I’ve always been a procrastinator, though maybe that’s too harsh – perhaps it’s simply that I like to mull things over before actually settling down to work. Music makes for excellent distraction, and last year I came across a searing voice singing of heartbreak and, at other times, pure defiance. I thought about how this singer must have felt as he sang every single word.
His music seemed followed me around – the car radio on the school run, playing from behind the counter when I dashed into the petrol station or from speakers as I zipped along the supermarket aisle. One song in particular described so well the feeling of being lost and directionless, living a life lacking in trust and it was the voice of Danny O’Reilly, lead singer of the Coronas. I hadn’t realised he was Mary Black’s son, and I wonder if this was one of the reasons I had been so drawn to his voice, as I used to listen to his mother’s music when feeling homesick in London, as it transported me to the comfort of family holiday memories in Ireland.
The emotion in Danny’s voice helped me to create Luke Hamilton, the man who loves Elodie Gold in my new novel, Infidelity and one of the loveliest characters my novels have entertained so far. Once I can visualise my first character, I find that is enough to get the story up and running. Who do they love, or maybe who do they want to love? What are their scars, their torment and how can they move their life forward? Often the struggle is romance related, but sometimes it’s about making peace with themselves.
There are funny times in Infidelity, uplifting times, but also moments when characters need to learn to forgive themselves. When Elodie Gold returns to her Grandparents house in the Irish countryside, she realises that her struggles are the result of her family history – and every family has a history. She begins to realise the knock-on effects of the past, which help to explain her mother’s instability, and Elodie’s own fragility, despite appearances. Of course, the gorgeous Luke Hampton desperately wants to help Elodie, but she can only let him in once she finds the root to her unhappiness, if that is possible.
Without music, I’m not sure I could write so easily. At high volume, music blasts into my headphones, energising, guiding and shaping my stories. The determination and emotion coming from a score can be incredible, helping words to pour from characters onto the page as tears stream down my face. Maybe it’s like wearing a perfume depending on your mood, Chanel for a dinner party, Jo Malone for the school run and Hermes for dancing. I often choose Atonement for drama, Pride and Prejudice for romance and Taylor Swift to gallop the story along. For intensity, I listen to The Coronas and for heartfelt blues, there’s no better singer than Bronagh Gallager. I think it’s rather like jogging up a hill, as the lyrics and rhythm can push you on and block out any self-doubt about reaching the summit.
When people ask me ‘how can I get started with a book?’ I suggest to first hold a face in your mind, then to give them a name (my favourite part) and take them for a long walk. The character is yours and before you know it, you are building a world around them like Lego blocks, and if you can have the ending in your mind, at least this is how I do it, it gives you a sort of pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to move towards.
I began my working life in an open plan office with over forty people on telephones, arms waving, lively PR style conversations and I think that is why I can’t bear to write in silence, which is just as well, given that I am lucky to share my days with my beautiful little daughters. The sound of silence is not for me … unless I’m trying to get to sleep, that is.
(c) Ally Bunbury
Born in 1976, Ally Bunbury was brought up with her three sisters, and a menagerie of animals, in County Monaghan, Ireland. Following a serendipitous encounter at a dinner party, Ally landed a dream internship with a PR agency on New York’s Fifth Avenue, which, in turn, led to a flourishing career in London and Dublin. Ally now writes from her house, overlooking the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains, and lives with her husband, the historian, Turtle Bunbury and their two daughters, Jemima and Bay.
Weary of her over-privileged life in London, Elodie Gold is struggling with a self-indulgent mother and a control freak boyfriend. As her artistic dreams go up in smoke, she is tempted to hop into bed with Luke Hampton, a heavenly American in hot pursuit. But fate has other ideas as an unexpected event compels Elodie to bolt to Bellamore, her grandfather’s mansion in the Irish countryside.
Times have changed. Once a shrine to tradition and elegance, Bellamore is now a crumbling world of romantic deceit and guilty secrets. How did it come to this? And can Elodie turn it around?
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