The Writing Life of: Erin Bowlen
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Erin Bowlen. Erin will be sharing with us details of her writing life, telling us all about her latest book ‘Where I’m Home‘, which was released on 30th May 2020 and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Erin Bowlen was born and raised in New Brunswick, Canada. Growing up, she was influenced by her family’s artistic roots in the art of storytelling, which fostered a deep love for literature at a young age.
Erin began her writing career during her postgraduate studies at the University of New Brunswick. Finding herself at the crossroads between being too much of a storyteller to be a “proper” academic (and afraid she might be too much of an academic to be a storyteller), she took the advice of a friend to participate in a 30-day writing competition. At the end of the month she was surprised that she not only met her word count goal, but had several novel ideas to explore.
In 2018, she published her first novel, All That Compels the Heart, the first book in the Aoife O’Reilly series.
Where I’m Home is her second novel.
1) As a child did you have a dream job in mind?
My first ever dream job was to be a playwright. I loved everything about the theatre: the costumes, the sets, the imagination that goes into acting and convincing the audience to suspend their disbelief. But, I’d also been told often enough how much of a struggle it was to make a liveable wage, so I decided to pursue science and wanted to be a veterinarian and then an astronomer.
I’m pretty decent at biology, but I was bored by physics and I’m terrible at math, so I quickly realized that wasn’t the right path for me. I then went on to major in Classics and Linguistics at university, with the plan to become a professor, but the recession hit and a job in Classics became essentially non-existent. So, I ended up coming back to writing.
2) Who was your favourite childhood author (s)?
Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maud Montgomery, J.R. R. Tolkien, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare. Like most writers, I started out reading well above the reading level of most kids my age (looking back, I was probably too young to be reading most of what I was reading at that age).
I loved Alcott and Montgomery for influencing my ideas of the kind of woman I wanted to be when I was growing up. I loved Tolkien because he taught me how to build worlds with my imagination, and I loved Dickens and Shakespeare because of how they wrote their characters.
3) Was there a particular point in your life that you realised you wanted to be a writer?
When I was 25. I’d gone back to get a second Master of Arts degree, and while I was preparing to present at a Classics conference, a friend of mine convinced me to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with her, and from there I rediscovered what I loved about writing fiction, and I haven’t stopped writing since.
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any special routines, word count, etc?
Well, my normal writing routine has changed a bit now due to the pandemic (as I imagine it has for everyone), in that I now dedicate much more time to writing. Because I still work a 9-5 job, I was spending at least a good 2 hours of my day traveling to and from work, which now I don’t have to do because I’m based at home. So, having those extra couple of hours a day has really helped me with finding time to write.
If it’s a week day, I usually wake up at my normal time and I spend those extra hours writing before work, and try to get in at least a scene or a chapter. As soon as the work day is done, I like to try and take a Masterclass on writing, or a tutorial on creating ads, hanging out on the #WritersCafe or #WritingCommunity tags on Twitter and talking to other authors…anything to really help me keep learning about the writing/publishing industry. Usually I like to finish off the evening with another 2-3 hours of writing before bed, either finishing up the idea I was working on from earlier that morning, or writing a new chapter/scene.
Weekends are almost entirely dedicated to writing.
I try not to have specific word count goals, unless I’m doing either Camp NaNoWriMo or regular NaNoWriMo.
5) How many books have you written? Any unpublished work?
I’ve written and published two books: “All That Compels the Heart” and “Where I’m Home,” both of which are in the Aoife O’Reilly series.
Currently, I have somewhere in the vicinity of 50+ unpublished works that are in various stages of draft mode (including the murder mystery series I’m working on right now), as well as some scripts that are under development.
6) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Totally a panster! With the current project I’m working on I’ve had to do a little bit more planning than I normally do because the plot is complicated but, at best, I’d say this makes me a plantser.
I’m in awe of plotters; I enjoy the unscripted nature of freestyle writing too much to be a plotter, so I stand in awe of anyone who can plan out their whole writing project from start to finish and know how each section is going to move along. If I tried plotting, I’d just end up re-jigging it all.
Concerning your latest book:
The Aoife O’Reilly Series Book Two
Pages – 339
Release Date – 30th May 2020
ISBN 13 – 979-8646464096
Format – ebook, paperback
It’s been three years since Aoife O’Reilly decided to leave her life – and her love, Michael Flanagan – behind in Ballyclara for a promising career in New York. With a new career and a new man in her life, Aoife is seemingly at peace with her choice. However, when a phone call comes to let her know someone close to her has passed away, Aoife finds herself rushing back to Ireland.
Confronted by all the ghosts she thought she put in her past, Aoife now finds herself questioning her decisions and wondering where her home really is.
7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
Researching for “Where I’m Home” was considerably easier than when I was writing “All That Compels the Heart” (the first book in the series), because I already knew the people and places I was writing about, so I didn’t need to start from scratch. Mostly, it was going back to the first book and using it as a reference to make sure characters and place settings were consistent.
When I was researching for the first book, though, I used every available resource at my fingertips. Some of my favourite tools were Google Street View for when I had to “walk” the streets of places in Ireland I hadn’t been to for years, as well as property rental sites for those interior scenes when I didn’t already have an image of what a character’s house might look like.
Because my novels are set in Ireland, I wanted to capture what I could of the accents, speech patterns, slang, etc. in the dialogue. To help with that, I watched a lot of Irish films, watched interviews with Irish actors, and spoke with friends from Ireland to get a feel for how to accurately capture what I could of the accents. I don’t capture as much it as some readers would like (and I have more in there than other readers prefer), so for me, it’s always been about finding a balance so the reader knows they’re reading about characters in a country that they’re probably not from, but not making the dialogue so regional they can’t understand it.
8) How long did it take to go from ideas stage to writing the last word?
It took me about two years to write “Where I’m Home,” but it wasn’t continuous. I’d started writing it when I was finishing the final draft of “All That Compels the Heart” and I had these leftover scenes that didn’t make the final cut, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to do anything with them. Then I took about a 6-month break from writing because I was getting a bit burned out with the work/writing balance, and just life stuff that popped up.
Once I’d sort of recharged again, it was more-or-less a continuous one-and-half years of writing to get to the end of the final draft and publishing it.
9) How did you come up with the title of your book?
“Where I’m Home” was inspired by the Emeli Sande song, ”Where I Sleep.” I’d been listening to the song for years after it came out, but it wasn’t until I began writing the book that I suddenly realized how much my main character Aoife would relate to it, because this book was all about her journey to finding that place where she’s safe and she can say to herself, “This is where I’m home.”
10) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
In the first book in this series, Aoife O’Reilly is really going through an emotionally turbulent time, and it causes her to kind of run away from her life in Dublin, which is how she ends up in the village of Ballyclara. She befriends the locals, and this is where she meets Michael Flanagan, her love interest. It’s through these relationships that she starts to figure out who she is, and she ends up making a pretty big life-changing decision. In this second book, Aoife’s now confronted with the pros and cons of that choice, and has to determine what she’s willing to hold on to, or let go of, in order to have the life she wants.
What I really enjoyed about writing both Aoife and Michael is that they’re both emotionally conflicted people throughout the series, which can be fun to write. From the start, I was keen to write characters that were realistic, that readers could connect with. I think it’s a fun dynamic with both these characters that Aoife starts out quite unsure of herself but becomes more certain of who she is as she progresses throughout the series. Michael, on the other hand, understands the expectations placed on him from the start, but the more he becomes involved with Aoife, the more his life seems to unravel. They both kind of upend each other’s worlds in completely different ways.
11) What process did you go through to get your book published?
Both books in the Aoife O’Reilly series are indie-published, which was an intentional move right from the start. When I was just starting out with this series, I wanted to know everything about the writing and publishing industry from the writing process to the cover design, formatting, editing, publishing, and marketing, etc., so it made the most sense to self-publish in order to be able to learn all those different areas of the industry hands-on.
I took several classes on self-publishing, attended webinars, talked to other self-published authors and learned from them about their experiences, so that I then could formulate how I was going to go about things. Then it was a matter of finding an editor and beta readers and getting it ready to publish through Amazon.
12) What’s next for you writing wise?
I’m currently writing a murder mystery/thriller two-part book series. I’m really having a lot of fun with it because I enjoy reading thrillers, and it’s such a departure from writing romance. I’m not the kind of writer who likes being boxed into a specific genre. I’ll definitely go back to writing romance at some point (I have an idea for a final book in the Aoife O’Reilly series), but for now, I’m excited by writing something completely new that my readers won’t expect, but will hopefully love just as much as they do this series.
1) If you could have any super power for the day which would you choose?
I’d probably want a superpower that would help me with time management in some way. Maybe something akin to the Time Turner that Hermione has in the Harry Potter series. It would really help with getting all my writing done in a timely fashion!
2) Do you have any pets?
Unfortunately, no. I grew up with a cat throughout my entire childhood and I’d love to get another one, but with my current apartment, it’s just not possible.
3) If you decided to write an autobiography of your life, what would you call it?
I had to ask my best friends for help with this question. One of them suggested “Ms. Write” and I knew it was perfect because, as they know, in addition to writing, I do quite like to be right.
4) Your book has been made into a feature film and you’ve been offered a cameo role, which part would you choose, or what would you be doing?
I’m not sure if I would want to be in front of the camera for “Where I’m Home” (it’s been quite awhile since I’ve done any acting). Maybe I’d just be one of the residents of Ballyclara, or something.
However, I would love to be involved with the behind-the-scenes stuff and play a consultant role. That would certainly be a dream come true as I’m very interested in screen-writing, directing, and all the stuff that happens behind the camera.
5) Where is your favourite holiday destination?
I always find myself drawn back to the UK and Ireland (it’s not a coincidence that I based my novel in Ireland). I used to live in England for a bit, and I’ve visited the UK & Ireland several times, but there’s always something about the British Isles that draws me back, some hidden little place I haven’t found yet that’s exciting to explore.
6) A baseball cap wearing, talking duck casually wanders into your room, what is the first thing he says to you?
He’s probably singing the theme from “Duck Tales.”
I say this because I was recently watching an interview where Lin-Manuel Miranda (who voices Gizmoduck) was singing the theme song. Thanks Lin for getting it stuck in my head! (she says, sarcastically)
I would like to say a big thank you to Erin Bowlen for sharing with us details of her writing life and for a wonderful interview.