The Next Chapter with Fionnuala Kearney
Today we welcome back author Fionnuala Kearney to Whispering Stories Blog to catch up on what she has been doing since our interview with her back in December 2015 on The Writing Life of: Fionnuala Kearney. This post contains affiliate links.
I’m Fionnuala Kearney, pronounced FINOOLA, and am as Irish as the name hints at, though I live just outside London in Ascot. I write character driven novels where I poke about under the layers of relationships and see what’s really going on underneath! I’m constantly fascinated by the power of words – novels, poems, song lyrics – love when I read a sentence or hear a song and go ‘Ooh, wow…’
I hate spreadsheets with a vengeance and would rather stick my fingers in my ears and chant gibberish from a corner, rather than work with numbers. I’m a “wordy-girl” all the way! I’m too young to be old and too old to be young; too silly to be sensible and too wise to not be too daft too often.
My three published novels to date are ‘You, Me & Other People’, ‘The Day I Lost You’ and ‘The Book of Love’. My fourth novel has a working title of ‘The Dance’ and will be published in 2020.
Fionnuala Kearney, Welcome back to Whispering Stories Blog, lovely to be featuring you again. We last met you back in December 2015 when we spoke to you about your writing life and your second book at the time ‘The Day I Lost You’, which was published in 2016. Since that date I believe you have written and published another book, ‘The Book of Love,’ with your fourth novel due out next year.
1) How has life changed since we last met you?
Family remains hugely important to me and our youngest daughter just got married which was a truly magical day. Now that she’s settled, hubby and I are navigating a whole new world! We also spend a lot of time with our other daughter’s little girl who was a baby back then, our grand-daughter, Esme. She’s now a chatty five-year old whom I’d swear has been here before (currently thinks she’s a Jedi!) I don’t feel old enough to confess to being a grandmother, but it’s the most wonderfully rewarding gift.
Workwise, the biggest change has been that now, every morning I wake up and it’s real, I’m not dreaming – I am actually an author, a published author of three books! When we last spoke this aspect of my life was just beginning and there was the fear that someone might tap me on the back and tell me that it was all a temporary affair… Recently, I’ve had my garage converted into a proper fully-fledged writing room which has made it seem more real. I feel very lucky to finally have a creative space I can call my own. There’s no commute to work and no requirement to wear anything other than pyjamas!
2) Has your writing style changed since we last interviewed you?
I don’t think it has. I still write in the same style about similar themes and events. Family dramas, lifting the lid of various different relationships (couples, siblings, lovers etc) is still what really appeals to me and they remain the stories that I want to explore more and more.
3) Have you allowed yourself to be influenced by your readers’ opinions of your characters?
I’m always interested in readers’ opinions and usually, their view of a character is exactly what I wanted them to think or feel. Not always, but usually! For example, if they didn’t find a character sympathetic, then I may have written it to provoke exactly that emotion. But if a reader doesn’t ‘get’ what I’ve aimed for, I try not to let it affect or influence me. It’s not realistic to expect to please all readers all of the time.
4) Have you found writing gets easier or harder the more books you write?
I think what I’ve learned over the years about the ‘business’ of writing rather than the act itself has probably meant that, as a whole, the process is harder. It’s definitely more difficult to write a book when in contract, but only because of the time constraints. Writing my first novel, took a long time and I had years to hone it, whereas writing professionally one usually has maximum of a year to write, re-write, edit, hone etc. I’m not complaining though! Wouldn’t swap it…
I adore writing that first draft, where the story comes spilling out – it’s still my favourite part of the process and the one I find easiest. The editing, where you tear it all apart and start again, is the process I find harder but the most rewarding. Whilst I can’t say it’s all ‘harder’, writing is a constantly evolving process where we learn on the job all of the time, and I think it should always remain challenging.
5) Is there a difference in the way you feel about your books the more you publish? As in do you still feel the same level of excitement?
Oh, gosh, it never gets old! That feeling of running your finger along your name on the spine of a book; the final edited version of a year’s worth of words, the vision that a creative team have put into covers – all of it is magical. I’m actually more excited with the publication of each book because it’s a continuous ‘pinch me’ moment.
6) If you could live within the pages of any of the books created by you, which would you choose?
Oooh, that’s hard! I think, probably the latest, The Book of Love, because it’s about a marriage with longevity and the couple also have a close-knit group of friends. There’s something solid and comforting about being surrounded by that, despite the things that life tosses their way.
Concerning your latest book:
Publisher – HarperCollins
Pages – 416
Release Date – 7th February 2019
ISBN 13 – 978-0007594016
Format – ebook, paperback, audio
One love. Two people. Twenty Years.
From the moment their eyes met across the room at a house party, Erin and Dom were meant to be.
If only it could be so simple. Over the years, the highs and lows of life conspire to keep them apart.
But a notebook can bring them together. On the blank pages of their love story, they write down everything they can’t always say – the secrets, the hopes and the love.
Falling in love is easy but staying in love is where the story begins…
7) How long did it take you to write this book?
My latest published book, The Book of Love, did take over a year to complete, mainly because I had a failed attempt at starting another book and also my mother was very ill at the time. I think from first draft to having a final draft probably took fifteen months because real life definitely caused a few interruptions!
8) Can you tell us a little about your new book?
The Book of Love is a ‘warts and all’ gritty, story about love in a long-term marriage. When Dom and Erin find that for whatever reason they can’t communicate verbally, they write in a notebook that had been gifted to them by Erin’s father on their wedding day with the inscription:
“What am I?
I am The Book of Love
The pages of truth with its light and shade
I am Love
And if real I will never fade.”
Over many years, its where real love and harsh truths are shared. Sometimes its no more than a route to honest discussion between the couple, but other times, damaging revelations lead to life-changing moments.
It’s a heart-wrenching but uplifting tale that asks the question whether real love can last forever?
9) Can you remember seeing your book for the first time in the bookstore, supermarket, online?
Yes! I never tire of this moment and liken it to giving birth. I’ve nurtured this thing for so long and then suddenly it’s out there, for everyone to see and comment on! Its wonderful, yet surreal and scary.
10) What next for you in your writing career?
I’ve just submitted my next book which hasn’t an official title yet, but the working title is called ‘The Dance’ and I’m just about to start writing what will be my fifth book. My white boards that cover one wall of my new office are all clear and ready for my first draft scribbles and spidery character notes to begin. As always, at first draft stage, I’m raring to go!
1) Question from Tina – Do you have an interesting writing quirk?
I think the fact that I do my initial planning on a whiteboard is a little unusual. I have boards full of notes and arrows, something I can stand back and look at. It’s a visual way of planning rather than a spreadsheet approach. That and Diet Coke!
2) Question from Cara – Do you base your characters on people you know or have met briefly?
No, definitely not. I’ve never written a character based on anyone I know though I have, of course, used my knowledge of people’s real-life perfections, flaws and nuances to help me create believable fictional people. And funnily enough there’s a ‘Cara’ in my next novel! (We haven’t met, have we??!!)
3) Question from Ellwyn – What has been your most rewarding experience since publishing your work?
There have been a lot, but I think the one that stands out is having readers contact me directly to tell me that they’ve enjoyed reading my novel. Many have done so and given me personal reasons why it meant so much to them. The fact that I’ve succeeded in emotionally touching someone, and that they’ve taken the time to let me know, is huge and actually makes me feel incredibly lucky and proud to be able to do what I do.