Claudia was born in Dublin and is a graduate of UCD, the College of Music and of the Gaiety School of Acting. Since then she has worked extensively as an actress on the Irish stage, but is probably best known for her role as TV’s Nicola Prendergast in the long running Dublin soap opera, ‘Fair City.’ Her first novel, ‘HE LOVES ME NOT, HE LOVES ME,’ was published last year, and has since been widely translated. Her second, ‘THE LAST OF THE GREAT ROMANTICS’ is due for publication this September.
Claudia, how long did it take you to write your first book and how did it come about?
It took me the guts of a year to write HE LOVES ME NOT, HE LOVES ME, although the idea had been germinating for about fifteen years!! When I was a young, struggling actor, I was lucky enough (or so I thought!) to be cast in a movie, to be shot in the director’s ancestral home, Castle Leslie in County Monaghan. Well, the Leslie family were just so brilliantly eccentric (including their ninety year old uncle Jack, a World War One veteran who now goes to raves in the local nightclub) that I thought, the cameras should be pointing at what’s going on behind them, not on the film we were trying to make. You couldn’t have made some of the characters up, and I suppose that’s where the original idea, of a film crew descending on a stately pile, came from!
Do you have a typical writing day?
I really don’t have a typical writing day. Because I’m still in ‘Fair City’ I tend to do a lot of scribbling in dressing rooms, in time snatched between scenes. If I’m left to my own devices though, I find my best time to write is early morning, then I’d take a break, then spend the afternoon recapping over the morning’s work. I remember Marion Keyes saying she treats writing as much like a nine to five job as possible, and I guess that would be my dream…to write full time, then have the weekends to go mad!!
How do you feel about the editing process?
I have to say, I actually enjoy the editing process. I think it’s because you come to a point where you’re so close to the book that you can’t really see the wood for the trees. So I find myself going, ‘oh yeah, how did I miss that?’ an awful lot! A friend of mine said to me, all writing is really re-writing, and I know what she means. The discipline/motivation aspect of the job can be a lot tougher…as I’m inherently such a lazy cow. However, there’s nothing like a tight deadline to get the skids under you!!
How did you get published?
It is hard to get published, there’s no question about that. The book business works the opposite to the acting business, in that you get an agent first, and they hopefully sell the book for you. The theatre world is the exact opposite, in that an agent won’t touch you unless they’ve seen your work first. I was just very, very lucky in that I got a wonderful agent and it all went from there, really. In fact I did more celebrating when my agent said she’d take me on then I’d done in years!!! She got me a great publisher, Transworld and a fantastic editor, so I really feel blessed.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, I’m roughly half way through my third book, which is called REMIND ME AGAIN WHY I NEED A MAN? due for publication in 2006. The next book I have out is called THE LAST OF THE GREAT ROMANTICS and it’s due out this September 05, so fingers crossed! I’m constantly amazed at how the book world is like the film world … they’re a full year ahead all the time.
What books are on your bedtime table?
My desert-island, all time favourite writer is Jane Austen, and about once a year, I’ll re- read all of my favourites, at the moment its ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ I just love her wry, gentle sense of humour and no one traces characters quite like Jane!!
I’m also dug into your (Sarah Webb’s) wonderful new novel, TAKE A CHANCE, which I love so much, I haven’t done a screed since I started it!! Definitely a stay-up-all-night-to-finish-it book!!! Not to mention that it’s full of Abba songs … essential reading for any diehard Abba fan like me!!
(Ah, thanks, Claudia!)
And any tips for other writers out there?
The only tip that I would venture to give any other writer is … as the lovely Anita Notaro always says, there is no novelistic equivalent to going to the gym … you just have to knuckle down and do your 1,000 words every day. The worst thing you can do is put your work aside and say ‘ah sure I’ll come back to that when I have more time.’ You’ll never have more time. No time like the present. If I can do this, anyone can!