Q & A with Caroline E. Farrell for #IrishWritersWed
This week on #IrishWritersWed, I’m doing something a little different.
Back in October 2017, Caroline Farrell, author of the award-winning Lady Beth, was all set to guest on my Wednesday feature. Unfortunately Hurricane Ophelia put a stop to that as I had no WiFi.
I did post Caroline’s words on a different day with a great guest post entitled Moonstruck in Make-Believe but I always was hoping I could get Caroline back…on a Wednesday this time!!!
So as I have Caroline here now today, we decided to have a chat and I got the opportunity to ask Caroline a few ceisteanna (questions).
I hope you enjoy…
Caroline you are a multi-talented lady ~ a writer, a film-maker, an author and a blogger. What did you WANT to be ‘when you grew up’? I can only imagine the places your mind travelled to when you were small!
Well, thank you for that wonderful compliment, Mairead – you are very kind! And yes, for sure, my mind escaped from reality and into many made-up adventures when I was small! I watched a lot of films – the Saturday matinees on the telly – and loved to be transported into the worlds of Doris Day, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Shirley Temple, Laurel and Hardy, as well as the noir classics with the likes of Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Mitchum, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Story was important to me, though I couldn’t articulate why that was at such a young age.
Now I understand that as well as absorbing the influences around us, we make meaning of our own experiences through other narratives, whether they be fact or fiction. I think I was aged about 7 when I discovered the joy of reading, libraries and creating my own stories.
At the launch of my novel, LADY BETH, my aunt reminded me of a conversation I had with her when I was about 12 and how I had told her that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, so I guess my fate was sealed even then!
I read that you also work on a freelance basis as a cultural events manager. What exactly is this and what does it entail?
I worked as a full-time Librarian for 20 years, and a huge part of that involved regularly programming for literary, film, cultural events and workshops, as well as working for 7 years on the committee of an annual book festival that was produced through the library service. I absolutely loved it all and so, when I left the library service, it was just a natural progression to keep doing that on a freelance basis. In a nutshell, what it actually involves is reading a lot of novels, watching a lot of films, and sourcing authors or films (depending on the remit). Finding suitable venues, marketing actions and working within budgets are also elements of the process. Coming up with concepts or themes is the really fun part, and the icing on the cake is introducing audiences to new work and fresh voices, as well as established and inspiring wordsmiths and filmmakers.
You obviously have a huge passion for film. Is there one particular genre that stands out for you? Where did this passion come from?
Watching films provided a certain comfort to me as a child, and that just continued into adulthood. I watch most types of film, though I am constantly drawn to the horror and supernatural genre. My early childhood experiences meant that I spent some time in the care of nuns in a convent orphanage, and that in itself provided an entire gamut of experiences from fear to fascination – and it most definitely entailed ‘otherworldly’ aspects! I guess my passion for the complexities of human nature was sparked from there. Real life, at its worst moments, can be frightening and overwhelming. Horror films provide us with a form of escapism where we can explore some of the complex issues of life, death and everything in between – but as viewers, we control the level and intensity of that experience. I don’t watch what I would describe as slasher/splatter though! I prefer compelling chillers like ‘The Innocents’, ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, ‘The Others’, ‘The Devil’s Backbone’, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, ‘The Babadook’, ‘The Lodgers’, and recently, ‘The Shape of Water’. Imaginative storytelling, fantastical fairytales and parables for adults that leave a lasting impression.
Your involvement in hosting creative writing classes must be very inspiring. Are these classes for adults or children? Can you share with us a little about this?
I’m just moving back into facilitating creative writing workshops now that I am working freelance. For several years, I worked with all age groups of children and adults and always loved the challenges and delights of enabling emerging writers to gain confidence in their writing. I have a post grad in adult education and facilitation, and particularly enjoyed working with adults moving back into education, improving their literacy and reading skills, or finding their writing voice having buried it deep for many years. I understand what it feels like to have a world of ideas floating inside the mind, and needing an avenue for expression, and more importantly, the confidence to share them. I was that soldier and if I can mentor another writer into taking that first step, I am happy out.
Your recent success with your novel Lady Beth must be very exciting. Please do share with us all a little from the past twelve months.
I pushed LADY BETH out into the world on 28th February, 2017, and what a cracker of a year it has been! I published it independently, mainly because I felt that I couldn’t do any more to it, and I also needed to move on to other work. Another reason for self-publishing was that having seen so many extremely talented writing colleagues face rejection after rejection, I could see the long road of submissions ahead of me, and perhaps the same amount of rejections. And I guess I am impatient! So, I took a risk, a mad one some might say! The novel received praise from several very established writers that I admire and I will always be so grateful to them for their generosity of encouragement to a newbie outside of the traditionally published community. And of course, the icing on the cake was winning the Carousel Aware Prize for Best Novel. That award also enabled me to get the book onto the shelves of the larger bookstores, making it far more accessible to readers. And of course, the interest from book bloggers like Swirl and Thread, and several others, as well as libraries and the very excellent Rick O’Shea Book Club, have given me encouragement and a platform to talk about my work. As a Librarian, I always knew that readers rocked. As a writer, that belief has been truly validated.
You are qualified in many areas Caroline, but one that I would love to know more about is the fact you are also a librarian. Have you actively worked in a library at any stage? Was it a role you enjoyed?
I returned to education as a young mother, and from the very start, had a plan to become a librarian. I started out as a library assistant, studying as I worked to gain the qualifications that would enable me to go for promotions. It is a wonderful job, and very rewarding. Libraries are the last democratic space, and although books are, and will always be at the core of the service, libraries now provide so much more for the needs of every citizen through supports to education, leisure, arts, culture and well-being. I was very lucky to work with some amazing people, and to develop and manage projects around literacy, literature, book clubs, self-improvement, physical and mental health supports and life-long learning. Yes, I would say I enjoyed it all. After 20 years working full-time though, and juggling family commitments, health issues and my writing and filmmaking projects, I was ready for a less hectic lifestyle, and to devote as much time to my creative work as I possibly could.
You have a new novel in the pipeline with a Gothic twist. Can you tell us any more about it?
Yes, and urban ghost story, IONA’S HOUSE, and it certainly has gothic influences. I’m still working on it, and loving the process, and my protagonist is another complex woman with a dark history!
Caroline you are a big supporter of Women Writing in all its forms. The Irish writing community is always so strongly praised by many female writers. Where do you think this strength and support has arisen from?
It’s a small enough network in Ireland, and women in general are pretty good in terms of connecting and being approachable anyway. I think that we are becoming more confident in putting our work out there. I also believe that, regardless of your gender, if you are successful with your writing, you should hold the door open for the next person coming up behind you. Share the knowledge, highlight the pitfalls so others can avoid them, and encourage others to take that first step through sharing your positive experiences. The support of my work by the female writing community – and men too – has definitely been heartening to me, and I would always reciprocate that support in any way I can. Support from readers should also be acknowledged. Access to reading material has never been better, and therefore readers have more choices in terms of literature and deliverable formats, which means that there is something to suit every taste. Readers also have more access to their favourite authors through social media, blogs, online book clubs and literary festivals, and all that interaction can only be a positive thing in terms of creating a supportive book loving community.
An award-winning producer, across film festivals worldwide, is an incredible achievement Caroline. How does it feel to receive such recognition from your peers and the film community in general?
Getting out there and creating a film that is relatable is the best way to gain respect from the film community, as is being mindful of the roles of every cast and crew member involved in helping to realise the vision. Film is such a collaborative medium that all the plaudits belong to everyone involved, from script to screen. There isn’t an aspect of the process that is not challenging, and so yes, it is an amazing feeling when something you’ve developed from scratch wins an award. Finding audiences is also a challenge, so every time a screening happens, it is a reward for the effort it takes to produce a film that people will want to take the time to see.
And finally, Caroline what does the future hold? Have you any exciting plans that you can share with us here today?
My short film, FRAMED, is now at the final editing stage and I will be submitting that to festivals this year, which is very exciting! As mentioned already, I’m working on my novel, IONA’S HOUSE, while the sequel to LADY BETH percolates away in the back of my brain. There are some public readings and events lined up too, and more stories to develop, but that lot should keep me going for a while!
Thank you Caroline so much for such a fantastic chat!!
You can find out more about Caroline on:
Website ~ https://carolinefarrellwriter.com/
Twitter ~ @CarolineAuthor
Facebook ~ @CarolineFarrellAuthor