March 2011


Shirley Benton’s debut novel, Looking for Leon, was released this month. She has worked in IT and is also a contributor to the Chicklit Club website. She lives in Dublin with her husband and children. (Interview by Annmarie Ottman)

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  1. 1. What inspired your debut novel, Looking for Leon?

    I got the idea for the book shortly after I’d been searching for an old friend online. I thought I’d find her very easily now that we have Google, Facebook etc. at our disposal to help us, but it turned out to be impossible to find her. Then the thought crossed my mind that this would be a good idea for a book if it was a girl looking for a guy, and I started teasing out the idea and it grew from there!

  2. 2. What is it about your main character Andie that will appeal to readers?

    Not to put too fine a point on it, Andie is slightly bonkers. She’s a bit of a loose cannon and anything can happen when she’s around. Her exhibitionist tendencies get her into situations that you can’t but cringe at. But behind the feisty exterior lies a woman with a lot of heart. She’s a character that I hope readers will feel like they really know by the end of the book.

  3. 3. Your book asks the question, what would you do to find the one that got away? How far would you go to find your one true love?

    While I’ve never been in a position that is in any way comparable to Andie’s situation in the book, I think that if someone meant enough to you, you’d do whatever it took to find them. (I met my husband when I was 21, so I was lucky enough to not have to do a lot of looking myself.) There is a line though - you don’t want to verge into stalker territory!

  4. 4. Have you ever been to Vegas? And do you believe in the adage what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?

    I have indeed - I actually got married in Vegas in 2006. Needless to say when I set my book there, I absolutely love the place. As for what happens in Vegas staying in Vegas, I suppose I brought Vegas home with me with the whole marriage thing so I can’t say I agree with that particular adage!

  5. 5. Do you have a writing ritual?

    I used to, but now, there is no such thing for me. I had a baby nine weeks ago and rituals of all sorts are out the window at the moment. All I can say is that I just grab segments of time whenever I can, be it morning, afternoon, evening or night, to write. I suppose it shows that if we really want to write, we will, no matter how busy we are.

  6. 6. How did you celebrate your book release?

    Well, the book was released on March 1 and the book launch was that night, so I celebrated by going for a few drinks with my friends afterwards. I couldn’t go too crazy though because the children still needed to be looked after the following morning! The wild life of an author, eh?!

  7. 7. What have you learned about the publishing industry over the last year?

    Unfortunately, I’ve learned that just like in every other industry, it’s a tough time for publishing. Sales are nowhere near where they used to be and it’s hard for new authors to establish themselves. But while it is difficult, I still believe it’s possible for aspiring authors to break into the market if they’re prepared to work extremely hard.

  8. 8. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

    If you really want to get published, give it everything you have and work your socks off. Be very disciplined about spending time every single day on your writing, as it can easily fall by the wayside if you don’t. I’d also recommend joining a writing group to keep up your motivation.

  9. 9. Why do you think Ireland produces so many great chick lit writers?

    This is just my opinion, but I think Maeve Binchy and Marian Keyes produced work that was so amazing, so accessible and contained such accurate depictions of how Irish people operate in their day-to-day lives that they made other people think they could do it too. You know someone is a fantastic writer when they make it look easy, and that’s exactly what these women did. Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to be able to write to their level, but the point is that I think these women gave others the courage to at least try. And some writers who tried discovered they had talent and ended up out there producing great books too. If you asked another Irish writer this question, they’d probably give you a completely different answer, but that’s my theory anyway.

  10. 10. What are you working on now?

    I’m currently working on my second book, provisionally entitled The Pre-Parental Plan.

  11. 11. You review novels for our website. Do you ever get inspiration for storylines or characters from the novels you have read?

    I mean it in the nicest way possible when I say that I don’t – you see, I spent a lot of time before writing Looking for Leon writing stuff that I thought was original at the time, but I never got anywhere with it and when I look back on it, I can see exactly why - it’d all been done before. It’s very dangerous to get too inspired by someone else’s characters or storylines because you don’t want to fall into the trap of creating work that is too similar to another author’s. Good writing by others will always inspire you to push yourself and produce your best possible work, but it must be your work in your unique voice if you’re going to get anywhere with it.

  12. 12. What novel are you most looking forward to reading this year?

    Definitely Melissa Hill’s new novel Something From Tiffany’s. Unfortunately, it won’t be out until May and I’d love to get my hands on it now!

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