November 2010


Nuala Woulfe, a former journalist, is the author of Chasing Rainbows and Two to Tango, released this month. She lives in Tipperary, Ireland. You can find out more at her website. (Interview by Shirley Benton-Bailey)

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  1. 1. Tell us about your latest book, Two to Tango.

    Two to Tango is a Desperate Housewives story (Irish style) where two women are on a journey of self-discovery involving everything from Latin dancing, lingerie parties, fast cars, pole dancing and women’s rugby and in an era where many marriages are on the rocks, both women’s marriages are also experiencing difficulties. Lovable mum of three Jennifer suffers from low libido but spends her time thinking of affairs and the second character - young, spoilt Rebecca - has her sights on a delicious new toyboy, partly for fun and partly just to annoy her husband. The book however is essentially a romantic comedy, even though there are more reflective, tender moments. In particular I had great fun writing about women's rugby and I hope Two to Tango is also a sensual book, that will help women feel good about themselves. I picked the title Two to Tango because the tango is the quintessential dance of passion, love and hate and sums up how both women feel about their marriages and I also wanted to introduce a Latin theme because Latin dancing is so popular these days on TV and film. Of late we’ve all seen inexperienced ‘celeb’ dancers blossom into confident, sensual women in our living rooms!

  2. 2. How would you define your writing style, and what do you think is your unique selling point as an author?

    My style of writing is playful, comic, sexy and I hope incisive and I like to find new themes. That’s why in this book I picked women’s rugby as a theme for one of the main characters and pole dancing. I also like to find things that are current, for that reason I also chose Latin dancing as a theme of rebirth for Jennifer as Latin dancing is very much of the moment. There is also a redundancy theme in the book which shakes the world of one of the women (ultimately for the better) and I wrote about Jennifer’s low libido because I wanted to write about something new and I also like to write about things that people might shy away from discussing. I’ve always been the kind of person to point out the elephant in the room if there was one there in the first place and I try to do that in my writing too. An overall theme in my books is personal growth and of women daring more and believing more in themselves. This was the case in my first book Chasing Rainbows and in Two to Tango as well.

  3. 3. What inspired you to begin to write?

    I suppose my home life was somewhat inspirational in a very normal way; writing and storytelling and banter was always there in the background. My Dad, now retired, was an English teacher from County Kerry where there is a great oral storytelling tradition and my mum is a natural comic with a sharp Northern Ireland sense of humour. I have sisters who were teenagers when I was born and I also remember them reading to me and taking me to the cinema as a child. When I was fifteen I won my first creative writing competition with RTE/An Post and the prize was a trip to New York for five days and I suppose I became somewhat aware for the first time that maybe I had a way with words. A few more writing competitions followed while I was in school, and after college I became a journalist for a few years, which was the best I thought I could do with my writing ability. However, real inspiration came out of the blue a couple of years ago when I had my first baby. I developed migraine and I went to see a kinesiologist who told me I had a problem with wheat and she did colour therapy on me. Afterwards she told me that I might have strange dreams or see flashing colours for the next few days. I went home and had the best night’s sleep in about a year and when I awoke the next morning I just said out loud to my husband with absolute certainty, ‘I’m going to write a book’. Before that I had no plan to write fiction but once I started writing, Chasing Rainbows came pouring out of my fingertips.

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

    Every book is different and like a lot of women with small children every book has to fit around big life events like getting pregnant and having babies! However, Two to Tango took me a bit longer to write than my first book because I had two main characters instead of one and I also wanted to treat the redundancy theme in the book sensitively but I wanted to do it without compromising my comic style of writing. Also Two to Tango is a longer book than my first novel Chasing Rainbows – with two characters I just had more to say! However, my third book, which I haven’t quite finished yet, came out in a rush, so much so that if I had have had four hands to type with instead of two they would have been very welcome!

  5. 5. How do you see the publishing industry evolving over the next five years or so, and what's your view on technology such as e-book readers?

    I’m not the first one to say this but because of the worldwide recession I think the mood is changing and unless you are very well established I think lightweight chick lit is on the way out, which is why I’m glad my work is a little bit edgier. I think the bigger, sexier Jilly Cooper/Danielle Steele blockbusters are back and witty, satirical novels are a good bet too - people out there are in the mood for a little black humour I believe. As regards e-books I think in the future we will definitely see more of them but I wonder if we will rely on them more for information purposes than for pleasure? I recently bought an e-book but it was a non-fiction information guide. Personally, I think I will always want to curl up with a real physical book in my hands, it’s a pleasure ritual too deeply engrained in my mind for me to change now. As a parent I have passed on the love of physical books to my children so I think they are still likely to engage in this kind of reading in their future. Of course I could be completely wrong; it’s just my opinion that so long as the love of ‘real’ books is passed from one generation to the next, such books will never go completely out of fashion.

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

    I’m not a meticulous planner at all. In fact my writing to an outsider might appear a bit chaotic. First of all I usually get an idea and I let it build in my head, let the characters have conversations and do things and it’s like I’m just listening in. Then I maybe read a few books for background research and eventually it reaches a point where I have to sit down in front of a computer and just write and usually the first maybe ten to fifteen chapters come out in a rush. Then I usually have to print out what I have and make a few notes and that gets me going again at the computer. I’m always between editing on screen and editing on hard copy. If I have a scene that demands to be written or I have done research on something and I need to write it while it’s fresh, but I don’t know where it’s going in the final book, I just write that scene and park it until I can cut and paste it into its natural home later on. I also write notes to myself in text in a different font but I have to say I generally know how a book will end but the rest is a bit of an adventure. I think that keeps my writing exciting and I try to take the reader on a bit of an adventure too with plenty of twists and turns. Of course I’m always listening to radio and reading magazines and trying to keep things current and topical – I’m changing things to keep the copy fresh right up till the last minute when the publishers are trying to prise the book out of my hands!

  7. 7. Can you describe your writing schedule?

    I’m a stay-at-home mum and have a young tot so I mostly write at night. Sometimes I might steal an hour somewhere during the day or over the weekend. In about a year I can see myself having maybe a few hours in the morning and I’m really looking forward to having a little more structure and a better writing routine but still if I can write by just squeezing it in around everything else then anyone can write - you just have to do it and then do it again and again and again!

  8. 8. Is there anything of you in your characters?

    Of course there is something of me in my characters because I feel you can’t really convey emotion unless you have felt it yourself. Sometimes I convey that emotion in a way that I’ve directly experienced and sometimes I convey emotion in what I hope is a new and exciting setting. For example I have never personally played rugby or pole danced, like one of the characters in Two to Tango, but I know what it feels like to experience an adrenaline rush and feel excitement so I use those familiar emotions but I’m always looking for new settings.

  9. 9. What do you find the most challenging about writing?

    The most challenging thing about writing for me at the moment is just finding the time. The other challenging thing is finding ways to compete with the works of easily promotable celebrity writers but the only way I feel you can do that is by pushing yourself as a writer to find interesting angles and fresh approaches and to concentrate on improving your writing every way you can.

  10. 10. Which books/authors have had the biggest impact on your life?

    My favourite books are Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, East of Eden and Dracula because I love the really strong feminine leads. All the main female characters in these books are also incredibly aware of their sexual side and their feminine allure and it terrifies but consumes the men in these novels. I find that very interesting – the power and the fear of female sexuality. I’m also a bit of a guru geek. Reading Susan Jeffers’ Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway for the first time in my early 20s blew my mind because I realised for the first time you could change your perceptions, your beliefs and your outcomes in life and I’ve read many more similar books since then from Brian Tracy, Astrid Longhurst, Louise Hay, Martha Beck or Eckhart Tolle. Other books that changed the way I looked on life include; the writings of Michel Foucault and Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass and Rachel’s Holiday by the lovely Marian Keyes because every word comes from Marian’s heart and it reminds you as a writer that the only memorable writing is writing that’s real and heartbreakingly honest.

  11. 11. What's been the best response you've received from a reader?

    I suppose when someone tells you that your book has changed the way they think about life – that’s always very memorable. A reader recently said that to me that Two to Tango had that effect on her that it made her laugh out loud in parts, contemplate her life and it also really made her want to dance so she has started to take up dancing straight away. I thought that was wonderful because all too often as women we put ourselves last and bury our needs, dreams and desires and my books are all about showing women that they’re important and worthy so it’s great when someone gets the message and actually does something different in their lives.

  12. 12. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

    Buy Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass – he gives so many tips on how you can make your writing stand out which is absolutely crucial in a market flooded with writers and aspiring writers and I’ve used lots of his strategies in my own work. Also, you also have to keep your own voice and not be tempted to copy anyone else’s style. I got my publishing break with Poolbeg precisely because editor Paula Campbell said she saw something different in my writing. When I finished Two to Tango Paula said my work showed ‘an originality much needed in the world of fiction these days’ which was a fabulous endorsement for me. I think you also have to be aware that things change and you have to be adaptable as a writer or bide your time. I feel now is a good time for my work precisely because it is not totally fluffy chick lit, that’s not something I could write anyway, but now the mood has changed for something more meaningful I think I should do well enough in the market. Still I want to have a long career as a writer so I have to look at other writing options, I have ideas for children’s books, I have one or two ideas for a film script and I have ideas for different kind of novels; from an historical fiction love story to a series of supernatural Irish-based thrillers but for now I’m concentrating on writing funny novels in a Jilly Cooper slightly racy, naughty but totally Irish style! Lastly, I would say that even though the goal is to get published, it’s not necessarily ‘put your feet up and pop the champagne time’ when it happens. It can take years to get established and you might have to write a few novels before you hit the ‘big one’. We only hear about the overnight successes but we don’t always realise that most writers have done the hard slog so it’s important never to get disheartened but to keep trying and keep smiling until fortune shines your way!

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