With book sales making a climb again, and Irish novelists publishing more of their works than ever, we decided to sit down with the prolific best-selling novelist Caroline Grace-Cassidy to get her opinion on the industry, and what its like working within the potentially dreaded sub-genre of "chick lit".
Hi Caroline, how are you keeping today?
One word. Tonsillitis.
Oh, very sorry to hear that! You've got your fingers in lots of different pies, from writing books and scripts to producing movies and appearing on TV panels, is this always the career you wanted to have?
I think writing was always where I felt most comfortable in school. It came easily unlike anything to do with the dreaded numbers! After the Leaving Cert, I knew I wanted to do Broadcasting Journalism and was lucky to find a diploma course at Senior College Ballyfermot. It was down to earth, realistic and informative and most importantly I came away knowing I could make a career from this writing lark in a lot of different areas. I've made five short films in the last five years with Park Pictures - all of which have traveled the festival circuits and again film was and is still a passion and an outlet for me creatively - I can't make the big features just yet so short film is very important to me. TV3's Midday is a show I love doing - I'm four years as a regular panelist now and I've met some of the nicest women. If only we could air what goes on during the ad breaks it would be hilarious and possibly libelous. I consider myself very lucky to be able to do all that I do and raise two beautiful daughters!
Do your novels often get referred to as "Chick-Lit", and do you get annoyed by that label?
I think thankfully, the term is dying out slowly - as a term it does trivialize the authors work. I don't write for chicks because they are soft yellow furry birds who can't read. It would be pointless. The way I look at it is I write stories - that's the only way I see them. All my novels are very different - some comedic and some very dark- so there is no label for them.
Would you say it's easier for women to write about more topics than it would be for men? For example, there aren't many examples of men writing an equivalent to "Chick Lit", but there's no topic that men cover that women don't cover just as well.
By nature I think women are more open, they can speak openly about the most private issues. For example, men going through IVF with a partner keep it extremely private while women discuss it. My second novel dealt with this topic and I found it extremely tough to get men to open up to me about their experiences with IVF. However I know quite a few pseudo-women fiction writers and they sell really well!
Five novels deep when you're latest book "The Week I Ruined My Life" arrives this June, what are your primary forms of inspiration when it comes to tackling a new project or story?
It's always hard to know but for me it's that first line. I seem to reach for ages for that first line, even when I have the bones of an idea, then when I get that line right I'm out the starters gate. I'm a reader most importantly. You can't be a writer unless you read, read, read. I will be spreading jam on toast listening to a lyric in a song and my brain will start to make up a story. I'm also terrible for listening to other people private conversations in restaurants. God took away my ability to understand, but He gave me bionic hearing.
How would you describe the state of Irish writing and publishing at the moment?
Irish writing is always great - I'm a huge fan. I always try to buy new authors. We have some amazing writers like Ciara Geraghty and the constantly brilliant Ross O' Carroll Kelly. Publishers are slow to offer big deals anymore but I think that too will come. The market is getting better. Picking up! At last. The last few years have been awful in the publishing world. Not because of Kindle like everyone seems to think but because €14.99 hasn't been as easy for readers to part with for a new release. As the country recovers so too will our book shops.
You just have to look at the bestsellers charts now and the volume of books being sold is on the increase again. Hurrah!
Compared to other forms of entertainment, where we have massive runaway international successes in acting and directing and music, Irish authors don't seem to enjoy success in the same ratio. Cecilia Ahern, John Connolly, only a few others. Do you think that Irish authors are a little too parochial?
I think we can be for sure but I also think there are writers like Melissa Hill , Marian Keyes who do sell bucket loads in the US but don't have the profile.
Do you have any advice for folks wanting to get into this industry?
Don't give up the day job! And I'm not being fictitious - even with a regular 3 book publishing deal in Ireland you still need to work. It's then about building your audience as your back catalogue grows. The good news is when you walk into a book shop and see your book on a shelf... that's priceless.
Has Hollywood come knocking yet about adapting one of your books for the big (or small) screen?
I'm currently adapting my third novel "I Always Knew" with a screenwriter in LA ... And the BBC have just recently registered an interest to option "The Week I Ruined My Life" ...so fingers crossed. Perhaps Mr. Cashin, next year I could be answering your questions in a billowing polka dot headscarf on board my Harley.
Five books in five years, are you planning on taking a break any time soon??
I would love to take some time off actually... but I did have an idea last night for book number six... now if only I could get that first line down...
"The Week I Ruined My Life" will be available from June 24th.