Hello, thanks for looking up my website. I'm a writer and lecturer but mostly a writer -since the day I first figured out that the words in Dick and Jane said 'Look, Dick! Look, Jane!' (a vitally important text), books and words have been my life. I love to read them, write them, and help other people write some too. I write crime fiction as Claire McGowan and contemporary women's fiction as Eva Woods. Go to my blog to read more of my musings about writing and the creative process.
I also write scripts, articles, and endless to-do lists. I'd love to say I have tons of cool other hobbies but really, I don't. I am convinced that when I die it will be by being crushed by a gigantic stack of books.
I was born in Northern Ireland in 1981, and now live in London, where I spend a lot of time dodging urban foxes and tutting at people who are too slow on escalators. I like to think of myself as being a cross between Jessica Fletcher (only slightly younger), Carrie Bradshaw (only with fewer shoes), and Sylvia Plath (only more....alive).
Q & A
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I started my first novel when I was nine, though I only got three pages in. I used to spend hours writing ideas for stories and drawing pictures of my characters. When I grew up it was still my dream, but I’d convinced myself, without really trying, that it wasn’t going to happen. I spent my early twenties either holed up in libraries reading medieval French, or mooching around the world making notes. I had lots of ideas but never finished anything. It wasn’t until I was twenty-five that I really started trying. When I finished writing my first book, after two years, it was one of the best moments I’ve ever had. It’s been rewritten about thirty times, and so far not seen the light of day – but I finished it!
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I love how it can transport you. I’m not much of a planner, so the book can take me in unexpected directions, discovering entirely new places and people. It’s a form of magic, really. Also, you can do it anywhere – I’ve written sitting in the luggage rack of an overcrowded train before, and been perfectly happy.
Do you tend to begin with a character or a plot?
They’re usually quite entwined. I’ll tend to have the spark of an idea, a scene or situation, and the characters will develop from that. I don’t plan out my characters or write back stories for them. I have to just get a feel for what they’re like and how they would behave – the same way you get to know people in real life; they are gradually revealed.
What and who are some of your favourite books and authors?
The books I love best combine beautiful writing with gripping plots. The Secret History is, perhaps predictably, one of my favourite ever books – a lesson in how to write breathtaking prose that demands to be read over and over. It’s a big favourite among many crime writers. I also love John Irving, Lionel Shriver, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and in crime Tana French (another Irish writer).
What advice would you give to a writer just starting out in his/her career?
My number one piece of advice, which I tell people until they’re sick to death of me, is this: finish your book. If you try to make every one of your 100,000 words perfect, you will literally never finish. But if you carry on writing and don’t stop, before too long you’ll have a book, and that’s something you can work with. When I finally finished one I felt something click, and realised I’d be able to do it again. And again . .