When I was little, I remember wanting to be a ballerina, all pink tulle and pointy toes, but a lack of dancing talent thwarted that ambition very early on. I then thought I wanted to play the piano. However, the image of my grown up self in a long silky dress, my delicate feet peeking out from underneath as they worked the pedals; my fingers lightly skimming the ebony and ivory keys, was also a short-lived one. I gave up piano after grade one because piano playing took a lot of commitment and was, in fact, very hard. What I suppose I did know from a young age was that I was never going to be a doctor, banker, or captain of industry. I knew it when I scribbled angst ridden poems for my boyfriend at seventeen; when I was acknowledged for A grade essays in school; when I took my first foray into creative writing classes ten years later; when I laughed and cried over my well-worn copy of ‘Rachel’s holiday’ by Marian Keyes. I knew that, someday, I would have to listen to the fact that I really wanted to be a writer.
The itch became an irritable and constant scratch about eight years ago. At the time I had a successful career in property search. Imagine Phil and Kirsty without the cameras? I worked for wonderful clients – high net worth individuals, some celebrities – but despite having a “dream job”, I still woke up one morning not wanting to go to work. I mean I didn’t want to go back to work ever again. Much as I had loved it for many years, I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Cue important soul searching conversation with husband. Could I afford to give up work and write? ‘Write what?’ he asked reasonably. ‘Novels,’ I replied. ‘You’ve been talking about it for years,’ he said, ‘time to get on with it.’
From that moment on I tried to envisage myself as a proper writer one day. I imagined it, felt it, smelled it and rolled it around my tongue. I looked in the mirror, pointed a finger at my image and told it, ‘You too can be a writer, you know…’ I joined an online writing community, began blogging – found a whole other world to the one I had previously lived in. A world full of promise and creativity and people just like me. Who knew?
This time in the wilderness, the time where the belief is there but the results aren’t, is so tough. We’re navigating a road littered with rejection; having to develop and hone our determination, perseverance and patience skills. Alas, the last one is a constant work in progress with me. I’m not even sure my DNA has the ‘patience’ strand (currently checking email every five minutes waiting to hear from editor.) We continue to do the things we’ve all been told work: Write every day, write what you know, read lots, believe in yourself and never give up.
Easy to say – not always easy to do – but keeping going is the only option! I remember once, another writer telling me that I had to start seeing myself out there in the real world (not just in front of my mirror) as a writer. So, at a party, I plucked up the courage to tell someone I was. A writer. Of novels. Then he asked where he could buy one and I blushed. Ear to ear, rose, face-ache. Having muttered to him that he’d have to wait a while, he glanced over my shoulder for someone more interesting and I wanted to crawl into the corner and suck my thumb noisily forevermore.
So, what made the difference between writing away in my garret and having a publishing deal? I don’t think it was just one thing. Sure, the stars aligned in some way – but thinking about it, they did so when certain things had already happened. I had served a long apprenticeship and in keeping writing, constantly practising, practising, I think I just got better at it. Like I would have done had I stuck to the ballet or piano. (Though I think Darcy Bussell or Jamie Cullen would have had little to fear.) I had also written something I genuinely believed in and I’m not sure I can say that about other earlier work.
During the writing of “You, Me & Other People”, I knew, even during earlier drafts, that this was ‘the one’. I’d had an idea for a story of a marriage in freefall and wanted to peel away the layers, telling it from both the male and female point of view. I’d never written from a male point of view before and actually loved doing it. When I’d polished the manuscript (which, in honesty, meant about five edits) I sent it off to three agents. When two responded positively, I was beside myself and met with one of them. We hit it off immediately and today I’m proud to call her my agent. A mere couple of months later, we signed a three book deal with HarperCollins and the real period of pinching myself began.
Now, I write for a living. Even typing those words, makes me grin like the proverbial cat from Cheshire. That said, I’m glancing over my shoulder to see if anyone is standing there with a page of ‘small print’ that I may have missed. We self-doubting creatives are never wholly convinced! It does appear to be true though and today, finally, I’m privileged to walk across my landing to my study, turn on my PC and set to work.
It is different to before, but in a good way. Writing to contract can sometimes be scary. The learning curve is still as steep as it was, but working with people in the publishing business – people on my side – like professional editors, cover designers and P.R people, has been incredibly exciting. And inspiring. It’s wonderful to see that despite hearing for years that the book industry is suffering, it seems to be alive and kicking and run by people who really care.
Was there a little luck involved? My husband’s words, when he hears the word ‘luck’ are ringing in my ear – “The harder we work, the luckier we are.” But me? I believe that total alignment of stars may not have happened without the addition of a tiny, yet magical, sprinkling of fairy dust on top…
(c) Fionnuala Kearney
About You, Me and Other People
Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes and Liane Moriarty, You, Me and Other People is a story of a marriage in crisis.
Told from the viewpoint of both parties, Fionnuala Kearney’s debut novel is wise, funny, perceptive, and often unbearably sad. Betrayed by the man who was not only her husband, but her partner in crime and best friend, Beth is struggling to cope and come to terms with Adam’s betrayal. But unable to forgive him again, she has to rediscover who she is, and how she can live her life without the man she thought was her soulmate. Adam thought he wouldn’t get caught. Stressed out at work, this dalliance was the physical release he needed. Beth, the wife he adores, was never meant to find out. As Beth begins to make a fresh start, Adam finds his life spiralling further and further out of control and when another ‘indiscretion’ of his comes to light, there are devastating consequences for everyone involved…