I’m very happy to welcome romantic comedy author, Clodagh Murphy, to my blog today. So, on with it…
Welcome, Clodagh. So who are you? What do you write?
Thanks, Nik. I’m a writer from Dublin. My first novel The Disengagement Ring was published last year by Hachette Books Ireland, and my second, Girl in a Spin, will be out next May. What I write could be categorised as commercial women’s fiction or chick lit. I don’t have a problem with either of those labels, but they cover a multitude of different kinds of writing and stories, so I prefer to call what I write romantic comedy because it tells you more about what it is. My books are light-hearted entertainment and I would like people to have fun reading them.
Tell us a little about your first novel, The Disengagement Ring.
The Disengagement Ring is about a girl whose family decide to interfere when she gets engaged to someone they don’t like. They arrange for her to go off to Tuscany for the summer with this guy she’s had a crush on forever to cook for the band he manages – the hope being that she will be seduced away from her horrible boyfriend.
Your second novel, Girl In A Spin is due out in April. Could you tell us about that as well?
It’s set in London and it’s about a girl who’s involved with the leader of the Conservative Party. She has a few dodgy things in her past, and the Party’s spin doctor has his work cut out keeping the door shut on the skeletons in her closet in the run-up to the election. Coincidentally, it will be coming out in Ireland on 6th May, which it seems will be the day of the UK election.
How do the two compare?
They’re both written in the same style, but the stories and characters are very different. Kate, the main character in The Disengagement Ring, has a very strong family background, so she has all the security that comes with that and she’s very grounded. Her family are a forceful presence in her life and family relationships play an important part in the book.
Jenny, the main character in Girl in a Spin was fostered and is kind of rootless. She’s a real party girl, but what she really wants is to have a family of her own and settle down to a life of domestic bliss. So relationships are very important to her – so much so that she can be blind to the fact that maybe a particular relationship isn’t right for her and isn’t worth the effort.
We first met on a writers forum. What role did that play in getting you to where you are now? (The forum, not me!)
It played a big part. I’d finished The Disengagement Ring and had started to submit it to agents, but I realised as soon as I joined that forum that what I didn’t know about the whole business of getting published was a lot! I learned so much, and I was actually introduced to my agent by another writer I met on the forum. So on a very practical level it definitely got me to where I am now a lot faster, I think, than if I’d continued flailing around in the dark on my own.
I got a lot of support and encouragement there too, as well as practical help and advice – not least from yourself, Nik. I’ve made lots of lovely writer friends through that site, which has made my writing life a lot more fun. And of course if I hadn’t met you there, I wouldn’t be on your blog today!
What advice would you give to people hoping to be published?
It sounds so simplistic and obvious, but I’d say just write the best book you possibly can – which means working on it until you’re sick of the sight of it. And then persevere. I think they’re the two most important things that you can do – the rest is pretty much outside your control. I’d also advise people to join writers’ groups because it was so helpful to me. The whole publishing business can be a bit mysterious at times, and it doesn’t get much less so once you’re published, so it can be very helpful to have other writers to compare notes with.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
Early on in the editing process of The Disengagement Ring, my editor (while trying to convince me I could afford to lose some of my darlings) said that this wasn’t the only book I would ever write – if I took something out I could use it in something else, and besides, I’d come up with other ideas, maybe even better ones. I didn’t really believe it at the time. I was having my first book published and felt like this could be my one shot – if not the only book I’d ever write, possibly the only one that would ever see the light of publication day. So the temptation was to throw everything into it – whether it fit or not. Once I realised she was right, it was quite liberating. It makes it easier to let go of things. Whenever I find myself trying to shoehorn something into a book just because I think it’s funny or whatever, I remind myself of that.
Is there anything about being an author that’s surprised you?
I’m surprised how little it’s changed anything really. I still go to work and dream about becoming a full-time writer. On a more positive note, I’m constantly surprised by how kind and generous writers are to each other – regardless of their status. The writing community is very democratic, I’ve found.
Which writers do you admire the most, and why?
They’re too many and varied to mention really. The most recent book that gave me that ‘I wish I’d written this’ feeling was One Day by David Nicholls. It was so well observed, and the characters were so real and memorable. I was still thinking about them long after I’d finished the book.
I really admire J.K. Rowling, even though I’ve never read any of her books. I think it’s an amazing achievement to write something that resonates with so many people and touches people on an emotional level. That’s what we’re all trying to do as writers – to move people in some way.
What’s next for you?
Next I’m going to do my tax return, programme my TV, catch up with some friends, declutter – all the stuff that’s been on hold while I’ve been editing Girl in a Spin. I’m going to have a short breather and then I’ll start work on the next book. I don’t know what it’s going to be yet, but I have a few ideas floating around and I’m excited about starting something completely new.
Anything you’d like to add?
Just thanks for inviting me, Nik – you’re a real mensch!