It’s #IrishWritersWed lovely people!!
Today I am joined by Claire Allan, former journalist and now bestselling author of eight novels.
On her 40th birthday, Claire woke up to a new day, jobless and contract-less. Here, in her own words, she describes the feelings of panic and trepidation that ensued and how the friendship of some very special women brought her through the difficult days during this transition period.
Entitled ‘Changing Lanes – with a little help from my friends’, I’ll hand you all over to Claire now. I do hope you enjoy!!
Changing lanes – with a little help from my Friends
by Claire Allan
I turned 40 on the 21st of June, 2016. I knew two things that morning when I woke up.
The first was that I had just taken voluntary redundancy from my career of 17 years as a journalist for a local newspaper so that I could devote myself to my writing career.
The second was that I was also out of contract after writing eight women’s fiction books.
I had made the decision a few months before not to renew my contract with my then publisher. Although we had worked together and I will always be grateful to my wonderful editor Paula Campbell, I knew I had to take a chance and try and shift my career up to the next level.
So, on my 40th birthday. I woke up jobless and contract-less and a wave of panic washed over me.
Oh, and did I mention, I had decided to forsake my traditional women’s fiction genre (a genre which saw me sell more than 100,000 copies of my books)?
I berated myself for my madness in walking away from a book deal (a book deal in the bush being worth two in the hand, and all that) and the little voice of doubt who had stayed silent while I completed the redundancy process in work decided to speak again. This time it asked, over and over, “but what if you’re not good enough?” or “What happens if no one wants you?” and “change genre? Have you actually taken leave of your senses?”
The fear was real.
And as everyone knows – when fear kicks in (really, really kicks in) it becomes almost impossible to write. Any self-belief I had evaporated into thin air.
So how did I, as a writer, overcome that fear?
The truth was I had to work very hard, and sit down to write every day whether I wanted to or not.
I had to learn to silence that voice of doubt. If I’m honest, I had to learn to write in a completely different way.
And I did. I wrote, and wrote and a psychological thriller emerged which I fell more and more in love with. I took constructive criticism from editors and writers. I bowed to their experience. I spend hours doing my research. I wrote and rewrote, and the rewrote again.
One year and one week after my 40th birthday, I received the email of my dreams. An offer of a publishing contract with Avon, an imprint of Harper Collins.
But if you want to know the real key to what got me through the doubt and the stress of the year of writing a book out of contract? What helped quieten the doubt most of all? The answer is, my cheerleaders. A group of fellow Irish authors who picked me up every time I fell down, who offered constant encouragement and friendship and laughs when needed.
There were a lot of laughs – especially with my fellow Poolbeg authors Caroline Finnerty and Margaret Scott. These girls deserve a medal for their comedy skills.
People often comment on the supportive nature of the Irish women’s writing community and I can confirm it really is a remarkable thing. Writing is such a solitary business most of the time that having people there, online or on the end of the phone or, as in the case of my writing BFF Fionnuala Kearney on FaceTime is invaluable. The number of times she saw my haggard face as I swore at my computer screen and questioned my own madness was unreal.
The Irish writing community, regardless of what stage in your career you are at, has a way of reaching out and making people feel welcome. Last year and into this it had a way of telling me, quietly but confidently: “Keep going. You are good enough. You’ve got this.”
It was the antithesis to the little self-doubt voice that had taken up residence on my shoulder – but the collective voices of my fellow writers was louder than my own self doubt.
I cannot put into words my gratitude to those ladies, who are very firmly in my “friends for life” category now.
So when people tell you that we have a great writing community here in Ireland, believe them. Believe in people supporting each other, lifting each other up, making each other laugh and being genuinely happy for each other’s success.
My debut thriller ‘Her Name Was Rose’ will be published on June 14 2018, a week before my 42nd birthday. The timing could not be more perfect – and I genuinely could not have done it without “my girls”.
Claire Allan is the bestselling author of eight novels. A former journalist, she lives with her family (including two cats and a newly acquired puppy) in Derry, Northern Ireland.
She wrote her first novel as a challenge to herself as she approached her 30th birthday.
Her first eight novels were published by Poolbeg Press, and her forthcoming debut thriller, ‘Her Name Was Rose’ will be published by Avon in June 2018.
You can read more about Claire at www.claireallan.com
Or follow her on Twitter: @claireallan