From the Derry Journal, courtesy of the gorgeous Erin
DERRY JOURNAL reporter Claire Allan has fulfilled the dream of a lifetime after signing a four book deal with Irish publishing giant Poolbeg.
By Erin Hutcheon
Her first novel, ‘Rainy Days and Tuesdays’ is set to hit the shops in Autumn 2007.
Claire, who has been with the ‘Journal’ for eight years and writes a weekly column ‘Skirting the Issue,’ says becoming a published author is a “dream come true.”
And with three more books to write in the next three years Claire, mother to two year-old Joseph, knows she’s in for a busy time of it.
“I’m lucky in that my wee man, Joseph, goes to bed nice and early and my other half works evenings so that frees up time for me to write,” said Claire.
“My house is a total pigsty, but something has to give!
“But that’s part of what the book is all about - I mean Mary Poppins was only ‘practically perfect’.”
It was Claire’s fast approaching 30th birthday that spurred her on to write her first novel.
“I set myself a series of challenges when I was 29,” she said. “To pass my driving test and write a novel.
“I passed my driving test in March and finished my book in June, just two weeks before my birthday.
“When we went out for my birthday my sister and mum presented me with a bound copy of my book as a present.
“I was so unbelievably touched and it was amazing to see the book in print. God love them though, because then I made them read it!”
Once Claire had finished writing the book, the hard work of securing an agent and publisher started.
“I wouldn’t be the most patient person in the world and I found it really nerve-wracking posting off the sample chapters and waiting for a response.
“My husband can tell you I was a bag of cats every time the letterbox rattled.
“But in the end I didn’t have to wait all that long. In August, Ger Nichol- who has been an absolute dote- from the Book Bureau offered to represent me and things really got moving.”
Just two weeks ago Claire got the call she had been waiting her whole life for, when Poolbeg offered her a four book deal.
“I was in the Journal office when Ger rang with the news,” Claire said. “I think I went into shock for about a week and then I started to get very excited every time I walked past Eason and through the book section at Tesco.
“I have to say my colleagues at the ‘Journal’ have been really supportive and my family are delighted for me. Everyone wants a free copy when I’m published!”
Claire was just 16 when she first discovered the joy of a Poolbeg book. She recalled: “It was Patricia Scanlan’s ‘City Girls’, as recommended by my friend Mandi, and from that moment on I always had a wee dream of getting published and having that famous red lighthouse logo on the back of my novel.
“Poolbeg have an amazing representation for supporting new authors and have been responsible for discovering new Irish talent like Marian Keyes, Cathy Kelly, Sheila O’Flanagan and Melissa Hill. It’s amazing company to be in and already I’ve been made to feel very welcome by the editorial team.”
And for Claire writing a book like ‘Rainy Days and Tuesdays’ was a natural progression from journalism. "
“After writing Skirting the Issue for a few years people started to tell me I should write a book but I always found a reason to put it off.
“At the start of this year I set myself a challenge however to sit down and write something and soon I found it quite addictive.
“I got lost in the story, and even though I would be tired after a day at work I would find myself looking forward to switching on the PC at night and finding out what happened to the characters next. It was a really thrilling experience.”
‘Rainy Days and Tuesdays’ tells the story of Grace Duddy, a working mother who, on paper, has the perfect life. However she feels at odds with herself and when she finds out her work colleagues have been talking about her behind her back in less than glowing terms things come to a head.
“I think the book deals with issues many modern women face,” said Claire. “We are all struggling to live up to the notion of what is perfect- be it the perfect wife, the perfect mammy and the perfect employee and most of us struggle with that.
“Grace is just like that, but she is a real fighter and takes steps to turn her life around.
“The book deals with some pretty serious issues, such as post natal depression, but there is a lot of humour and warmth in it.”
The book has several very strong female characters. Along with Grace, there is Daisy, her feisty best friend who is a single mother and successful business woman, and there is also a strong and supportive Derry mammy thrown into the mix.
“The book is set completely in Derry and Donegal, which some people have been surprised at,” said Claire.
“We’re not used to having books set locally- not chick lit books anyway. There are some real locations people will be more than familiar with so hopefully it is a book the people of Derry can take to their hearts.”
Claire is already 40,000 words into her second novel, which has a working title of ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ and is due for release in 2008.
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