Sinead Moriarty is the best-selling author of six novels. Her debut novel ‘The Baby Trail’ has, to date, been translated into twenty languages. Her latest novel ‘Pieces of My Heart’ is nominated for the Popular Fiction Book of the Year in the 2010 Irish Book Awards. Sinead lives in Dublin with her husband and three children. Hazel Gaynor chatted to Sinead for writing.ie, and started with asking this incredibly successful novelist,
Where do you get inspiration for your novels?
I tend to be inspired by life. I think that fact is so often stranger than fiction. Just by observing, listening, reading, watching and soaking up the world around me, I always find topics that interest me and that I feel passionately about. I think the key is to be really interested in your subject matter.
How do you approach a novel such as ‘Pieces of My Heart’ from first flash of inspiration to getting the words down? It would be great if you could elaborate on any specific processes you use in terms of plot and character development and give an indication of how long you typically spend planning before committing pen to paper?
I tend to spend about three months researching and plotting the novel. I like to let it mull over in my mind before I plot it out. So I tend to read very widely about the subject matter, talk to experts and then think about it myself, jotting down notes and ideas as they come to me. Then I usually have a brainstorming session with my editor, where we thrash out the story and characters and she’ll point out any gaps she sees in the storyline or character development. It is only at that stage that I then go home and start working on my chapter breakdown which tends to be a fairly detailed account of where the novel is going to go.
What research did you carry out for the characters in ‘Pieces of My Heart’? What are your top 5 tips for creating believable, engaging characters?
I did a huge mount of research for Pieces of My Heart because it deals with the mine-field of eating disorders. I believe that every writer has a responsibility to do thorough research when taking on difficult subjects. Proper research also gives me the confidence to go forth. If I know that my facts are accurate and that my story will ring true its easier to write the book.
Which part of the writing process do you find the most challenging i.e. planning, research, plot development, editing? What processes/techniques (if any) do you use to help overcome this?
I’d say probably the editing process. When you finish a book its been a long journey to get there and you really don’t want to be told you have to go back and do a big re-write or take a character out or add one in. You want to hear the elusive words – “it’s perfect, don’t change a word” ….which never happens! But it is a vital part of the process and you can see the benefits of it when you do a good edit. The book is always the better for it, so I always try to remember that when I’m doing my re-writes.
How long did the novel take you to write?
All my novels take the best part of a year between research, writing and editing.
Finally, what is a typical writing day like for you; i.e. how many written words, marketing and promotional activity, research for new novels, winning awards!
When I’m writing I try to write 2,000 words a day. I work four days a week and I find that I am disciplined because my time is precious. I have three small children who need my attention the minute I stop working, so I need to really use my time well. When the books come out and you’re promoting them, you don’t really have a typical day. One day could be book signings the next could be interviews, or writing articles or doing TV….it’s a nice mixture. But I’m always happy to lock myself away again and settle into writing after a few weeks of being out and about. I am definitely calmest when I’m at my desk immersed in a new novel.
See Sinead’s recent interview with TV3 here.