The Writing Life of: Jennifer L Cahill
Jennifer L Cahill
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Jennifer L Cahill. Jennifer will be sharing with us details of her writing life, telling us all about her first book ‘One?‘, which was released on 21st June 2018 and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Jennifer L Cahill was born in Dublin in Ireland and was educated at University College Dublin. She honed both her ability to write, and her love of writing, in UCD while studying Spanish, which was one half of her International Commerce degree. She went on to Business School in Dublin and moved to London after graduating, and life has never been quite the same for her since.
When she is not writing she works with individuals and blue-chip clients to help them navigate and master change. She spent ten lovely years living in Clapham and now lives in Notting Hill in West London.
1) As a child did you have a dream job in mind?
When I was a child, the childhood conversations with friends always returned back to ‘being famous’. My point of view on this was that I’d like to be a famous writer, because I would get good tables at restaurants etc. but I wouldn’t have the downside of fame as nobody would know what I would look like. I guess you could say, I knew before I knew.
The world has changed so much so the elusive dream of being famous without being recognised is long gone as we live in the age of social media. At least I had the right idea about being a writer. I even picked out a writing name when I was a child, but opted to use my own name when it came to actually bringing the book out.
2) Who was your favourite childhood author (s)?
Enid Blyton, C.S Lewis & Anne Digby (I loved the Trebizon books).
3) Was there a particular point in your life that you realised you wanted to be a writer?
The minute I started writing my first book, was the minute that I realised that I am a writer. I was astounded that I hadn’t seen this obvious fact about myself before. In my defence I’m interested in a lot of different things, so it’s easy to go off course a little in terms of career aspirations.
Once I started writing I never looked back. The whole family is shocked that nobody spotted it sooner. We have no writers in the family, but I guess that someone has to be the first one, right?
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any special routines, word count, etc?
I have to juggle writing with my day job unfortunately, so I only write in the gaps. This is the sad reality for a lot of writers. Structure is key, so I try to plan and structure my writing time as much as possible.
These days the PR and promo is as important when you are a debut so the writing day would be carved up into some writing, some editing, some researching, and some marketing. If I have time I dedicate a day to each of these. One day for writing/edting. Another day for research.
Researching is a lot of fun, as with me it’s about visiting places as opposed to looking things up online. I like to be in the place that I’m writing about. I’m writing about Notting Hill at the moment and I go to the parts of Notting Hill that I’m writing about. I bring the dog with me so that I don’t look suspicious skulking around, if skulking is part of the research.
5) How many books have you written? Any unpublished work?
‘One?’ Is out, ’Two?’ Is 80% finished and I’ve started ’Three?’, and I’m also starting to write a trilogy about Notting Hill.
6) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A bit of both. I start as a pantser, and then plot a bit more once I have something concrete to work with.
Concerning your latest book:
Publisher – Clink Street Publishing
Pages – 356
Released – 21st June 2018
ISBN-13 – 978-1912562152
Format – ebook, paperback
It’s London in the mid-noughties before Facebook, iPhones and ubiquitous wifi, and One? follows the highs and lows of a group of twenty-somethings living in leafy SW4.
Zara has just moved to London for her first real job and struggles to find her feet in a big city with no instruction manual.
Penelope works night and day in an investment bank with little or no time for love. At 28 she is positively ancient as far as her mother is concerned and the pressure is on for her to settle down as the big 3-0 is looming.
Charlie spends night and day with his band who are constantly teetering on the verge of greatness.
Richard has relocated to London from his castle in Scotland in search of the one, and Alyx is barely in one place long enough to hold down a relationship let alone think about the future.
7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
As a contemporary fiction writer every day is research. I try to capture the essence of a place and time in my work. Being in the place is the best research. I need to be very observant and spend time in places on my own. If you are with someone else, it’s hard to pick up on the little details, the nuances and of course the characters that you meet. I lived in the house that I started writing about on Abbeville Road. I lived in Clapham for ten years, and the plot was influenced by things that happened in my life or to those around me.
8) How long did it take to go from ideas stage to writing the last word?
I didn’t track this as I was doing it in-between and on top of a very busy day job, with lots of travel. I plan to track this more for future works as it’s a question that I’m often asked. The first book came tumbling out of me, so there was no time to plan ideas, it just happened organically.
9) How did you come up with the title of your book?
It came to me like a flash of inspiration as I was nodding off to sleep one night. I had a different title series, but when ‘One?’ came to me, I knew it was ’the one’ so to speak. It’s a very bold title. I doubt that I would have come up with it if it hadn’t come to me in that way. When you get inspired like that, you just know, it hits you like a lightning bolt.
10) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
Both of my female MCs are in a challenging situation without an instruction manual. Zara has just been catapulted into life in London, new job, new home, new friends, new life. London is not for the faint of heart, and she really struggles without an instruction manual. She had the security blanket of her group of friends back home, but she very much has to fend for herself when she moves to London.
Penelope is a well-established ‘Londoner’, but she has no instruction manual in terms of juggling a busy job in a very male-dominated environment, while trying to navigate the twists and turns of romance in the big city. More women are working in previously male-dominated careers now than ever before, and there was no real narrative/context for this, we are all learning as we go along.
Charlie is a trustafarian, wannabe Rockstar, teetering on the verge of greatness. He is very fortunate to have a trust fund so that he can dedicate a lot of his time to writing and honing his skills as a musician. He’s a total ladies’ man, but he has a heart of gold.
Richard Lord is Scottish aristocracy, and has had his eye on Penelope as the perfect ‘trophy wife’ since their university days. He’s old beyond his years and highly conservative. Many would consider Richard a bit of a catch, nobody more so than Penelope’s mother who is keen for Penelope to settled down.
Alyx Stuart-Bruges is half Scottish, half French. He’s a lawyer in the music industry. He is relatively wealthy so he can afford to have such a cool job without worrying about paying the bills, and he can also head off on tour with the bands when he wants. Much like a lot of people in London, he has designed his own job, and his own lifestyle. He is very much a master of his own destiny. He travels quite a bit with work, so you could say he’s a bit of an international man of mystery.
As you can see there is quite a broad variety of characters in just this book. It was really important to me to represent the vast array of types of characters that you can meet in London. People like my characters really exist here. It’s quite an adventure living in London.
11) What process did you go through to get your book published?
I joined a member’s club for creatives many years ago, and I had a strange set of synchronistic events where I was sitting in front of my publisher, who has a very loud telephone voice, so I could overhear his publishing conversation. I actually couldn’t believe my ears as I was just about to start to send book pitches out. I spoke to him and pitched there and then. He agreed to review the manuscript and the rest is history. It was quite an experience. I had a couple of things going for me, I was already a member of the club for creatives, I had the book finished, and was already in pitch mode. It was quite a stroke of luck.
12) What’s next for you writing wise?
’Two?’ Is coming out this year, and I’m also working on a contemporary fiction series set in Notting Hill.
1) If you could have any super power for the day which would you choose?
The ability to fly, it certainly beats getting the tube and it would also speed up my research as I could do it from an aerial point of view.
2) Do you have any pets?
My writing companion is called Millie, she comes with me everywhere and I absolutely adore her. She features regularly on my Instagram feed. She’s a Maltese, Bichon, Shizu mix. I’ve included her in the photo of my writing room, as she really is a fantastic little writing companion.
3) If you decided to write an autobiography of your life, what would you call it?
Ah, I already have the title for this, so can’t share it yet. 🙂
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?
This is one of the best interview questions I’ve ever got. Very Hitchcock! I would be one of the extras on the night out in Sand Bar, when the housemates all go out for their first housemate drinks. It would be great to be in the background like that, sipping a strawberry daiquiri, watching Zara squirm on the sofa next to Charlie.
5) Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Ibiza – it’s incredibly spiritual as well as glamorous and fun. There is a major holistic side to Ibiza, and that means lots of yoga and healthy food which is a recipe for success when you are a writer. I speak fluent Spanish and spent a year in University in Spain, so it always feels like a home away from home the minute I get there. I think it’s a tremendous shame that Ibiza has a reputation as such a crazy party island, as there is so much more to it than that.
6) A baseball cap wearing, talking duck casually wanders into your room, what is the first thing he says to you?
‘Where are the toilets?’
I would like to say a big thank you to Jennifer L Cahill for sharing with us details of her writing life and for a wonderful interview.