From Dublin, Ireland, Carolann Copland is the founder of Carousel Creates, a writers’ centre in the Dublin Mountains. She has a Bachelor of Education in English and Drama and has been a teacher for sixteen years. Her first book, Summer Triangle was published by Emu Ink in October 2013, followed by Scarred launched in June 2015 and a third novel is currently underway. Carolann has also lived in the Middle East and the United Kingdom. She is married to Neil and is a mother of three children aged twelve to twenty-four. She is a member of two writing groups and works to promote other writing groups in Dublin. Through mentoring writers of all ages, from all walks of life, Carolann is happiest when she is sharing her passion for writing.
Welcome to the series, Carolann. Begin by telling us about your writing journey so far?
I’m not sure if I used to scribble stories as a child, but I definitely told stories. (Or lies?) As an adult, I first discovered writing stories when I went to university to study English and Drama at the age of 30! The last thing my English professor said to me when I left was Don’t forget to write and he wasn’t talking about a postcard… I was forty before I eventually joined my first creative writing class and I became addicted. I was writing novels for about three years before I published.
And how do you structure your writing time?
I need to write every day. I have a full-time job as a teacher so my writing day begins at 6am and ends at 7.30am. I often find time later in the day too but that’s a bonus… and then there are the school holidays. Most of my first drafts are written in the summer. My first drafts are written in a few months. The re-writes and edits take at least a year.
How would you describe your novels, in terms of genre?
I want to write stories that I haven’t read yet. My reading is of such a wide variety of genres and my novels reflect this. Real life is not trapped in only crime, politics or romance. Life is all of these and more.
Write what you know? Agree or Disagree?
Disagree. I do believe we should use our experiences to authenticate our writing, but writers are inquisitive by nature. I want to learn about a subject before I write about it, but I don’t need to have lived it. If we could only write what we know, novels would be quite boring. Our lives are not always about death, heart-break and horror. But our readers want to read about such things as well as love, relationships and redemption. We make stuff up. It’s what we do.
What is your opinion on the importance of literary competitions and awards?
I think that the written word, like every art, needs competition to keep it moving forward. But we shouldn’t find ourselves too engrossed in only reading award-winning authors.
Do you contribute to the marketing and PR of your work?
Completely. I think the days of authors writing the book, then sitting back and letting it all happen are gone. All my author colleagues work very hard on their own marketing and PR. I do put things by my publisher before I make big decisions though. Two heads are always going to work better than one. I also run Carousel Writers’ Centre in Dublin, where I facilitate writing courses for adults and children, so my life is pretty much surrounded by writing and writers.
And social media?
Social media is very important to me. My books meet their first readers through facebook and twitter before the snowball effect takes root. Also, the support that others in the writing industry give on social media is the push that keeps my pen flowing.
Do you think it would help to have an agent?
I don’t use an agent. When I’m struggling through PR and marketing, I do sometimes wish that I could let someone else take the strain. But my publisher is so supportive and knows the business so well that I don’t feel the need for a middle person. She’s bossy too in the best kind of way. I have huge respect for her.
What’s your opinion of the current world of publishing?
I think that the current international world of publishing is at a very exciting crossroads. The ebook has contributed to a massive increase in readers and authors. Our reading choices are much wider but it can also create a feeling of being swamped. Nationally I think we’re taking things a lot slower. Many Irish authors are saying that they might take the plunge into independent publishing but few are jumping.
And on Indie publishing?
I have read so many brilliantly indie published books over the last few years. I’m loving the choice that the readers now have and the competition it gives to traditionally published books. My own books are independently published using an assisted publishing company, Emu Ink, and for now this suits me very well. My readers hold me in as high esteem as my traditionally published writing colleagues. Indie Publishing works for me.
If you’ve ever had any: How do you handle negative reviews?
I don’t think you’ve made it as a writer until you get people thinking on your subject and arguing back at you. I like that. I’ve never had anyone tell me that my writing sucks. I’ll let you know how that feels if it happens.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Have faith in your story. Stick your bum to the seat. Write every day. Discipline your time on social media. Involve yourself in creative experiences. Mix with other writers. Love what you do.
And finally, Carolann, can you share with us what you are working on now?
I have just spent the summer in Andalucia, writing a novel set between Spain in post-civil war years and modern-day Ireland. I am deeply in love with all things Spanish and it was inevitable that it would creep into my writing eventually.