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Claire Allan

Claire AllanA native of the Maiden City aka Derry, Claire Allan was a journalist before she turned her hand to writing books. Now she’s The Irish Times bestselling author of eight women’s fiction titles and ‘Her Name Was Rose’ is her debut thriller with Avon Books.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    Hello! I’m a 42 year old, mum of two (one son, 14 and one daughter, 9) from Derry. I worked as a journalist for 18 years while also writing women’s fiction which was published by Poolbeg Press. I decided to make the leap to writing full time two years ago, which was mildly terrifying! I’ve always written and always loved to read so from a very young age I hoped to one day be a writer. As a journalist I worked for the print media because I wanted to be paid to write for a living. I decided when I was 29, after a very dear friend passed away, to sit down and write my first novel. And the rest is history.
  2. Where do you get your ideas from?
    Ideas can come from the strangest of places. Sometimes it’s a snippet of a conversation, or I can see an interaction between two people which makes me wonder what their story is – and I love making up a story for them. When it came to ‘Her Name Was Rose’ the first line “It should have been me” just popped into my head and refused to leave. I became obsessed with building a character and a story around that line and it developed from there. At the same time, I was intrigued by how social media has changed how we grieve collectively. And how we portray ourselves. It was fun to tease a story out from that.
  3. If you could rewrite any book, what would it be?
    Oh Gosh, of my own books? I look on my first book ‘Rainy Days and Tuesdays’ and can see how I’ve learned so much since then. It’s a very raw and ready book in a lot of ways and it has the most “me” in it. I do find it difficult to read, because it raises a lot of emotions for me and my previous experience of post-natal depression. But also, technically, I can see how it could be made a better book. If it’s a question about any other writer’s book? I wouldn’t rewrite any, but I would have loved to have written ‘Rachel’s Holiday’ (Marian Keyes) or the brilliant ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ (Gail Honeyman).
  4. Her Name Was Rose

  5. You originally wrote female fiction for Irish publishers Poolbeg, what made turn to write thrillers?
    I fell into it by accident. It was never really my intention to write a thriller and to be honest, I would never have believed that I could have. I loved writing women’s fiction and I’m very proud of the books I wrote and published with Poolbeg and I’m eternally grateful to them, especially editor Paula Campbell, for her support over the years. But I did want to write something a little darker. It was put to me by an editor that f I wanted to go darker, I shouldn’t do it in half measures. She gave me permission in a way to unleash my dark side and I found writing a book so completely different to anything I had done before to be a brilliant experience. It was great fun to be a bit evil!
  6. What do you think makes a good book?
    For me it is the combination of a pacey plot but with lots of heart too. I like my books (both that I write and read) to be character driver and to pull at the heartstrings in a myriad of ways. If the reader can relate to the characters in the book (even the bad ones, because no one is simply either bad or good, there are shades of grey in everyone) that goes a long, long way to making a book work for me.
  7. Who’s your favourite literary hero or heroine?
    There’s no secret that my literary hero is Marian Keyes. I read ‘Rachel’s Holiday’ when I was a 21 year old student in Belfast and I have read each and every Marian book since. I feel as if I’ve grown up with her. Her books opened up a new world to me – of serious, but jaw-droppingly funny takes on life. Of real characters with real flaws. On a personal level, Marian has inspired me not only with the longevity of her career but the way she has battled her personal demons and helped others by being so very open about those.

    It was a real dream come true when she read ‘Her Name Was Rose’ and agreed to endorse the book. I had to pinch myself.

  8. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    Oh my, that’s a hard one! (A brilliant one, but a tough one). I tend to get star-struck around authors but I’d love to get Marian Keyes, Jojo Moyes, Anna McPartlin, Kate Beaufoy and Rowan Coleman all in a room together and talk books. If I could bring back a writer from the dim and distant past, it would be amazing to have Jane Austen in the room, or Emily Bronte – but I fear she might be a bit too emo for me.
  9. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
    Genuinely it was to go throttle at everything you write. Let your mind run wild. Don’t be constrained by the person you are day to day, or who you think you should be. Don’t be cautious. Write and love it.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    Well, the aforementioned ‘Rachel’s Holiday’ which is my go-to read when I’m feeling a bit meh and it picks me up every time. I think I’d also bring ‘Wuthering Heights’ which I keep meaning to re-read. For a new book, I’d bring ‘The Book of Love’ by Irish writer Fionnuala Kearney which will be released in October. I’ve had a sneak peek and it is just the loveliest, most life affirming, beautiful book. I could read it 100 times and not tire of the story.
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Read, read and read some more. In your genre and in others. See how other authors get it right, or wrong. Pay attention to structure and what keeps you turning the pages. Pay attention to how dialogue is written. You can’t write without knowing what works.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    I’m trying to think of a really, really inspiring answer but the truth is probably a can of Diet Coke to keep me caffeinated
  13. And finally do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    Yes! While all eyes are on ‘Her Name Was Rose’, I’m also working on my second thriller ‘Apple of My Eye’ which is about a mother’s obsession with her daughter – and which will be published by Avon in January 2019. I’m also playing with a few ideas for a third thriller. It’s at the exciting stage where new characters are just starting to form in my head.

Follow Claire Allan on Twitter Claire Allan for updates or check out her website at Claire Allan

You can buy Her Name Was Rose from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Jane Corry

Jane CorryJane Corry was a magazine journalist who spent three years working as the writer-in-residence of a high security prison for men. She had never been inside a jail before and this often hair-raising experience helped inspire her Sunday Times bestselling psychological thrillers, ‘Blood Sisters’ and ‘My Husband’s Wife’. ‘The Dead Ex’ is her latest book.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    My name is Jane Corry and I write psychological suspenses. They are about families whose lives suddenly change without warning. I am published by Penguin. My previous two books ‘My Husband’s Wife’ and ‘Blood Sisters’ got into the top 10 of the ‘Sunday Times’ bestseller list. I’ve always written for as long as I can remember. I began with poetry and little stories from about the age of three or four. After university, I became a magazine journalist for many years and then, after my first marriage ended, I took a job as a writer in a high security male prison. This made my writing darker! I then got married again which made me very aware of how family relationships can change. I wrote ‘My Husband’s Wife’ on the strength of this. A friend of a friend put me in touch with an agent who then sold it to Penguin.
  2. Can you tell us about your new book ‘The Dead Ex’
    Vicki is an aromatherapist with a troubled past. One wet windy night, the police come knocking at her door. They ask when she last saw her missing husband. Vicki tells them it was five years ago. When they leave she picks up her mobile and calls him. Scarlet’s mother is a drug addict. Scarlet is taken into care at the age of eight. Each of my main characters tells her story until we get to the point where the two of them meet.
  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    I’d ask other writer friends like BA Paris, Kate Furnivall and Teresa Driscoll. I’d also invite Martina Cole because I interviewed her once and thought she had some great tales about the underworld. If it was possible, I’d also like to invite the ghosts of writers have passed away such as Helen Dunmore and Mary Wesley.
  4. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    “The mole had been working very hard all morning, spring cleaning his little home.”This is the opening line from ‘Wind In The Willows’. It was the first book which my father read to me. Now he is 94 and I read poetry to him.
  5. If you were starting your writing journey again, would you do anything differently?
    I’d have stopped being a magazine journalist in my thirties and begun writing novels earlier. It requires a leap of faith to give up a steady job and do something that’s quite uncertain. Bit it was worth it!
  6. Who’s your favourite villain?
    My cousin Rachel in Daphne du Maurier’s novel with the same name. Some might say she’s not a villain at all but I’m not so sure….
    The Dead Ex
  7. What made you decide to become a thriller writer?
    It was partly my time in prison (see answer to question one) and also because I love creating twists and turns. I’m one of those annoying people who likes to guess what’s going to happen at the beginning of a book or drama.
  8. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    The complete editions of ‘Trollope’. ‘The Bible’. ‘Palgrave’s Golden Greasury’.
  9. From books to films, what’s been your favourite adaptation?
    ‘Gone With The Wind’. My second husband recently took me on a road trip to the southern states of America. We were lucky enough to visit Margaret Mitchell’s house. It was a dream come true for me. I’ve always admired her.
  10. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Viewpoint. Readers need to be inside the character’s head in order to believe the story.
  11. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    My dog. He sits on the sofa behind me and tells me when it’s time to get up and have a walking break along the beach! We have to wrap up warm as it’s really cold at the moment!
  12. And finally do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I’m currently writing next year’s book for Penguin. I can’t say anything about it right now but I live it in my head every day while writing. Actually, I will give you a clue! I became a granny two years ago and it’s changed my life.

Follow Jane Corry on Twitter Jane Corry for updates or check out her websitel at Jane Corry

Louise Pentland

“LouiseLouise Pentland is a lifestyle and beauty blogger, vlogger, author and fashion designer. Her two YouTube channels have a total of over 3.7 million subscribers and her debut book, ‘Life with a Sprinkle of Glitter’ was a Sunday Times best seller. 2017 sees her turn her hand to fiction writing with the release of her debut novel, Wilde Like Me. She is also a champion for Gender Equality and female empowerment and in 2016, she was named as a United Nations Change Ambassador for Gender Equality.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    I’ve always loved writing! English was my favourite subject in school, I achieved an A at GCSE despite my teacher, Ms Cramp telling me I ‘didn’t have the aptitude for the written language’. I guess my Times Number One Bestseller says differently- heh heh.

    In 2009 I began my blog ‘Sprinkle of Glitter’ and wrote articles on this regularly for many years. When books came into my life in 2015, it took a back seat for the author life but if ever I have a gap in books I’ll pick it up again. Now I love writing my books and was so proud to release my debut novel Wilde Like Me and that it got so much love from readers. I hope to write many more books in the future.

  2. What made you write female fiction?
    Pretty simply, it’s what I most love to read.
  3. You’re extremely popular on social media with over 2 million followers, how have you found social media has developed over the years?
    This is a massive question. In short, just like any industry, it has matured. It began is quite underground and mysterious, grew in following, people were frightened of it, traditional media began to understand and embrace it, corporations followed, now it’s a huge power for good (mostly). It allows us to connect and learn and progress and care. I’m excited for it’s future.
  4. What’s your favourite book of all time?
    ‘Bridget Jones Diary’ by Helen Fielding.
  5. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    I can’t say I’ve memorised any opening lines I’m afraid, and I couldn’t possibly pick if I had.
  6. Wilde Like Me

  7. What piece of advice would you offer to aspiring bloggers?
    Produce content regularly so your audience can rely on you.
    Never lie.
    There’s no point trying to copy someone else because they are already the experts in their field, be your own unique self because nobody is as good at that as you are.
  8. If you were starting your own book club, what other authors would you ask to join?
    Lindsey Kelk, Helen Fielding, Sophie Kinsella, JK Rowling,
  9. Who’s your favourite literary hero or heroine?
    Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    A book detailing how to get off the desert island with the least amount of strife.
    The Bible, because it would take me a really long time to get through it and I might find some good life answers.
    All 7 Harry Potter books for the same reason as above.
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Quite simply, keep writing. Write everyday even if you think it’s rubbish. Ask people to read what you write so you become accustomed to that fear of judgement and read too. I hear a lot of people wistfully say, ‘I’d love to be able to write’ and I always reply, ‘You can, just start’.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    My laptop and no children!! Generally my cats will jump up for a cuddle because if I’m writing, my lap isn’t full of a baby or little girl and the cats take their chances where they can!
  13. And finally do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I am so excited for the release of the second book in the Robin Wilde series, called ‘Wilde About The Girl’ which is out in August. It’s my best kept secret this year because I’ve been dying to spill all the details but I won’t spoil it for you (I think my publishing team would scrap me if I did!). I can tell you though that each character progresses on their personal journey, we have life and death (woah), romance where you’d least expect it, a secret snog in a cupboard and a bunch of new characters to love or hate! It. Is. Juicy.

Follow Louise Pentland on Twitter Louise Pentland for updates or check out her YouTube Channel at Louise Pentland

You can buy Wilde Like Me from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Sarah Breen and Emer McLysaght

Sarah Breen and Emer Mclysaght. Photo credit Al Higgins

Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen are the fabulous writing duo behind the hilarious, Irish novel called ‘Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling. The Novel’. A book that all women can relate to, at some stage in their lives.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    Sarah: Emer and I met studying media in Dublin. We hit it off immediately – I thought she was hilarious from day one – and we started hanging out whenever we could and eventually moved in together. Emer went on to work in radio journalism and I got into magazines so our professional lives never really overlapped, although we always dreamed of working together one day. In 2016 an Irish publishing company approached us about writing a book together and we decided to go for it.

    Emer: Having both worked in Irish media, writing for Irish women, we felt like we would be able to have a go at writing a novel. It’s the kind of thing you dream about when you’re growing up and your favourite subject in school is English and you’re devouring a few books a week.

  2. What made you come up with the concept for the ‘Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling’?
    We came up with the character of Aisling one day during a conversation about mascara – we decided whoever keeps the brown mascara industry going is also the person who hangs up signs in the office kitchen begging people to put their mugs in the dishwasher (always typed in comic sans!). She’s that friend who writes “suits you” under pictures of women holding babies on Facebook and knows the Weight Watchers Points in absolutely everything. Our friends soon got into it so Emer made a Facebook page, called Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling, where we could all share our “Aislingisms”. It gained a cult following and now has more than 50,000 members. The novel is based on what happens when Aisling gets sick of waiting for her boyfriend to pop the question.
  3. How do you find it, writing as an duo?
    Sarah: We couldn’t imagine writing any other way! Because we know Aisling so well, and know how she’d react in any situation, it’s easy for me to continue Emer’s thoughts and vice versa. We usually decide what needs to happen in the next few chapters and just go away and fill in the blanks. I’m always HOOTING at Emer’s work.

    Emer: And I’m always in bits at Sarah’s work. I think we compliment each other in our writing. Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling has a mixture of both very funny and very sad moments, and somehow between us we’ve managed to strike the balance just right. It’s like we were always meant to write this book together!

  4. Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling

  5. You have quite a following on your Facebook page, which provides entertainment, solutions and current affairs, how have you found the response to the page?
    We are incredibly proud of the OMGWACA group. It’s crazy to think that what started out as an in-joke about Aisling 10 years ago is now this warm, inclusive community that’s spawned so many real life friendships. It’s really only a matter of time ‘til we have our first OMGWACA wedding!
  6. As pointed out in the book, we all have a bit of an Aisling in ourselves. What defines you as an complete Aisling?
    Sarah: I reckon I’m about 40% Aisling – I religiously collect Boots points, I would never get off the bus without thanking the driver and nothing makes me happier than drying clothes outside on the line (the amount of electricity the dryer uses is shocking!). I think Emer is a bit more Aisling than me – I’ve seen her bring earplugs to a music festival and she will insist on queuing for a flight the minute the gate opens.

    Emer: Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a good night’s sleep at a festival, or an airbed, or a lock for your tent! I would agree that I’m more of an Aisling, maybe 50%. It’s true that I don’t feel at ease until I’m safely in my plane seat and my carry on is safely stowed. I also indicate religiously on roundabouts and would be evangelical about the difference between tea towels and hand towels.

  7. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    Sarah: Anything by Marian Keyes – ‘Rachel’s Holiday’ is a favourite of both mine and Emer. The entire works of Adrian Mole – he was SUCH an Aisling. And some kind of survival manual – I’d need to be able to distil my own gin or else I’d just walk into the sea.

    Emer: I hope that Sarah would let me borrow her ‘Rachel’s Holiday’ and her Adrian Mole. I’d also bring the collected tales of ‘Anne of Green Gables’, it was a real childhood favourite. And while we’re at it, a couple of my old Paula Danziger books. I think that reading funny women like her when I was younger really influenced my writing.

  8. Who’s your favourite literary hero or heroine?
    Sarah: Bridget Jones – I love how funny, real and relatable she is. That Aisling has been compared to her is incredibly flattering.

    Emer: Sarah beat me to it with Bridget. I’d also have to mention Adrian Mole again, he’s just the perfect amount of hero with a dash of ridiculousness.

  9. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    Sarah: “The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.” It’s from ‘Lullaby’ by Leila Slimani. How could you not want to read on?!

    Emer: “We slept in what had once been the gymnasium”, from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. I just feel like it’s so loaded. It already gives away so much.

  10. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    It sounds like a no-brainer, but write the book you’d like to read. If psychological thrillers are your bag, hone your detective skills. Not every book has to be a work of literary genius. Just start writing!
  11. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    Sarah: Food. I like to reward myself after every paragraph.

    Emer: I write at a laptop but always have a good old pen and paper beside me for making notes to come back to. It might just be one scribbled word but it will be enough.

  12. And finally do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    We are currently writing the screenplay for the film adaptation of Oh My God What a Complete Aisling’, which has been such a joy. We are also putting the finishi’ng touches on the sequel, which is due out in September.

You can follow the ladies on Twitter Sarah Breen and Emer McLysaght for updates. And don’t forget to check out the amazing ‘Oh My God What a Complete Aisling’ Facebook page, which started this whole adventure

You can buy Oh My God What a Complete Aisling from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Heidi Swain

“HeidiHeidi Swain gained a degree in Literature and flirted briefly with a newspaper career. She married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously. Her debut novel, ‘The Chery Tree Café’ was published in July 2015 (paperback June 2017) and ‘Summer at Skylark Farm’ hit the shelves the following June. ‘Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market’ was a hugely successful Christmas 2016 release and her fourth book, ‘Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage’ was published in July 2017. She is currently celebrating her October 2017 Christmas release, ‘Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at The Christmas Fair’. Heidi lives in Norfolk with her wonderful family and a mischievous cat called Storm.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    Hello Bronagh! Thank you so much for inviting me along today and hello to everyone who has dropped in to have a read. My name is Heidi Swain and I am an author of ‘feel good fiction’ signed to Simon and Schuster.

    I have written stories for as long as I can remember, but my big break into publishing came after I submitted my debut novel, ‘The Cherry Tree Café’ to my publisher via their #oneday open call for submissions.

  2. What made you decide to write female fiction?
    Female fiction has long been my favourite genre to read and I wanted to see if I had it in me to write the kind of book I would enjoy snuggling up with.
    I know it probably sounds self-indulgent, but I wanted to write about characters I would love to be friends with and who live in places I would love to visit. Fortunately, my readers feel the same way. I’ve lost count of the number of messages, emails and tweets I’ve received from folk who want to move to Wynbridge.
  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    That’s a great question! My goodness, so many authors… Without a doubt I would have to invite Trisha Ashley, Milly Johnson, Jilly Cooper and JK Rowling.
  4. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    That’s tricky to answer, because it can vary from book to book, but more often than not, as long as the words and ideas are flowing, writing the first draft is my favourite part of the process. I never end a writing session without knowing how I will carry on the next time I sit down. I’ll scribble a few notes, perhaps write the opening line and then mull the action over from then on until I start writing again.
  5. Sunshine And Sweetpeas In Nightingale Square

  6. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    The opening line of ‘A Christmas Carol’ – “Marley was dead: to begin with”. If that doesn’t make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, nothing will! I love the way Dickens then goes on to talk to his readers, leaving them in no doubt that he really is standing next to them as they read. Pure magic.
  7. You’re quite prolific on Instagram, what’s your top tip to take the perfect photograph?
    Truth be told, I have no idea! I just click away and hope for the best. That said, if I’m photographing a flower, I like to zoom in on the detail but if I’m snapping my baking or something in the house, I do pay attention to the background. No one wants to see a pile of dirty laundry or stacks of dishes!
  8. Who’s your favourite literary hero or heroine?
    I know you’ve asked for one or the other, but I have to pick two – the dynamic duo of Pop and Ma Larkin. Between them there’s no problem they can’t solve, no belly they can’t fill and no mood they can’t lift. I love their kindness, generosity and abundant love for their family and friends.
  9. What do you think makes a good book?
    A good book for me can be defined by its ability to carry me away and make me forget everything other than the words on the page. I want to be transported into the world the author has created and left in no doubt that if I bumped into the characters, or turned up in their town I would know who I was talking to and where I was, straightaway.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    Three books! How about thirty three? Can I go for three collections? Let’s assume I can…
    The entire ‘Harry Potter’ series
    ‘The Darling Buds of May’ and all the other books H E Bates wrote about the Larkin family
    My Miss Read collection
    I know I’ve cheated but I’m guilt ridden have left behind ‘Wind in The Willows’, Trisha Ashley and Dickens!
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    I think the most important thing is to just keep writing. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Push yourself to find the time and make the commitment to write every day and don’t abandon projects before you’ve written or typed The End. Every piece of fiction, no matter how short or long will have tricky patches but you have to work through them otherwise you’ll never learn how to finish anything.

    Also, read widely, and not just the genre you write in.

  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    I have a few things on the table – tea, notes, pencil, laptop, the usual really, but I also have a feather bookmark decorated with amethyst beads and an owl. The Goddess Athena is the goddess of the arts and literature and she had an owl, so I like to have a representation of her by me when I sit down to write.
  13. And finally do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    My sixth book, ‘Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square’, is due to be published at the end of May. It features a Wynbridge girl who is rebuilding her life after the breakdown of her marriage. She has made the brave decision not to move back to her home town and instead, she buys a house in Nightingale Square in Norwich.

    This will be the first book which isn’t set in or around Wynbridge and as daunting as that feels because my readers love the town, it has been very exciting. Creating somewhere new and filling it with a wonderful little urban community has been great fun and I hope the fine folk of Nightingale Square touch everyone’s hearts.

Follow Heidi Swain on Twitter Heidi Swain for updates or check out her website at Heidi Swain