Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Interview with Irish author Caroline Finnerty

A couple months ago, my parents took a trip to Ireland for two weeks to celebrate their anniversary. One evening, they walked past a small independent bookstore in Dublin, heard laughter, turned around, went inside and followed the voices upstairs. And so it was they met Irish author Caroline Finnerty, whose book launch party was wrapping up. After a pleasant conversation, she signed a copy of her new novel Into the Night Sky as a gift for... ME! :) 

I devoured the book as soon as my parents gave it to me. It is one of those books that, as the Irish Independent newspaper stated, is "impossible to put down." Simply put, Into the Night Sky is a luminous and heartwarming story that will stay with you long after you turn the final page, and Caroline is a superbly talented and empathetic writer. You can order Caroline's books here.

After Caroline was thoughtful enough to email me about my own writing and books, I asked if she would mind answering a few questions for this blog. She kindly agreed, and I am thrilled to present her insightful answers to you now. With no further ado, here is Caroline Finnerty!

Welcome, Caroline! Tell us about your latest novel INTO THE NIGHT SKY. In what ways was this novel different from your other books? 

Into the Night Sky is the story of four people who come into each other’s lives when they are each in need of a friend and how the bonds that form change each of them forever more.

Conor Fahy is the owner of struggling bookshop Haymarket Books and is finding it hard to cope with everyday life in the aftermath of his partner Leni’s tragic death.

Conor’s best friend Ella Wilde is struggling with her own problems having just been axed from her job as a TV presenter after being caught shoplifting. She is struggling to deal with the weight of public disgrace and adjust to life away from the TV cameras.

Jack White is eight years old. He likes Ben 10, Giant Jawbreaker sweets and reading adventure books. He likes his Dad (when he doesn’t shout). He doesn’t like the bad monsters that are eating up his ma inside her tummy.

Rachel Traynor is the social worker assigned to Jack White’s case but sorting out messy family disputes is taking its toll on her. And it doesn’t help that she has had to say goodbye to the man she loves because he doesn't want to have children with her.

It’s different from my other books because the story is told through a present tense narrative and also one of the main characters, Jack, is a young child, which I have never done before.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? How did you get into writing? 

I always loved writing but I never recognized it in myself until I entered my twenties. I was always bookish as a child and made my own "books" with illustrations. In hindsight, I was good at essay writing in school but it never occurred to me to study English and so I studied biotechnology in university. I was in my twenties when I had an idea and said that would make a great story so I just started writing it and I didn’t stop. After a while I decided to do an eight-week creative writing course by night which spurred me on a bit more. Then after I had my first child in 2009 and I had the idea for In a Moment, which was the first book I actually finished and I was lucky enough to get published.

What is your writing schedule? How do you find time to write? 

It is chaotic at the moment! I have three small children, two of whom are not yet in school so it’s challenging to find the time -- but, like everything, if you really want to do it, you have to make sacrifices. So when I get them all into bed in the evenings I stay up late to try to do a bit then or at weekends my husband sometimes takes them all off for a few hours so I can get a bit done. I am quite disciplined so if I do have some free time I use it to write instead of doing anything else.

What is your biggest advice for other writers, particularly young writers just starting out? 

Don’t be too hard on yourself when you read back over your work. Just put the words down on the page and don’t get disheartened. I used to re-read my early drafts and cringe so much that I would never go back to it again. Then I went to a really inspiring getting published workshop and the authors speaking at it said how they all think what they write is awful but that they keep rewriting it until one day they don’t want to throw their laptop against the wall and it finally starts to seem okay.

That’s the key – rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. I love the saying, "You can edit words on a page but you can’t edit a blank page."   

Ooh, I love that saying, too! So very true. Who are some of your favorite writers? 

Too many to mention, but the ones that stick out in my mind are:
  • Kate Atkinson
  • Maggie O’Farrell
  • David Nicholls
  • John Boyne 
  • Marian Keyes

I read in the Acknowledgements section of INTO THE NIGHT SKY that writing this book was a challenge at times. It seems that writer's block is something every writer has to deal with at one time or another. Do you have any tips for advice for vanquishing writer's block? 

I find that usually when I am experiencing writer’s block it is because some part of the book is not working. Either the character isn’t fully developed in my mind or there is a problem with the plot.

When I was writing Into The Night Sky, I was finding it difficult to research the role of Rachel the social worker and how that storyline fitted into the book but it took me a few months to put my finger on exactly what it was that was missing. Eventually I contacted a friend of mine who was a social worker and she helped me immensely; once I had concrete facts, the story moved on again.

Usually if I can’t figure out what the problem is, then I go on to another scene that is coming easily to me and then go back to the problematic one at a later stage when hopefully it will come a bit easier then.

Great advice! Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for having me, Dallas it’s lovely to be over here on an American blog – hello everyone!

Thank you so much for joining us today, Caroline!

Connect with Caroline at the following links:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Productivity Tips for Writers from Jason Womack

On Tuesday, I was delighted to feature an interview with author, entrepreneur and productivity coach Jason Womack. His answer to my question, "Do you have any tips for writers who want to be more productive?" was so insightful and thorough that I decided to feature it as a whole new post. Enjoy!

If you missed Jason's interview, check it out here.

Productivity Tips for Writers

by Jason Womack

You absolutely must clarify (more and more specifically) what I call your “So that…” about WHY you want to be more productive. When we started our firm, five years before I wrote the book, we had FOUR reasons to build a company:

  • to support our lifestyle
  • to earn a great salary
  • to work with clients we like, and 
  • to create products that will help people. 
All of my products are “information” pieces, including speeches, articles, videos, ebooks and books.

So, how do I do it all? I have three tips for writers who want to be more productive:
  1. Say “No” more. You see, every time you say yes to a new post, a new idea, a new piece of research, a new request, you’re adding to an already overloaded “budget” of creative output. This week, practice saying “No” to something that comes in, no matter how small it is. 
  2. Buy a pen AND a notebook that’s a little more expensive than you normally purchase. Yes, I know I’m going “old-school” on you here, but give this a shot. When I first did this, I started taking those journal entries and interview notes much more seriously. I started looking for ideas that could turn in to posts, articles, chapters and books that might ultimately help me pay for those pens and notebooks! 
  3. Find a mentor. A writing mentor is different than a coach. I don’t pay my mentors with money. Instead, about once a month, I sit down with someone who is more successful than I am AND who is willing to see me become more successful. I share with her or him what I’m working on and where I’m challenged, and then I let them tell me stories and give me advice. The one thing I always make sure to do: 7-10 days after we meet, I write them a letter to let them know what I did based on our conversation. I’ve found this little bit of “stretch-goal” conversation and accountability keeps me moving my writing forward.
* * *

Thank you, Jason, for taking the time to stop by the blog and share your wisdom and advice!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Interview with author & entrepreneur Jason Womack

I'm thrilled to feature an interview today with Jason Womack today! Jason is an author and entrepreneur who provides practical methods to maximize tools, systems, and processes to achieve quality work/life balance. He has worked with leaders and executives for more than sixteen years in the business and education sectors. His focus is on creating ideas that matter and implementing solutions that are valuable to organizations and the individuals in those organizations. Author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More, Jason shows that working longer hours doesn’t make up for a flawed approach to productivity and performance. 

Tell us about your book Your Best Just Got Better. What was your inspiration behind this book? 

About ten years ago, I started collecting stories. I continue to ask people these three questions:
  1. Has life ever been hard for you? 
  2. Has it ever been worse? 
  3. Did it eventually get better? 
Now, if the answer to those three questions was YES, I changed my line of questioning to be much, much more open-ended. And, that’s when people started opening up. I learned that there are three basic paths that people take to making their life, their our, their community and their fails better. So, I guess that I was inspired to share those strategies, and the tactics that I experimented with that work, with readers around the world.

How do you balance writing with all the other things going on in your life, like your work, family, health?

Well, the book has been published in three different languages. I run a consultancy full-time, traveling up to 200 days a year, presenting eighty lectures and working one-on-one with up to ten clients at a time. I’m married, and with my wife, Jodi, I co-run another company called www.Momentum.GS -- this is an online coaching program for individuals who are on a path to professional development success. How do I balance it all? I do one thing at a time. I stopped multitasking a long time ago; also, I say no to things. I say no to anything that pulls me (or us) off course to our overall mission. I’ll tell you about that next.

What is your biggest advice for other writers, particularly young writers just starting out? 

Sixty months from now, you’ll have what you have, go where you go, do what you do, and be who you are based on the five people you meet next. Make sure that you curate your network; much like a museum has much, MUCH more than they put on display, you can "know" a lot of people, but you want to make sure the people who influence you are pushing you in a direction you want to go in for the long term. Staring as a writer means you’ve heard the voices that talk to you, and you’ve decided to allow yourself the "gift of your own attention." By putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, you’re telling the universe you’re willing. Once you do that, you WILL be tested. There will be easy "pop-quizzes" such as friends calling asking you to go out for drinks on a Tuesday night. There will also be "final-exams" when someone close to you becomes ill or falls on hard times. The one factor -- above all else -- that continues to play a significant part in/of my success is who I choose to spend time with; who I let influence me; both my thoughts, and my actions.

What's next for you?

I invite every single reader to join a community, to seek out a group of like-minded learners AND producers, that will want for your success. About two years ago, just as we were coming out of the worst recession I’ve ever lived through, we started an online-coaching program with semi-annual "in-person" leadership retreat events. If you know that change is coming, and in one year or less you’re going to already be well on the path to success, join our community. Visit Not sure if it’s for you? Email me, and I’ll send you a "Free Pass" for a 7-day membership. I’m so sure you’ll gain value in those seven days, I offer a money-back guarantee on membership. Ready?

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re a writer, a painter, a poet, or a craftsman, you’re put on this planet to share of the abundance, to give of the overflow that you see when you look out and KNOW in your heart of hearts that things can be better. And, as a result of you doing YOUR work, things will be better.

You can learn more about Jason at the following links: