Please join us in welcoming USA Today bestselling author Carlene O’Connor to our page.
Describe your favorite writing spot or space.
I used to love working in coffee shops. Maybe it’s because I began my official writing career in Seattle where they had the best creative coffee houses I’d ever seen. But now, besides living near coffee houses that are more the Starbucks variety (and not the fancy ones), I have become like Goldilocks. This chair is too hard, this one has no outlet, this one is directly under a blast of AC, do I leave my laptop here if I have to use the restroom? The list goes on and on. So now, my favorite place is to write from home.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
It depends what phase of a project I am in. But I do start in the morning after drinking coffee and walking the dog. Then I usually write until I hit my word count goal. That can be anywhere from a few hours up to four hours. If I’m toward the end of a project, I can spend six to eight hours writing.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I used to get a year a book. Then one year I was asked to write two. Then another year asked to write two full-length novels and a novella. Then in June of 2019 was asked to write three full-length mysteries. I just completed that. It was a lot. I’m looking forward to a slower pace this year. But it has taught me that I can write a novel in four months if I’m pressed. Otherwise, it’s really nice to have a year.
What comes first for you, the plot or characters?
It’s really hard to separate those because the protagonist drives the plot with his or her story goal. If I do come up with a scenario first it often stalls unless I fall in love with the protagonist needed to pull it off. Want, Obstacle, Action is the holy trinity of dramatic movement, and in order for a driving want to be present, it must come from character. Action is character, and action is story, and action is plot. I bet if you stop and think of your favorite stories, it’s characters who leap to mind before plot. Try it.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Sometimes I use names of people I like. Other times names will have a resonance or meaning for me. Sometimes I Google baby names to see the meanings. It can be fun if the name has a resonance or meaning, even if the readers never know it. Once I did it by accident. Siobhan O’Sullivan, the main protagonist in my Irish Village Mystery series, was named after a friend, and an ex. But I was beyond thrilled when I realized her initials were SOS– perfect for a gal solving murders don’t you think?
Can you hear your characters talking?
Absolutely. That’s why I cannot listen to the audiobooks even though I know Caroline Lennon does a fantastic job and people email me all the time that they love listening to her, and the story in an Irish accent. But they sound so real in my head, that I have a hard time hearing another version and I get kind of superstitious about it. Some day I will listen to them, maybe when I’m no longer writing the series.
Were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one? For how long?
I think in a sense I’d still consider myself part time because I also teach a writing workshop. But it is more full time than before as far as income is concerned. And I’ve cut back on the number of workshops I teach. It took me 15 years to get here.
How much time do you spend on research before starting a book? While writing?
I believe in doing research after a first draft. Otherwise it can become a procrastination tool. But sometimes I can’t get past a scene unless I do some research, so I do make exceptions. It’s both before, after, and during multiple drafts. For my new release, Murder in Connemara, my father and I were lucky enough to take a trip to Connemara months before I wrote the book. But throughout I take trips, watch You Tube videos, read reference books, do Internet searches, quiz Irish friends. I had a lot to learn about fairies for Murder in an Irish Cottage.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
A trip to Italy! I went to Florence, Rome, Tuscany, and Venice.
What is your favorite childhood book(s)?
- Sam Bangs and Moonshine by Evaline Ness.
- Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
- Everything by Beverly Cleary
- Everything by Doctor Seuss
- Everything by Judy Blume
- Everything by Lois Duncan
- Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden
- The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Seriously we would be here all day. I was and am a reading-addict.
What advice would you give to aspiring novelists?
Don’t quit. Study the craft. Write. It’s a journey. Allow your first drafts to be messy and rough. They are called rough drafts for a reason. Don’t keep re-writing, finish your first draft FIRST and then rewrite. And rewrite again. And again.
Carlene O’Connor comes from a long line of Irish storytellers. Her great-grandmother emigrated from Ireland to America filled with tales and the stories have been flowing ever since. Of all the places across the pond she’s wandered, she fell most in love with a walled town in County Limerick and was inspired to create the town of Kilbane, County Cork. Carlene currently divides her time between New York and the Emerald Isle.
She is the USA Today bestselling author of THE IRISH VILLAGE MYSTERIES and HOME TO IRELAND MYSTERIES. Her most recent in the Irish Village series, Murder in an Irish Cottage, received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, and the narrator of the audiobook won the Earphone Awards for her voice performance. The fourth in the series, Murder in an Irish Pub has been on Barnes and Noble Mass paperback bestsellers list for 12 weeks and counting.