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Claire Allan

Claire AllanyA 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.

Her Name Was Rose By Claire Allan

Her Name Was Rose‘Her Name Was Rose’ is the latest book by Claire Allan.

When Emily lets a stranger step out in front of her, she never imagines that split second will change her life. But after Emily watches a car plough into the young mother – killing her instantly – she finds herself unable to move on. And then she makes a decision she can never take back. Because Rose had everything Emily had ever dreamed of. A beautiful, loving family, a great job and a stunning home. And now Rose’s husband misses his wife, and their son needs a mother. Why couldn’t Emily fill that space? But as Emily is about to discover, no one’s life is perfect … and not everything is as it seems.

For years Claire Allan was a female fiction writer writing romantic tales of love and friendship, but ‘Her Name Was Rose’ is first psychological thriller with Avon Books and it’s a great debut for the Northern Ireland.

The story is seen through the narrative of Emily and also seen through social media posts of Rose and starts right at the moment that Rose is killed in an accident.

After Emily witnessed Rose’s death, she becomes obsessed with the woman and sees herself as the replacement for Rose’s seemingly perfect life. She begins to work in Rose’s old job as a receptionist in a dentists and soon begins to become a close friend to Rose’s husband Cian.

Emily is an interesting character, she’s insecure and longs to feel belonged and thinks that stepping into Rose’s shoes will finally make her life complete. Having spent years alone after a turbulent relationship ended, Emily thinks Cian is the perfect man for her and finds herself falling for the successful, charismatic author.

The other side of the story is Rose’s insight into her seemingly perfect life and this makes for quite sad and unsettling reading as one woman idolises her life and it’s so far from the truth.

As a resident of Northern Ireland, I loved the dialogue and narrative of this local thriller. A gripping story from the very beginning, ‘Her Name Was Rose’ is a cleverly written story filled with suspense throughout and proves that sometimes that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. A fantastic story from Avon’s newest author.

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

The First Time I Said Goodbye By Claire Allan

The First Time I Said Goodbye‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ is the latest book by Northern Ireland author, Claire Allan.

In 1959, factory girl Stella Hegarty finds herself falling unexpectedly for the charms of a US marine based in Derry. Caught up in the whirlwind of romance, Stella finds herself planning a new life in America with her beloved Ray. But when tragedy steps in, both their lives are thrown into turmoil and they come to realise that they may have said their first and last goodbye. In 2010, Stella’s daughter Annabel is reeling from the loss of her father, agrees to accompany her mother back to Ireland to meet her family for the first time. In Derry they both start to realise that sometimes you have to say goodbye to what you thought you always wanted, in order to find what you all needed all along.

I have read a few of Claire’s book and I have enjoyed them all, as a local author I always feel I can relate to her, with her dialogue and local humour. Even though I have enjoyed her previous books, I have to admit that ‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ was by far my favourite book by the author and for the first time, her book struck a chord in me that made me cry when the poignant tale came to an end.

‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ is loosely based on a true story that Claire worked on in her job in local newspaper ‘The Derry Journal’. I think the fact that the story is fictional and there are probably a few stories like this that are unheard off make for particularly touching reading.

The story is set in two different eras, the first is Derry 1959 when young Stella Hegarty falls for marine Ray Cooper, they plan their lives together, setting off to Boston and finding their happy ever after but sadly this doesn’t happen for the young couple and fast forward to Florida 2010, Stella decides to return home after her husband’s Bob’s death with her only daughter Annabel.

Unknown to Annabel, she thinks that Stella wants to return to roots after her long absence but infact Stella is hiding a secret for the last fifty years and hopes returning home will finally bring her closure.

As well as set in two eras, the story is seen from both Stella and Annabel’s perspectives which does make the story even more intriguing. Annabel is unhappy with her life, particularly the relationship she is in and hopes that some time apart will help sort out her head. Even though I enjoyed Annabel, I thought she was an interesting character, a lost soul trying to find her place in the world, It was the scenes with Stella that I thought were particularly interesting, as she accounted her short time with her first love through recollections and letters to her sweetheart, all these scenes I thought made for bittersweet and tender reading and gave the tale a beautiful essence of innocence as we joined her become a young woman and experience love for the first time.

A tragically sad and wonderfully romantic story from start to finish, that will have you gripped throughout, ‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ is truly a strong triumph of a story that will have you smiling and laughing and is most definitely Claire Allan at her very finest.

You can buy The First Time I Said Goodbye from Amazonand is available to buy from most good bookshops.

Claire Allan’s New Book – The First Time I Said Goodbye

The First Time I Said GoodbyeYesterday Claire Allan revealed the cover and synopsis to her new book ‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ and by the sounds of it, it is going to be a tearjerker.

The story of ‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ is –

Would you hold on tighter if you knew you were saying goodbye forever?

In 1959, factory girl Stella Hegarty finds herself falling unexpectedly for the charms of a handsome US marine based in Derry. Caught up in a whirlwind of romance which rivals the great love stories in the movies she so loves, Stella finds herself planning a new life in America with her beloved Ray.

But when tragedy steps in, both their lives are thrown into turmoil and they come to realise they may have said their first, and last goodbye.

In 2010, Annabel Jackson, reeling from the loss of her beloved father, agrees to accompany her mother Stella back to Ireland to meet her family for the first time.

As the pair arrive in Derry – they both start to realise that some times you have to say goodbye to what you thought you always wanted in order to find what you have needed all along.

I have enjoyed Claire’s books over the last couple of years. As a local writer I enjoy her stories of love and conflict with the injection of Northern Ireland humour, her books are real page turners and with a particularly beautiful and striking cover, I think ‘The First Time I Said Goodbye’ sounds like a lovely story.

You can pre-order The First Time I Said Goodbye from Amazonand is available to buy from good bookshops from 28th August 2013.

What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted by Claire Allan

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted

“What Becomes of The Broken Hearted” is the sixth book by Northern Ireland author, Claire Allan.

Kitty Shanahan. proprietor of The Dressing Room, is very much in love with love but with one simple routine phone call, her perfect life is turned on its head. It’s not easy to help hopeful brides choose their dream dress for their big day when you own heart is in pieces. And it’s hard to know who you can trust when the man you trusted most of all in life suddenly disappears.

Journalist Erin Brannigan knows exactly where the love of her life is. Paddy her fiancé who is battling cancer suddenly turns into Groomzilla planning their forthcoming wedding to the very last detail. When Erin is challenged by her bosses to write about her wedding, Paddy’s cancer and the man who first broke her heart, Erin finds herself caught up in a whirlwind which spins her life far out of control.

Thrown together in the dressing room of the bridal shop, Kitty and Erin find themselves caught up in each other’s lives and wondering if broken hearts can ever be mended.

I have read all of Claire Allan books and to be honest, I felt “What Becomes of The Broken Hearted” has to be her at her very best. From the start I thought it was an riveting book that I seemed unable to put down.

Told as a dual narrative through the eyes of kitty and Erin, it was fascinating to see them both at the most troubled stages of their lives and although they were strangers provided unlikely shoulders for each other to lean on. I found the characters to be genuine interesting people that I actually began to care about them and pray that they would find their happy ever after.

I like that from the very start, Claire introduced us to the problem, with the simple introductory line “The bomb dropped at 4.17p.m. on a Thursday” this line was so powerful and captivating, that immediately I was hooked! This power remained throughout the story, as both Erin and Kitty tackled the problems that had held them back such as insecurity, heartache and illness.

As the story is set in Northern Ireland, I liked the snippets of scenery, culture and colloquialism that I discovered that I often said myself which occasionally made me smile in the regular banter of the sisters and friends of both Kitty and Erin.

“What Becomes of The Broken Hearted” is a wonderfully written and heartfelt story of discovering love, recovering from heartbreak and is definately Claire Allan at her best.

You can buy What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? on Amazon and is available from good bookshops.