Friday, February 15, 2013

The First Time I Said Goodbye

Dear reader, 
once again I have been neglecting you. The truth is I have been busy writing, and writing and writing (which is what you would expect of me in fairness) towards the deadline for The First Time I Said Goodbye.

At this stage I think it's timely to tell you a little about the book - and to confess that, perhaps unlike any other book I've written - it has got under my skin and I'm not at the stage of writing where it consumes me morning and night.

The story is very simple (and I will reveal more about its genesis in the months to come) - A mother and daughter, grieving the loss of their husband and father, travel back from their home in the States to Ireland on holiday. For the mother (Stella) this is the first time she has been home to Ireland in almost 50 years. For her daughter, Annabel, this is her first time outside of America.
As the story progresses, we find out about Stella and her past - and a love affair with an American GI stationed in Derry in the 1950s.
And we find out about Annabel - lost after the death of her father and trying to make sense of her relationship with her long-term partner, Craig.

Set between the modern day and Derry in 1959 - amid the smoke and smog of the old city, the factories, the glamour of the old City Hotel - the book examines goodbyes, loves lost and lives found.

And it has made me cry almost every day writing it.

It's a more grown up book from me - definitely more serious in tone (but hopefully with the same warmth as before). Writing in 1959 has been a revelation but at times a tough task in terms of research - as I have wanted to make the book as authentic as possible.

I have found this the most challenging, and rewarding, writing experience of my life to date. The book has challenged me each and every time I have sat down to write and the characters, in particular Stella and Annabel, have become huge presences in my life.

I have immersed myself in the story so that I feel everything my characters feel - their emotions are my emotions. Happy or sad. It has been pretty intense.

I hope to write those magical words "The End" very soon and the book will, hopefully, be published by Poolbeg in September.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November Newsletter

Hello everyone and thank you for reading, especially those of you who are new to me or my books. Hopefully What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? has garnered me a few new fans.

Once again, as is tradition with these things, I apologise for the silence. What can I say but life is just so break neck busy at the moment that this blog is very, very sadly neglected. Hopefully anyone who wants to see me waffle on a more regular basis can follow me on Twitter (@claireallan) or on my Facebook author page.

Well, where to be begin?
The milestones of the last few months are simple.
The girl - that tiny baby I posted about all those times - has started pre-school. She writes her own name. She reads letters like a pro. She makes up song all the time. She can frequently be seen sitting at the computer telling me she is writing a book. She (along with her brother) is the love of my life.
Her brother - now a football obsessed, XBox loving pre-teen (even tho he is only 8) has grown Harry styles type hair. He veers between being Mr Sensible "Mammy you are SO not cool" to being a sensitive child who needs reassurance. He is doing incredibly well in school and I am incredibly proud of him.

But, see those people who said the teeny years were the toughest? They fibbed.  While both children need me to do less things for them physically they need me in a whole pile of different ways which makes the combination of full time work, full time mammyhood and a book a year contract interesting to say the least. But all that said I'm aware my over busy-ness isn't really something to complain about. It just leaves me a little tired.

Well, in book news, What Becomes was launched on the world and has got some pretty amazing reviews and reader feedback. No sooner was it out though that all focus has shifted to book seven which... drumroll please... has a working title of "THE FIRST TIME I SAID GOODBYE"

Dear reader, this marks a slight shift in direction for me as carrying on from the nostalgia feel of If Only You Knew this book delves into the life of a woman who fell in love with a GI stationed in Derry just after World War Two. Of course it has a contemporary element - but the writing of such a book requires a lot of research, a lot of making sure it is just right and a lot of panicking on my part.
I have been exceptionally lucky that a number of GI brides have told me their story - but in doing so I want to make sure I retell it correctly.

The book is pencilled for an October 2013 release ... keep watching (but maybe not that often!) for more news.

Lots of love,

Friday, July 27, 2012

July Newsletter... there's a new book on the way

And so it's July(or almost August) - and so it has been another two months since I have updated this blog. Seems I live on Twitter these days, when I'm not writing, or editing, or working or being a mammy to the two little ones.
And... worse than that, I've had an awful dose of "weemin's problems"... or at least we think they are weemin's problems. I don't quite have a diagnosis yet but there has been much lying prone in bed, mainlining tramadol and co-cocodamol and feeling immensely sorry for myself. It's strange but feeling physically sick has made me much more miserable than the 'horrors' - perhaps because with the 'horrors' I know what it is...
All these things aside, much is happening book wise. If Only You Knew has been just been released in paperback with a lovely lilac cover and a quote from Anna McPartlin, whom I love madly. All my books are now available to download on Kindle (Yay!!!) and I've been editing the very life out of 'What Becomes of the Broken Hearted' set for a late August release. Have I shown you the cover? It's stunning? 

And the book is just so special...(of course I would say that, but really, it is... one for anyone whose heart has ever been broken at all).

In fact, thanks to the lovely people at Poolbeg, the book has now gone out to the media for review. This is a SCARY time. And I just hope they love it, because I genuinely do adore it. Below is the little pack Poolbeg sent out, with an invite (the book is set around a wedding dress shop) and little wedding favours and everything. I'm jealous they've not sent me a pack and a proof copy... I would enjoy that....

I am also working on book 7 - which has no title as yet, but the two main characters have names and the plot is coming to life so all is not lost. I'm fast reaching that obsessional about it stage where I cannot sleep at night without plotting scenes and dialogue and all sorts. This is actually a good stage - it's a brilliant stage to be fair. For the last few months I have eeked out a few words here and there and genuinely panicked that the well might be empty and seven books in was probably time enough to call it quits. I feared that having those nights of talking to myself as I drifted off to sleep would never arrive and that scared me. Writing has been such a huge part of my life for seven years now so that being without it would leave me a little bereft.
What I think I perhaps actually did was just give up on it for a bit... purposely made a point of not thinking about it and then all my lovely characters decided to have other ideas. So I am welcoming the glorious schizophrenia of writing with open arms.
Book seven has a central theme of homecomings about it - and finding the true meaning of where home is, although I've yet to think of a name.

Outside of writing and weemin's problems I have also agreed to let me children get a cat. This may come back to haunt me and you can expect a traumatised post soon.

With What Becomes due for imminent release (circa September 2) I will be posting an opening snippet soon. Watch this space.

Monday, May 28, 2012

May newsletter

Okay, so I know I said monthly... and I know I've been awful... and this probably won't be any better because they've changed blogger in my absence and now the screen looks all funny and I'm not sure what I'm doing... but anyway...

To round up the last few months... it is probably best to categorise things, isn't it?
First of all: Writing.

Book Six, or 'What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?' is done - bar the copy edits and will be in the shops (all being well, no floods/ famines/ world wars etc) at the end of August. The lovely people at Poolbeg have even furnished me with a cover which is divine and actually you would have thought they had read my minds because it suits the book perfectly.

I'm starting work on Book Seven, which has no firm name yet (did toy with 'The Heart of Me' but that was down to a pretty naff and shite session listening to Whitney Houston songs and feeling nostalgic and, out of context of a Whitney Houston song it doesn't actually make much sense, does it? ). I am finding it hard to get into writing this book but that could be because I have the fear.
This is my last book in contract with Poolbeg - I do not know what the future holds. So writing it feels a bit scary and intimidating and I feel it has to be really stand out. So no pressure there then? So far I've written three different starts - each of them will weave their way into the finished product. I'm just not sure how and what structure I'm going to take. (Dear agent if you are reading this, I am actually working, honest...)

Second of all: family.
I remember when my children were younger and at that very demanding "do it all for me" stage I thought life would be so much easier when they got bigger and a little more independent. I remember thinking I'd have bags of free time to do whatsoever I wished. This is not true. This is a big fat con. If anything the older they get the more demanding they get. Like, they want you wash more clothes. And cook them dinners not out of jars. (I never was an uber mammy) and drive them places, or help them with *horrors* homework. I'm also at that delightful toddler stage with the girl where I must answer approximately 5000 questions an hour. The call of "Why-ah?" happens a lot. (I do not know why she adds 'ah' to the end of lots of her words, but she does Why-ah, No-ah, yes-ah etc) There are times I have patience x a million with this. There are times when I wish to shout "I don't effin' know-ah". (Not that I would swear in front of my kids... of course....erm....).
But that aside - God they are some craic. The boy made his first communion on Saturday past and we had a brilliant day. I was not expecting to be so emotional with it all, but I did have to blink back tears a few times (not least because I'd had my make up done by a proper make up girl and I didn't want to ruin it).

The wee doll, as she is now known, is developing her own character more and more each day. Favourite part of the day, bar none, when she snuggles down to me in the evenings and tells me I'm her teddy bear. Bless her wee heart).

Third of all: The mental-ness
Hate to tempt fate, but it's okay, ish. As long as I remember to keep busy and take my tablets and when the crappy days come remind myself that it will pass. There are still times I am just so completely and utterly fed up with it. There are still times when I can be fine one minute and then feel horrendous the next, out of nowhere. But I think maybe I'm being a little more accepting of it? Fighting it made it worse. I need to fight to get better - I need the energy to put into that instead of refusing to accept all is not well in the first place.
Does that make sense? It kind of does in my head.

Fourth of all: The loveliness.
Folks... in BIG GIANT NEWS have spoken with Marian Keyes on Twitter. And she didn't tell me to feck off. Which was lovely of her. Twitter is a lovely place to be - why not visit and follow me @claireallan

Finally: Random Conversations with the Boy/ Girl

The Boy: To a picture of his late grandma: "You're my favourite person who died in the 90s".

The Girl: In chapel at the First Holy Communion, at a moment of silence and great solemnity, as loud as she could manage: "Mammy, how do babies get in your tummy". Followed by. "I need to a poo".

Ah, pride doesn't come close!

Monday, March 19, 2012

February...erm March newsletter

Erm... remember last month (or in fact, January) when I said I would update my blog more frequently and well, at least once a month?
Well, can we just ignore the silence that was February. To be fair, February was a bit mad. And a month I have been happy to consign to the bin and file under "months we must never, ever talk about again".
Generally January is my black month - where I mope about thinking about my tax bill (yeuch!) and how cold it is and all other such things. But January passed in quite an uneventful haze of writing, not being really all that cold and tax bill being paid just about on time.
February, however, unleashed itself like a hound of hell on me (Does that sound dramatic enough? I want it to sound just about as dramatic as it can?). First of all I HAD to finish the book - which meant writing around the clock on top of general mammy-ness and working full time and all that. (Not meant to be a woe is me post, but I felt a bit woe is me). I also took to baking a lot - trying the Marian Keyes, "it it's broke, feck it in the oven and bake the hoop out of it" approach.
And I made soup - a LOT of soup - all Slimming World friendly and exceptionally time consuming it was too. When I say I made soup, I mean from scratch. In a big heavy bottomed pot with loads of fresh veg and stock and not a single tin opener.
It was lovely soup, I have to say. Really healthy and nutritious but as I stood sweating onions and blending tomatoes and crushing garlic I thought of the perfectly lovely tinned soup in the cupboard which I could open and heat in three minutes and wondered - really, did I have to make my own soup? I firmly believe the baking and the soup making started to serve as a welcome distraction from the book writing, which then made me more anxious....a vicious cycle of buns and Leek and Potato soup and book guilt ensued.

Oh yes, anxiety. It came back - in waves of horrible adrenalin coursing through my body, starting at the top of head and rushing downwards hitting every nerve on the way making me feel nauseous to the point that yes, I started being physically sick. (Which was nothing to do with the soup or the buns, before anyone gets smart). I started doing the crying thing too - as I did the last time "the darkness" took hold which meant when I wasn't snapping at people I was bursting into tears.
And the dark thoughts returned as well. The thing about the dark thoughts, and the crying and the adrenalin is that you don't know how long it will stay for. Will be a day or two of feeling crappy and scared, or more? How dark will the thoughts get? How scary will it be? How will you be able to cope? Do you want to cope any more?
I am aware this is essentially a light hearted author page/ blog and I'm not sure I'm ready to talk about how bad things got, but they have - mostly - passed. I still am taking medication for panic attacks. I have to be religious about taking my anti-depressants. Not taking them does not end well. I have to keep making the soup and eating well and trying to get some fresh air. And I cut out a little picture from my Slimming World magazine which says "You Can Do It" and I put it in my purse and look at it often.
People say maybe I should remind myself there are people worse off than me - and while that is a relatively good technique - too much time thinking about people who are worse off than me leads me to feel really doubly guilty and very anxious about the state of the world and wondering when the bad things which have happened to them will happen to me. So really, for someone as neurotic as I am it might not be a good move afterall.
I'm lucky I know though that I have had friends and family who have helped me through. Who have been there (and sometimes just being there is enough), who have listened and who haven't said "Pull yourself together". That means a lot.

Now, the other thing which February brought was the experience of me having a smear test with a toddler in the room. (This was not a planned occurence, in case you wondered). Simple tip for anyone going for a dreaded smear (which you MUST MUST have because fandangos are precious commodities) is bring an inquisitive toddler with you. You will be so concerned wondering if she will say, do or see something inappropriate that the actual act of getting your hoo-haa out for a relative stranger will be much less daunting. My own version of toddler came out with a cracker. She stayed head end, chatting to me but did ask the doctor what was "up there" as she delved around in my region.
As I had (very badly - slapped wrist to me) put off my smear test for a year I was TERRIFIED waiting for the result (which probably contributed to the 'bad' days) - but thankfully I got an all clear. I have vowed not to put them off ever again - although by the time I'm next due one I won't have a toddler to make it more bearable any more and I don't see anyone offering me a loan of one of theirs... Note to self: Must find a different coping strategy for 2015.

In writing news I FINISHED THE BOOK. I cried (happy tears thankfully) when I finished it, looked at it for a long time and felt as I had been on a mammoth journey. The book, called What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?, is the most out and out love story I've ever written - except that of course it's a couple of love stories, with very many spanners thrown in the works, and broken hearts akimbo and all. It really touched me in a way none of my other books have and made me tap into my own feelings about love and marriage - how tough it can be, how good it can be, how sometimes love isn't enough and (to quote a cheesy song) how sometimes all you need is love. It's set between a magazine office (the same one from Rainy Days and Tuesdays) and a wedding dress shop called The White Room, which I actually really want to own and run.
It is now with my publishers and agent and please God, it will be out before the end of the year.

And finally, my brother made a YouTube ad for me - on the theme If Only You Knew about Claire Allan.

We maybe should have put a disclaimer on the end (You know, the Irish one...not the other one who writes very serious books and appears in The Guardian and the like...).


Monday, January 30, 2012

January - and time to update the blog

Have you seen the girl who used to write the blog?
Me, second row, second from left singing with

Marian has inspired me again. La Keyes has posted an updated newsletter on her website and it made me think of this sad neglected little website - where the blogs have been less than plentiful of late.

 I admit, hands up, I've been taking a kind of head-in-the-sand approach to blogging. Life in the last year has become so insanely, very busy that not everything is getting done.

But reading Marian's update I thought, well, I'll try and at least once a month update what is going in in my life.

First of all - writing. Well, If Only You Knew managed to sell quite well and garner quite a few positive reviews. This made me very happy indeed as it was the toughest writing experience of my life. It did get one spectacularly hilariously bad review in the form of an anonymous letter from a reader who was aghast at my use of "bad words". "Who wants to read about that 'fecking' and virginity losing?" she asked.

I can confirm to you dear reader than no virgins were harmed at all in the course of the book - and the fecking was fairly mild. Swear to God. I'm a good girl really.

That aside, Feels Like Maybe came out in Norway, which was very strange and also wonderful. No anonymous Norwegian letters have arrived with me - yet.
With If Only You Knew out of the way I started work in earnest on my sixth book, which will be known as 'What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?' and tells the story of Erin and Kitty - two women whose lives intertwine through Kitty's bridal shop 'The White Room'. Erin is planning her wedding to Paddy, who is battling testicular cancer. Kitty is dealing with the unexpected disappearance of her husband Mark. I promise lots of heartache, tears, laughter and a wee bit of fecking (see above) - but it will be done in the best possible taste.

Outside of writing - well my children continue to grow, as children do. The boy will be 8 at the end of this week. The girl will be three in March. This FREAKS ME OUT. But both, bar a recent dose of tonsilitis, are happy and healthy which is something I am very thankful for. The boy is obsessed with football. The girl is obsessed with me - as in totally, limpet like, stuck to me like glue obsessed. Which would be very endearing and lovely if I never had to do anything but sit and play with her. Even toilet trips are accompanied. And we'll not even mention her accompanying me to a certain kind of examination ladies get every three to five years. Let's just say the words "What's up there, mummy?" will stay with me forever.

Writing with two children, especially the limpet, is no easy task - but they do give me some of my best material. And they do give great hugs.

As for myself - I'm still a proverbial wreck. My depression has been back - it's still lingers but I'm taking tablets and taking steps to make myself feel better. I know I'm forever going on about being on diet - and yes, I've started again. And it's working, for now, and with God's help it will keep working and I'll start to feel better physically as well as emotionally. Winter, I find, it always a tough time mood wise. So the glimmer of light I spotted when leaving work on Friday at 5pm was very welcomed indeed.

My other big saviour has been singing, with my choir Encore, each Thursday night. The craic has been fierce and we've managed to sound good. Just before Christmas we played a sell out concert at Derry's Waterside Theatre - which was daunting, exhilerating and wonderful.

We had a recent bus trip to Dublin to see Sister Act and we sang and laughed the whole way there and back like a big pack of eejits - and it was the most fun I'd ever had on a bus. (The show was good too).

2012 has a lot in store. I'm getting a new niece or nephew in July. The boy is making his First Holy Communion in May. 'What Becomes of the Broken Hearted' will hit the shops in late August. Who knows what else we'll experience - but please God it will be more good than bad.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Random Conversations with the Boy... the virgin diaries..

The boy and I were singing Christmas songs in the car in preparation for his Nativity play. (He is playing Joseph again... am a very proud mummy indeed).

Anyway, the boy told me he didn't know 'Silent Night' so I launched into a (stunning) rendition ... and reached that line which has no doubt made parents cringe for generations....

"Round yon virgin...."

"What's a virgin mammy?" he asked.

My mind screamed "think of something... think of something... think of something" before I piped up "Someone who is pure and holy".

He nodded, taking on board this information.

"Well in that case *insert name of school friend* is definitely a virgin. He's light a candle at our Mass on Monday and that's a very virgin thing to do. I'm going to tell him he's a virgin first thing...."

Oh feck...
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