I write what is variously called women’s fiction, chick-lit, commercial fiction … whatever. I don’t really mind what people call it (as long as they don’t call it rubbish), but I call it romantic comedy because that’s what it is. I don’t have a problem with the ‘chick lit’ label, but it’s used now to cover such a wide variety of writing by women that it’s become pretty meaningless. So, I write romantic comedy. That means my books are (1) romantic and (2) funny – exactly as it says on the tin. They’re also quite sexy, as an added bonus (no extra charge).
Some Girls Do is my fourth novel, and while it’s still romantic comedy, it’s quite a bit raunchier than what’s gone before. It’s about Claire, who writes a sex blog called ‘Scenes of a Sexual Nature’ anonymously. It’s purportedly about her own sex life, and it’s quite explicit, but in fact it’s all made up and in reality she’s very inexperienced and lives a quiet life with her incapacitated mother. So when a publisher becomes interested in the blog and wants to meet her – and they subsequently become interested in each other – she has to try to live up to her online persona. She enlists the help of Luca, a sexy, commitment-phobic artist of her acquaintance to give her some coaching in the pleasures of the flesh.
The question ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ is always difficult to answer, and as usual, I can’t really say where the idea for the basic premise came from. (I can tell you that it’s not autobiographical – that’s usually the next question.) Maybe what’s more interesting is why you think an idea has potential and decide to run with it. With this, I liked the idea of someone pretending to be something they’re not, almost living a double life. I love writing comedy and I thought there was a lot of potential for humour in that scenario, and also in the idea of Claire having sex lessons. It also meant there would be the opportunity for lots of delicious sex scenes, which are one of my favourite things to write.
Like I said, all my novels are a bit sexy, but this is by far the raunchiest, simply because of the nature of the story. I felt it was important to include some blog posts to show exactly what sort of stuff Claire is writing and how big the gap is between who she’s pretending to be on her blog and who she is in real life. I also knew those bits would be easy and fun for me to write. However, some of the blog posts are quite explicit, and I wasn’t sure how my editor would feel about them. In fact, I was half expecting her to say they didn’t belong in this type of book and suggest that they be removed. So I was quite nervous about her reaction to that aspect of the novel. However, to my relief, she was very enthusiastic about them and there was never any suggestion of taking them out. It probably helped that the whole ‘Fifty Shades’ phenomenon had happened by then, so erotica had gone mainstream.
Claire was one of those characters who came to me fully formed. She’s a writer, quite bookish and reserved, and she wants to break into the world of publishing, so she’s very close to my heart. Luca was also an exemplary character – he showed up for duty on day one and never gave me a moment’s trouble.
The most difficult character in this novel (there’s always one) was Claire’s mother, Espie. I just couldn’t get a handle on her for the longest time. She went through many personality changes – and even a sex change at one point when she became a father for a while instead of a mother – but she continued to elude me. She was whiny and mean, she was gentle and meek, she was a man … No matter what I did, she just wasn’t working.
I had a deadline and I was starting to panic, so eventually I decided to base her on someone so that she’d be fixed in my mind and I could get on with the book. In fact, I based her on a combination of two people, but the funny thing was, once I did that, another separate character emerged as I wrote and she became her own person – to the point where now I wouldn’t say she’s based on anyone. Her name changed along with her personality too. Names are important.
Luca’s background was inspired by a true story. In the early nineties when Romanian orphanages were in the news for all the wrong reasons, a friend told me about someone she knew who had adopted two children from Romania, but was having a very hard time bonding with one of them, and they had a very difficult relationship. I thought it was horribly sad, and it always stayed with me. As a writer, you want to know what happens next, and to fill in the gaps in a story. I often wondered how that situation played out for everyone involved, and Luca’s backstory is my imagining of what might have happened next.
Leaving these characters behind and moving on is hard. It feels a bit like walking away from the love of my life, and right now I can’t imagine ever loving another book as much. It’s a wrench. But it helps to remember that I felt exactly the same way after the previous one. And it’s worth it for the excitement of having Some Girls Do out in the world and in the hands of readers. That’s what it’s all about, after all.
As for what’s next for me – I’ll just keep making it up as I go along.
(c) Clodagh Murphy
Clodagh has been writing since childhood. She’s had more jobs than she cares to remember, but still hopes to prove her teachers wrong and make a living out of daydreaming. She is the author of four novels and one e-book novella, all of which have been published by Hachette Books Ireland. She currently divides her time between her home in Dublin and the internet, and she can be found online at:
Check out her website : www.clodaghmurphy.com
Follow her on Twitter: @ClodaghMMurphy or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/
Some Girls Do is in all good bookshops now or available online here.