Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland: June Considine

June Considine, who also writes under the pen name, Laura Elliot, has written sixteen novels, twelve for children, four for adults. Her novels, which include When the Bough Breaks, Fragile Lies, The Prodigal Sister and Stolen Child, have been translated into many languages. Her short stories have been broadcast on RTE and have appeared in a number of teenage anthologies. She has also worked as a freelance journalist and magazine editor.

Welcome, June. So when did the writing bug first take hold?

I began to write in my late twenties when I at last overcame the belief that only ‘other people’ could be writers. I worked as a journalist for ten years before I began to write fiction.

And your first publishing break?  

The first book I wrote was for children in the ten plus age group. It was fantasy – sadly, pre-Harry Potter. I sent it to two publishers. One publisher rejected it and the second publisher claimed to have no knowledge of ever receiving it. I suspect it slipped under the slush pile and died from underexposure. I was inexperienced enough to believe that two disappointments signalled the end of my career as a novelist and returned to journalism. About a year later I met someone at a reception and casually mentioned my lost manuscript. Unbeknownst to me she approached the publisher, whom she knew. He contacted me and asked  to see a copy of the manuscript  which I duly delivered that day.  The following afternoon he rang to tell me my book would be published.

Do you have an agent and do you think it necessary to have one?

Yes. I have an agent. Whether or not an agent is a necessity depends on what you want to do. Most UK publishers only work through agents so, in that case, a good agent is necessary. In Ireland it is still possible to engage directly with most publishers. For examining contracts and acting as a buffer between you and your editor when things are slightly fraught, it’s good to have an agent on your side.

What are your feelings on social media for authors?

Social media is extremely time-consuming. A lot of what we do seems to go out into a vast black hole and, apart from friends and colleagues, it’s hard to quantify who it’s reaching and its impact on sales. But, as writers, we can’t ignore it. We need an online presence – and the knowledge to use it effectively.

And do you also contribute to the marketing / PR of your work?

I contribute by publicising my work as much as I can with interviews, blogs, social media, newspaper features etc.

Did anyone inspire you to write, June?

No. I was born with the yearning.

How long does it take you to complete a book – do you write everyday?

About eighteen months. When I’m working on a book I try to write every day. I begin early and work until about four in the afternoon with a lunch and coffee break. If I’m on a flow I’ll work at night but, I find a regular routine is the most effective way to work. My books are defined as psychological thrillers. I didn’t set out to write in that genre but I’m drawn to exploring how certain events create an impact and how people respond to difficult situations.

What’s your opinion of the current state of publishing in general?

It’s tough…but it was never easy. So much depends on how your book is marketed. The front table display in a book shop is every writer’s dream but is not always attainable. You need promotion, especially if you are a newcomer or not in the elite household name circle. And you’re always competing with the next batch of books coming on steam. On the plus side, there’s the digital publishing revolution. This has opened up a whole new land of opportunity for writers to self-publish, particularly for authors whose books are rights reverted.

And on Indie publishing – would you consider it?

Indie publishing is massive. Some of it is really bad – but some is excellent. I attended the Historic Novel Conference in London last year where an award was presented for the most professional self-published novel. The shortlist was of an extremely high standard and the covers, design and presentation on a par with, and better, than many traditionally published books. I’d certainly consider self-publishing – but I’m slightly daunted by the idea of promoting my books online. I’m not a Luddite but my evolution from that status to techie is a slow progression.

Thoughts on literary competitions and awards?

Their importance can’t be denied. They establish reputations, open new doors in terms of exposure at literary festivals etc, and offer a writer a track record when it’s time to negotiate a new contract.

And if you’ve ever had any – how do you handle negative reviews?

I’ve had negative reviews. When my first book came out I had an appalling review in which my book was described as ‘risible’. I wanted to crawl under the carpet and stay there for a week. The next review for the same book described it as ‘brilliant’, Who was right? And does it matter? The only opinion I needed was from my readers and they obliged by making my book a best seller.  Amazon – with its one to five-star reviews – has added a whole new dimension to reviews. Unfortunately, you can’t send such reviews up in smoke or flitter them into the litter bin. The only thing to do with reviews, good, bad or indifferent, is to wear them lightly on your shoulders – unless, of course, you read a constructive one that resonates with your heart and points out a flaw in the structure of your novel that you were unwilling to acknowledge. Such reviews are invaluable.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Lots of advice – but, mainly, sit down and start your book. Let it flow, don’t worry about how it reads, spelling, grammar, style etc. Just get your idea down as fast as you can. The real work will start once that’s done. You will edit, change, agonise, sweat over the next stages – but you’ve written down the bones of your idea and given yourself the momentum to continue.

In relation to the ‘Write what you know’ advice that we hear so often? Agree or Disagree?

Agree – but don’t be afraid to plumb your imagination.

Is there a book by another writer that you wish you had written?

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

And six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with?

Anita Shreve, Margaret Atwood, Nicola Sturgeon, Bruce Springsteen, Stephen Fry, A.A.Gill.

Finally, June, can you share with us what you are working on now?

I’ve just finished a novel, another psychological thriller about a couple who, having reared their family, decide to separate and seek what they believe will be the perfect divorce, one without acrimony or blame. But two things conspire to thwart them – the collapse of the Celtic Tiger and the arrival into their lives of a woman they both knew when they were teenagers. She’s a woman with a score to settle – and the book explores how the past catches up with them in ways they never expected.

Stay connected to June’s [and Laura Elliot’s] writings via Facebook and website links below…

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