Clare Dowling has written nine bestsellers, and she’s been a scriptwriter for Ireland’s top soap, Fair City, for over ten years. She stopped by our blog to chat to Clare Wallace about her latest novel ‘Would I Lie To You?’ and her life as a novelist, screenwriter and puppy walker.
In a tweet can you tell us what ‘Would I Lie To You?’ is about?
How and why did you first start writing?
I trained as an actress years ago, but I always seemed to end up playing the love interest or the old hag, and so I started writing my own material and performing it. For years I wrote plays, before drifting into writing scripts for film and television. Thirteen years ago, I wrote my first novel. I still write for television and am halfway through novel number ten.
How did you go about getting published?
I submitted the first three chapters of a book to an Irish publisher, asking whether they would like to read the rest of the manuscript, and then nearly had a heart attack when they asked me to send it in, as of course I hadn’t written the rest yet. I managed to write it in six months and I signed a three-book deal.
‘Would I Lie To You?’ is your 9th novel, has your writing process changed since writing your début?
I think I spend less time agonising over things now, and concentrate more on getting the word count up every day. When I started out, I couldn’t move on at all until I was certain that everything was nailed down just so, but now I’m confident enough to let things evolve more. I also know now that I need time to get to know my characters, and if that means losing chunks of early material because it no longer fits, then so be it. (Although it still hurts!)
What inspired you to set ‘Would I Lie To You?’ in France?
You know the way you go abroad on holiday, have a fabulous time, and want to move there permanently and start a whole new life? That’s me. Every summer we go to France and I declare that I’m relocating and that I’m going to convert some smelly old house into a beautiful home and never come back. Well, I haven’t done it yet, so I decided I’d have to live the dream through my characters instead. In ‘Would I Lie To You?’ I pack two characters off to a farmhouse with no roof in Brittany, and then sit back and rub my hands with glee as they try to cope.
Do you have a writing space and, if you do, what does it look like?
I write in the kitchen, which might sound very homely and hands-on, but usually involves me snuffling about in the fridge ten times a day and drinking far too much coffee. I’m not very creative sitting at a desk, though, or anything too formal, so the kitchen island suits me just fine.
This year has been taken up with our guide dog puppy. We volunteered to be puppy walkers last year, thinking we’d get a cute little fellow who would sleep and eat all day, and instead we got Huw. I spend a lot of my spare time glueing back together things he’s broken, and dragging him out into the rain for walks. But he’s lovely, and when we give him back in six months time so that he can be trained to be a Guide Dog, I know we’ll be heartbroken.
Which authors do you most admire?
I’m a huge Anne Tyler fan. I first came across her after I’d had a sinus operation (the glamour) and a friend gave me a copy of her novel, ‘Breathing Lessons’ as a joke. I still have it on my bookshelf. I’ve read all of her books since.
And finally, what would be your top tips for aspiring authors hoping to get published?
Keep writing, even if it doesn’t end up in the finished book. You never know what will spark an idea, or a new character. If you don’t use them now, you can save them for further down the line. Nothing you write is ever wasted.
‘Would I Lie To You?’ by Clare Dowling, published by Headline, is out now.