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The Life You Left: Carmel Harrington

Writing.ie | Magazine | Interviews | Women’s Fiction

By Carmel Harrington

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I write contemporary fiction for Harper Collins with themes of love, loss, redemption and hope always strongly featured in my storylines. I love to write characters who live life with their arms open wide, ready to take it on no matter what it throws at them. My heroines and heroes are always passionate about their loved ones but at the same time, they are very real, with flaws and strengths like the best of us.

When I write, I love to explore how far I can push my protagonists, to see how many curve balls I can throw at them, then I can sit back and watch how they react. Because I have always believed that we only find out how strong we really are – or in some cases how weak – when we are faced with the most difficult times in our lives. You know when something goes wrong and you think surely things can get no worse? But then life comes along and takes a run at you and gives you another kick just to be sure to be sure.

Quite often, when I start writing a story, I’m not sure how a character will react with the said curve balls I’ve chucked at them, until I am slap bang in the middle of writing that part! I can remember with Liam in Beyond Grace’s Rainbow, I really wasn’t sure how he would end up in the story – strong or weak? But as the story unfolded so did his character. It makes me smile now when a reader tells me that for the first third of Beyond Grace’s Rainbow, they were unsure if they could trust Liam or not. Well here’s a little secret, neither could I!

This fact illustrates exactly what my writing personality is. I’m not much of a planner, I tend to just crack on with it and see where it takes me. I have of course a broad outline of where I want to go, but I prefer to just keep writing and see where the story ends up and suddenly I’ll hit those gorgeous words, The End! Then its time to go back and do my re-writes to make it all work cohesively as a novel. I get a high from losing myself in the worlds of my characters, putting myself in each of their shoes and trying to work out what makes them tick and what they would do next.

carmel_harrington_2140x210And as their characters develop, usually their final name will come to me. Because when I start the stories off, quite often I won’t have a name in mind, so I’ll just call them names from my family! Then all of a sudden I’ll realise with clarity, ‘he’s a James!’or ‘she’s a Ruby!’and its at that point, with that baptism if you like, that the character is a real person to me with a very definite personality.

I’m often asked what inspires my story lines and really, the answer to that is quite simple, life does! Every day as I go about my daily routine, I often stop to scribble in my pink notebook an idea that has popped into my head for a story or a character, because I’ve just read a news headline, overheard a conversation, saw a photograph or picture that sparked my imagination.

Inspiration for The Life You Left actually came from several places. One of the story lines is about a murder that happens on a beach in Co. Wexford. That came from a walk I took very early one morning on my local beach and as I walked along the shoreline, I heard in the wind, a noise that sounded like a dog keening. I can remember having a little look around the sand dunes and whilst doing so, my imagination went into overdrive as to what I might find. In actual fact, I found nothing! I think now, it was the wind that caused the noise, but as I continued my walk, I allowed my imagination to go wild and when I got home I quickly started up my laptop and wrote a piece that became a chapter in The Life You Left.

Another theme in my book is that about angels. I can remember as a small child, my grandmother reading books about them. She was fascinated by the subject. I didn’t give angels much thought as an adult until one day, at a particularly difficult time in my life, a woman walked up to me out of the blue in a shopping centre and told me that I was surrounded by an angel who was looking after me at this sad time. I was a bit shaken by her words and half expected her to look for money for a reading. But she walked away as quickly as she appeared, she didn’t want anything from me. I never forgot her words and from that encounter and from there, the character of Sarah began to take shape in The Life You Left.

Today is a special day for me, as it is the paperback publication day of The Life You Left.

What a difference a year makes.

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It was only a little over a year ago that I received an email that would change my life dramatically. That email was from my publisher, HarperCollins and simply said, ‘I absolutely loved Carmel’s charming, emotive voice and the story’s premise and would love to chat about this further with you,’

Fast forward a year and so much has happened, so many firsts for me. Beyond Grace’s Rainbow has been published as an eBook winning several international awards, then a few months later jumped from the virtual bookshelves, to real ones, sitting pretty beside so many of my favourite authors in bookshops around Ireland. It is now on sale in stores in UK and USA with foreign translation rights sold to Brazil! Rio baby! Now that The Life You Left is published, it’s time to start working on book three and get that to my publisher by Christmas.

I can hardly believe how much has happened in such a short space of time and how much my daily life has changed. I recognise that every day is a school day for me, because I learn something new every day. I also recognise that for me writing is now in my blood. Its simply who I am now.

(c) Carmel Harrington

About The Life You Left

It started out like any other day for Sarah Lawler; getting the kids ready for school, making the pack lunches and juggling baby Ella’s feeds.

There was no way of knowing that her husband, Paul, would leave for work that morning and simply not come home.

Now the questions are piling up quicker than the unpaid bills and, unable to answer her children’s questions about where their Daddy is, Sarah is getting desperate.

But it turns out she isn’t quite as alone as she thought she was. When her beloved childhood friend, Edward, comes back into her life, Sarah thinks she’s finally been thrown a life line.

There’s just one problem with Edward: Sarah is the only person who can see him.

“Carmel Harrington has done it again! Brilliantly written… it surpasses all expectations.” BestChickLit.com

The Life You Left is in all good bookshops now or you can pick up your copy online here.

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