's, especially Riders and (one of my all-time favourite books) Rivals. They inspired me. I wanted to write books like those that were fat and fun, full of beautiful food, big drinks and gorgeous men – books you could just get lost in. I still remember the pure unadulterated pleasure of a very self-indulgent weekend that I spent with Rivals when I lived in London. In a different way, Claire Allan's book Rainy Days & Tuesdays had a huge impact on my life because her acknowledgements led me to the online writing group that turned my writing life around in a lot of ways. It was like finding a doorway into a world I hadn't known existed, and Claire's book was the key.

  6. 6. How do you feel about the term chick lit?

    I don't actually have a problem with being labelled chick lit, but it depends how the term is used. I don't like when it's used in a derogatory way to dismiss a whole swathe of women's writing as superficial rubbish. There's a lot of hostility towards the genre, but thankfully not from the people who count in the publishing industry. There's also huge affection for it and it has a lot of loyal fans, so you have to take the positives with the negatives. However, I do feel it's lost its meaning to an extent. Such a diverse range of books are marketed as chick lit now, it's not clear what it stands for anymore. I prefer to use the term 'romantic comedy' to describe my books because that's what they are.

  7. 7. What do you think the biggest challenge a chick lit writer faces is?

    The competition! There are a lot of very talented women writers out there, and the competition is fierce. I also think one of the biggest challenges is overcoming the prejudice a lot of people have against the genre and getting them to consider your work on its merits.

  8. 8. What do you think about celebrity writers? What influence do you think they're having on the publishing market?

    I have mixed feelings about them. Part of me thinks, good luck to them! If the opportunity is there, why shouldn’t they take it? On the other hand, as a writer, it can be galling to see celebrities being paid huge sums for what is often very poor quality work. It makes the market even tougher for ordinary writers because you're completing with celebrities for publicity as well as sales. As a chick lit writer, I do wish celebrity writers didn't almost invariably write chick lit. It reinforces the idea that it's easy - that anyone can knock out a chick lit book to make a quick buck. Chick lit's detractors will (disingenuously) point to the worst celebrity books as examples of the genre, as if that's the standard – which of course it isn't. It's not a level playing field, and the reality is that most of those books would never have been published without the celebrity name because they just wouldn't make the grade.

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

    The best thing is getting positive feedback about your book, whether it's great reviews or feedback from readers. Nothing beats the thrill of someone telling you they loved your book. The worst thing, for me, is undoubtedly deadlines. I don't work well under pressure – when a deadline gets close I tend to get brain-freeze.

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

    Hmm, I can't think of anything really. Not because I knew it all when I started writing – quite the opposite. I was very naive about the whole business when I started. I thought you wrote a book, it got snapped up for loads of money and then you sold the film rights and you were rich and famous, The End. I don't really wish I'd known the harsh realities of how tough it is, though – it doesn't hurt to dream big, and world domination is still the dream, however naive that may be!

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

    If there is any message, I guess it would be 'follow your heart'. But my books don't really have messages. They're meant to be entertaining and fun. I would hope they leave readers feeling uplifted and optimistic about life and people in general. A lot of people have said to me they didn't want The Disengagement Ring to end because they were having such a good time reading it – that makes me very happy.

  12. 12. What are working on at the moment?

    I'm currently working on my third book. It's another romantic comedy, but the story is pretty hazy at the moment. I can tell you it's about a girl called Romy who is a property developer, and it may involve a close encounter with a man in a Darth Vader costume ... or then again, it may not.

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