And with that title I’ve captured three special, great things: A beautiful flower (send me a scented bunch from here make me happy!), a great song by Nirvana (Kurt Cobain RIP, it wasn’t suicide) and most pertinently for you – the Christian name of a talented Irish rose called Rose McClelland. And she is in bloom. Why? Because come April 6th, her novel ‘The Break-Up Test‘ is going to be published by ePublisher’s Crooked Cat.
That’s a writer Rose unfurled that is. Her feet haven’t touched the ground since she heard the news. I am over the moon for her. Getting your first book published is an exciting, nerve-wracking time for any writer. You’re putting yourself out there for dispassionate inspection.
I’ve read The Break-Up Test, I vividly recall it accompanying me all over London on my kindle. It is very readable. I’d describe it as contemporary Chick-Lit with an edge; it’s a modern story. A great yarn of love and life, without a drop of saccharin, told with true emotional insight from both a male and female perspective.
And Rose posted me a gloriously pink light-fitting to celebrate the occasion all the way from Belfast. I recorded a little film of myself admiring the gift and thanking her for it, because that’s the kind of bond we have. And she deserves this. She’s worked really, really hard and you deserve her book, because it’s a really good book.
But I want you to know more about her – and this blog of mine as well as being about yours truly is also a celebration of talent when I receive pleasure from it. So I hope you enjoy my up close and personal chat with Rosie, plus a taster of her novel, right at the very end.
Hope March is treating you well, I’m finally catching up with myself after a period of illness and looking forward to the Affordable Art Fair and a Lebanese meal tomorrow with my friends : ) Next week for me is all about Gunshot Glitter 24/7. I have my work cut out.
Yasmin Selena xxx
YSB: Hi Rosie, congrats on your publishing deal with Crooked Cat Publishing! Can you tell me how that came about?
RM: I would like to say it was with a little bit of luck and good timing – but actually it was probably a result of years of perseverance and looking for an open door. I had written “The Break-Up Test” years ago (and have gone on to write another novel since) and had been looking for a publisher. I write book reviews for a website called “Judging Covers” and found out about “Crooked Cat” via a review I wrote on “Tracy’s Hot Mail” by Trevor Belshaw. I submitted my novel to “Crooked Cat,” crossed my fingers, and thankfully they liked my book!
YSB: Have you always loved writing? What turned you onto it?
RM: Oh yes, I remember the exact moment when I announced to my mum that I wanted to be a writer. I was about ten years old and we were standing in the living room beside the dining table. I remember asking her what I should write about. She told me “Why don’t you write about your family? Write about what you know.” I haven’t written about my family but I do try to stick to what I know!
YSB: Did you love reading as a child? Can you remember what books first impacted on you and why?
RM: Oh yes again! I LOVED reading as a child! Mum used to take us to the library every Friday after school. We were allowed four books each. I remember sitting in the big bay window of the library in Derry, getting stuck into book one. By the time my other six siblings (yes, six!) had picked their books and Mum had bundled us all back into the car, I had the four books read by the time we were home again.
We were also lucky to have a neighbour up the street, Wendy Austin, who set up a little library for us (there were seven children in our family – people took pity on us). She gave us orange juice and biscuits, let us take books from the library in her spare room and then we got to watch “Famous Five” or “Crackerjack”.
Books I remembered as a kid were Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and Judy Blume. There was also a cool series that let you choose your own ending. I can’t remember what they were called now, but they were wicked.
YSB: All great writers! I remember those ‘choose your own ending’ books too! Do you come from a creative family? Have they influenced you in any way as a writer?
RM: My dad wrote a few books (short stories and ghost-writing other people’s stories) but we didn’t really discuss the process of writing. He did ask me to ‘proof-read’ one of his books though, I remember that. My mum is creative in that she cooks, bakes and knits. My brother is a fabulous photographer and is very creative with a flair for taking very natural shots. I have a sister who is very creative with the ‘scrap-booking’ craze, and another sister who runs a ‘pop-cake’ business.
RM: It’s about breaking up, bouncing back and moving on. It’s about three women who are all in difficult relationships – not happy yet hanging on. It takes an old male friend from Uni. to talk some sense into them and help them to move on. They draw up a ten point break up test to guide them.
YSB: Who do you think your book would appeal to?
RM: When I wrote this I had a reader in mind – she was in her twenties/ thirties, enjoyed chick-lit, liked a laugh, but also liked to read emotional scenes. I wanted the book to comfort as well as entertain. Mainly though, I wrote it to cheer myself up!
Whilst I can’t imagine many blokes picking the book up, I have written from a male’s perspective for a lot of this novel, so I’d be interested to see if I’ve got the outlook spot on (or not!)
YSB: I know you are also a prolific reader as well as a writer, whose books are you enjoying most at the moment?
RM: I am going through a ‘Paige Toon’ phase at the moment. I read “Baby Be Mine” and then I had to read the back-story in “Johnny Be Good”. I’m now reading “Lucy in the Sky”. It’s all or nothing with me. I don’t do things by halves, can you tell?
Other favourite authors are: Lisa Jewell, Mike Gayle, David Nicholls, Tania Kindersley, Marian Keyes, Adele Parks, Marisa Mackle and Rebecca Chance.
YSB: You’ve named a handful of my own favourite writers in that list. What are your Top 5 favourite reads and why?
I love the first line. I love how she mixes personal experience with a fictional story.
I remember reading this novel and being engrossed. I could picture the characters so vividly and I can still see Ralph rooting around Jem’s bedroom!
When I starting reading this book, I was so engrossed that I stayed under the duvet until I had finished the full story.
I found this book shortly after Uni and I totally loved it. The writing voice is just gorgeous. Full of hindsight and nostalgia. I read this book several times over.
This book is great for the budding writer. There are plenty of ‘tasks’ to do to unblock your creativity and get you going. It’s a 12-week course and by week 8, I started writing my first novel and couldn’t stop. I have gone back to this book time and time again. It’s a wonderful read.
(YSB – Trivia fans: Julia Cameron was married to film director Martin Scorsese! )
YSB: I actually bought The Artist’s Way because of you! Do you write your fiction from personal experience?
RM: Yes, I suppose I do. I like to write something that I might learn from. I like to learn from my characters. I like to paint a character who might have the most annoying traits I could have, and I like to learn how not to do things. Then I like to draw a character who I would aspire to be like. I need to learn something from a novel, and express myself through it. Otherwise I’ll find it hard to invest all that time and energy for nine months.
YSB: Which character in ‘The Break-Up Test’ could you relate to the most?
RM: I’d love to say I could relate to Amy the most (she’s pretty cool and unaware of her attributes), but I’m probably more like Stacey – a complete nut-job but funny all the same.
YSB: How do you write best? Tell me what your writing routine is?
RM: I write best in the morning. Weekend mornings are good for me. It has to be complete quiet. I prefer not to listen to music when I’m writing. My head has to be empty. I also have to take the pressure off myself and give myself small steps. It’s like coaxing a child. “Today we’ll only have to write a small scene” or “Today it’s just about seeing what happens next”. If I coax myself like this, then it’s not so daunting to sit down at the keyboard. I’m all about the ‘little and often’. For some reason, I always sit at my keyboard and file my nails for five minutes before I even write a word. I think it helps me zone in!
When I’m starting a novel, I’ll play around with ideas for a while. I’ll think about what theme I want to write about – usually something I want to learn from. Then I’ll get out magazines and pull out images and start to think about what my characters are like. This has to be an enjoyable exercise. I find a good coffee shop and a tray-bake treat works wonders. I like writing about characters where I’ll learn from their good points or bad points. It has to be characters I want to go on a journey with for at least nine months. If they’re going to hang out in your head for that length of time, you need to like them and want the best for them!
I’ll start off with a beginning, middle and end, and then I’ll start to write potential plot points in between – a sort of pencil drawing or sketch. There needs to be a good few twists and turns along the way. Once I have an outline, I’ll start to get into the nitty gritty and take each scene at a time.
I tend to ‘watch and record’ a scene first, where I pretend I’m in the audience having a look at what the characters are up to. I’ll simply record what’s going on. This takes the pressure off and makes it not so daunting to sit down at the keyboard. Then I’ll go back the next day and re-write the scene with more detail. When I go back to write the scene with more detail, I tell myself that this is just a first draft and I can go back and edit it later. Again, that takes the pressure off.
Honestly, it really is like coaxing a little child. The less pressure, the better.
YSB: It’s amazing how as writers we all find our way to our words in such unique ways. I remember finding images useful with visualising characters in Gunshot Glitter, but you’ve given me food for thought with your process. You are so much more organised than me! Does music have any influence on you as a writer?
RM: Not really to be honest. I’m not a big ‘muso’. I tend to have bread & butter tastes – i.e. I’ll listen to something – like it – and then listen to it to death. I did this with Zero 7. I wrote ‘The Break-Up Test’ in the upstairs section of Café Nero and I had to have earphones on to drown out the other customers. I listened to Zero 7 over & over whilst writing that book. Generally I prefer total peace and quiet when writing though.
YSB: Which bands or performers do you love most at the moment?
RM: I am going through a Lene Marlin phase and a Corinne Bailey Rae phase. I told you I have bread & butter tastes! I find one album that’s relaxing and it gets played over and over. All or nothing!
YSB *Schemes on subverting Rose into loving Hole* ePublishing is now booming, do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing? Is ‘The Break-Up Test’ going to be available in print too?
RM: I think it’s a good thing! I was given a kindle for Christmas and I love it! It took me a while to get the hang of it – it’s a bit like getting a new phone – you’re all fingers and thumbs for a while – but now I really do love it. As a reviewer for Judging Covers, I get much better options for review books because I’m able to download to kindle. I also love the ‘sample’ facility on Amazon, where you get to read a few chapters before deciding to buy it. As a rule, kindle books tend to be far cheaper too. I used to order all my paperbooks from Amazon, so I was paying extra for postage & packaging – now I don’t have to pay that charge.
I don’t know if ‘The Break-Up Test’ is going to be available in print any time – but I’m happy it’s getting an airing in e-book land!
YSB: I think the download ‘sample’ chapter is my favourite thing about the kindle. I’d like to think it’ll encourage readers to try brand new writers. The world of publishing seems to be in flux at the moment, what advice would you give to new writers entering the industry for the first time?
RM: Keep an open mind. What worked for an author ten years ago might not work now. Try to move with the times and see what way you can get your foot in the door. Try to stop worrying about what other people think. Fear is the biggest block to moving on. If you’re worried what people think, you’ll find excuses not to do anything. Remember that you’ll never please everyone. Once you accept that, there’s a great freedom.
YSB: What five qualities do you think an individual needs most to succeed as a writer?
RM: 1. Stop worrying about what other people think. Easier said than done, I know, but if you’re subconsciously full of fear about what Aunt Bessie will think of that scene in Chapter four, then your conscious mind will find excuses not to write. Let Aunt Bessie crack on with her knitting, you crack on with your writing.
2. If you want something done, do it yourself. No-one’s going to come knocking on your door offering you a publishing contract, you’re the one that will have to make it happen. Write the best book you can write. Dream up the best cover, book blurb, target audience etc – be a good product – then the publisher will want to take you on.
3. Get your feet under the table – you’re in for the long haul. It takes time to get published, so make your life enjoyable while you’re waiting. Make your writing slots in your week something you enjoy and look forward to. Do other things you enjoy – like your job, your friends, your hobbies.
4. Read books and review them. Review them for a website if you can. You’ll start to learn loads about plot, characters and writing voice. You’ll start to see what you enjoy and why. And you’ll start to see what you don’t like and why.
5. Write a blog. It’s good exercise – not only for your writing skills but for your confidence.
YSB: Brilliant! That’s really good advice, especially the first one. You’ve got to write for yourself. What do you have coming up next? Are you working on a new book at the moment?
RM: Yes indeed! I am writing book number four at the moment! It’s set in the theatre world and it’s about all the drama that goes on behind the scenes. There’s lots of sizzling chemistry and I love writing it.
RM: Watching films and going to the theatre. Body balance – it’s very relaxing for the mind yet is good exercise at the same time – what a bonus. I love reading and getting engrossed in a really good story. Dancing, hanging out with mates and talking rubbish. Cooking is a new hobby – I find it so relaxing putting the music on and cooking to my heart’s content. Oh, and I love shopping…
YSB: I approve of the new cooking hobby! I really enjoyed the Baked Eggs recipe you sent me : ) What do you hope to achieve in 2012?
RM: Oh goodness, well I’m quite content with what I have right now. I guess I’d just like to keep doing what I’m doing!
YSB: And final question – if I were telling a complete stranger all about you – in about a hundred words -what would you hope I’d say?
RM: Yasmin to stranger: “Oh Rose is this girl I met on Facebook. She liked my Lisa Jewell video and we got chatting. Then she set up a Writers’ Circle and we got chatting some more. Sometimes we send each other stuff in the post – lights, music, that kind of thing. She’s got her first book published – thank God, she was harping on about it for long enough!”
YSB: I lied Missus, this is the final question. I’m a sucker for a word association game. No cheating. Write down the first thing that comes to mind:
RM: Chick lit: Fab
Trolls: Messy hair (sorry, you did say the first thing!)
Internet Dating: Crap
Colin Farrell: So-so
Northern Ireland: Great if we had a sun roof
Metrosexual Men: Thumbs up
Social Media: Addictive!
First ever crush: Oh God, are you serious? He’s on my Facebook!
London: Pineapple Dance Studio. Covent Garden. Leicester Square. Richmond. (Sorry, that was more than one word!)
Three things Yasmin Selena doesn’t know about you:
Oh dear, I was gonna say about my ear, but you know about that. Then I was going to say about my bungee jump, but you know about that too. Finally, I was going to tell you about the time Robbie Williams winked at me, but you know that also! Clearly I am an open book!
YSB: Damn! Thank you Rosie : ) And very best of luck with The Break-Up Test…x
RM: Thank you Yasmin! And the very best of luck with Gunshot Glitter! X x
Find out more about Rose McClelland here:
The train station was busy. People scurrying by, hurried expressions, a spring in their step.
Amy sat on one of the steel chairs at the train side coffee shop. She hugged a cardboard cup of Americano, steam rising up, curling around her face in a comforting embrace.
The large clock hanging from the ceiling pointed its hands at 3:45pm. Typical of Amy to be perfectly on time.
She pulled her mobile phone out of her handbag, checking it again for what was probably the tenth time that day. Even though her phone was on LOUD VIBRATE. Even though she would have no chance of missing the sound of a text despite all the hustle and bustle surrounding her.
She was hoping for a text from Gav. Just one measly text. Just one “Hello how are ya? x“
But of course, nothing.
Probably up to his eyes shagging one of those dancers from the production tour he was on. But no, she didn’t want to think about that.
She watched the people around her.
Mothers. Toddlers. Babies.
Couples having post-coital Saturday afternoon lunches together.
Making her want to vomit.
“Aimes!” A loud voice broke her out of her reverie. Jamie.
He came bounding through the barriers with energy and enthusiasm, holding his arms out to give her a big hug.
She set down her coffee cup and jumped up to hug him back.
“Jamie! Look at you!” she grinned. “Don’t you look great?!”
“Do you think?” he asked, surprised. “Well, thanks! And look at you! Tanned!”
Amy smiled sheepishly. “Out of a bottle I’m afraid. I wish it was from foreign holidays but no such luck!”
He stood, grinned, and seemed to stare at her for what felt like ages. In a moment that had slowed down to a complete pause. In a moment where all the hustle and bustle careered around them effortlessly while they stood, paused, silent, taking each other in.
Jamie broke the pause. “Drink?”
Amy nodded. “Yeah, come on. There’s a pub across the road.”
They headed up the steps together, Jamie lugging a bag over his shoulder, Amy swinging her handbag effortlessly, and the two of them falling into quick, easy chit-chat.
“So much to catch up on…”
“What have you been up to…”
“Oh.. you first…”
“Wait…” Jamie said, as they had approached the entrance of the train station.
He rummaged into his jeans pocket, pulled out a pack of Marlboros and ushered Amy over to the low wall so he could sit and smoke a fag.
“Oh Jamie…” Amy began disappointedly. “You’re not still smoking are you?”
He nodded, flicked the lighter and inhaled deeply.
She shook her head. “Dear oh dear oh dear.”
She noticed, briefly, that his hand was slightly shaky as the cigarette balanced between both fingers. She noticed it, but shrugged it off.
“I did however…” Jamie began, “….stop for two months, two weeks and two days…so.. on my reckoning… I’m allowed one thousand, five hundred and forty fags to play catch up for all that lost time.”
Amy looked at him wryly.
“I suppose that’s what you were working out on the train on the way up?”
Jamie smiled. “You know me too well.”
They sat on the low wall, with the Saturday shoppers passing by, people queuing for buses and taxis whizzing past.
“So what made you crack?” Amy asked. “What was the big defining pressure that made you inhale again?”
Jamie rolled his eyes. “God, let’s get a drink… I’ll fill you in…”