The Librarian’s Cellar: Caroline Finnerty Reviews ‘The Fallout’ by Margaret Scott

A series of guest reviews on inspiring work, old and new. In the second of the series, Caroline Finnerty reviews The Fallout by Margaret Scott.

 

We usually hear the term ‘The Fallout’ in reference to the aftermath of the economic crash, however the clever title of Margaret Scott’s second novel, deals with the fallout amongst a group of colleagues in fictional bank DKB during the early years of the global financial meltdown.

The story opens with the arrival of two registered letters: one is addressed to Declan the Managing Director and the other to Geraldine the HR director. We are left in the dark as to the contents of those letters but soon it is revealed that Olivia, a long-serving member of staff, walked out of her job one day. We are left to guess what drove Olivia to leave in such an abrupt manner and the story unfolds through reporter style as Olivia’s colleagues are interviewed by the HR department to get to the bottom of what really happened.

Scott really captures the cutthroat corporate environment, the every man/woman for themselves attitude that can often prevail in these types of workplaces. She also shines the spotlight on the pressure and the day-to-day juggling that mothers in particular can face when they return to the workplace.

This is a book about the lives of ordinary people affected by the economic crisis. There are the stories of the people working all hours to pay negative-equity laden mortgages, afraid to say no to an increasing workload in case they find themselves made redundant. It also touches on the ego-crisis of a once successful, flashy, alpha-male Gavin, who reluctantly finds himself in the position of stay-at-home dad as his wife Leona takes on the mantle of breadwinner. Or take Mary, a loyal employee who has been overlooked for promotion in the past and now has a bone to pick. Is it fair that her colleagues who are mothers get to leave early to collect their children, yet because she is childless, she is expected to stay late and pick up the pieces?

Scott cleverly structures the story so that we don’t find out what actually happened to Olivia and the contents of the two registered letters until the very end. And dare I say it but is the ending left open for a potential sequel?

To quote the character of Leona, “It takes a certain kind of woman, with a certain drive and focus, to be able to maintain the same level of career after she’s had children, to the one she had before children.” This is the theme that is debated at the heart of this novel – can us women really have it all?

 

Publisher details on The Fallout Here

Caroline Finnerty is the author of the books ‘In a Moment’,  ‘The Last Goodbye’ and ‘Into The Night Sky’ and ‘My Sister’s Child’. She has also had the pleasure of compiling ‘If I was A Child Again’, a non-fiction collection of stories from some of Ireland’s best writers, journalists and TV personalties, with all royalties being donated to Barnardos.  

 

Doing it with Passion! Writers in Ireland Series: Caroline Finnerty

Caroline Finnerty is the author of the novels ‘In a Moment’, ‘The Last Goodbye’ and ‘Into The Night Sky’. Her fourth novel ‘My Sister’s Child’ will be published in September. She lives on the banks of the Grand Canal in County Kildare with her husband, three young children and their dog.

 

When did you first begin to write, Caroline?

I have memories of making little books complete with illustrations as a child; I would staple them together and ‘design’ their covers. I also remember in secondary school being really excited when our English teacher gave us essays to write while everyone else was groaning but it wasn’t until I reached my early twenties that I had an idea for a story that I thought it would make a great book. I started writing it but ultimately I never finished it however I had caught the bug and have been writing ever since. I was probably writing for about 8 or 9 years on and off before I got my publishing deal.

And do you write everyday?

As much as I’d like to, I have to be honest and say that currently no I don’t get to write every day. My children are quite young so I’m still trying to squeeze it in around family life. I do think though that if you can, writing every day really helps to create flow and momentum so I strive to achieve as near to it as I can.

So, how long, on average, does it take you to complete a book?


Usually around a year, although the book I’m currently working on has taken 8 months for a first draft and another 8 months of rewrites.

Write what you know? Agree or Disagree?


I Disagree. Not everyone will experience everything in their lifetime. That’s the whole point of fiction – you have to make it up. How would Harry Potter or Twilight have ever been written? What we do know though are feelings – we know how it feels to want something desperately, to be scared or sad or happy or disappointed. If you don’t have direct experience with something you need to draw on your knowledge of your feelings from a similar encounter and try to put them into your work.

Any advice for aspiring writers?


Don’t let the self-doubt put you off, keep going until you reach the end of a first draft, then you go back to the start and revise but don’t be put off by your initial drafts. Everyone thinks that their own work is awful.

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


It’s hard. Generally, (even if it kills me) I will try to recognise constructive feedback and use it to improve my writing. If I find myself really upset by something somebody has written I always remind myself that even my favourite books have had bad reviews. Sometimes it can be hard if somebody gives you a bad review because maybe you have used swear words in your book or if they don’t agree with the viewpoint expressed. For example with my book ‘The Last Goodbye’ somebody left me a scathing review on Amazon because the characters in it, Ben and Kate were having a child out-of-wedlock even though the book is set in 2012 . . .

Are there any books by other writers that you wish you had written?


The Snapper by Roddy Doyle because it’s side-splittingly funny. Life after Life by Kate Atkinson because it’s so bloody clever.

The agent question, Caroline. Do you think it necessary to have one?

I am represented by the lovely Sallyanne Sweeney of Mulcahy Associates. I don’t think it’s necessary to have an agent – I signed my first deal without one but if you want to make a career out of writing and to negotiate the best possible contract & sell your work internationally, then I think it is necessary. Also they are a good sounding board to air your thoughts and ideas to. It’s also nice to have somebody in your corner, rooting for you.

How about the marketing  and PR of your work – do you contribute?

Absolutely. Social media, organising launches, contacting journalists, coming up with PR angles – it’s all part of the job nowadays. Authors are expected to do a lot of the marketing/publicity themselves.

From an author’s point of view, do you think it essential to get involved with social media?


Admittedly I’m not great at it but nowadays publishers expect it. The days of the reclusive author, sitting by a typewriter and making the odd appearance a couple of literary festivals a year are gone.

The publishing trade in general seems to be transforming, would you agree?

I’m only recent enough to it but from what I see, the world of publishing is changing rapidly. Publishers are playing it safe and aren’t willing to take a punt on debut authors like before. It’s not just enough to have a good book; they want people who have already built a ‘platform’. I know of several self-published people who are proactive about marketing their own books and as a result have been approached by agents/publishers about their work. Also, when you go into a bookshop you will see so many different authors from all over the world whereas previously the range was much narrower and these books wouldn’t have made it to Irish shelves. Traditionally published authors are also competing against self-published ones so it can feel very hard to stand out in the crowd.

And self-publishing?
Would you consider it?

I definitely would consider self-publishing. I think many traditionally published authors are now trying the hybrid model, where they do a bit of both.

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

I’ve just sent back edits for my next book ‘My Sister’s Child’, which will be out in September. ‘My Sister’s Child’ is the story of two sisters, and one huge question. Jo is the elder sister, responsible and hardworking. Isla is carefree and has always avoided being tied down. The sisters have always had a strained relationship, but when Isla asks Jo for something that rocks the very foundations of the family that Jo has worked so hard to have, Jo is horrified. And, as Isla’s demands become relentless, Jo is threatened with losing the one thing she holds most dearly in the wreckage. Can the sister’s fragile relationship withstand Isla’s request or will they ever be able to recover from the fallout?

 

Check out Caroline’s website and her Facebook Page here