ARTS AND FEATURES — 16 May 2014

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Ciara O’Neill, a Carlow woman working in London’s financial quarter, tells Shelley Marsden about writing the perfect ‘chick lit’ beach read…

Finchley-based writer Ciara O’Neill wrote her first ‘chick lit’ novel while working full-time in the financial industry, but the seed for writing was first planted during weekend visits to her granny in Carlow Town, where they would devour Mills and Boons novels like they were going out of fashion.

The mother-of-two, originally from Carlow, says: “I was about eleven, twelve and I remember thinking even then, they’re so easy to read, I could write one of these myself. Someone gave me a typewriter, my aunt I think, so I’d write all kinds of things on that. My gran had a friend we’d sometimes go and visit who had her own stash of romance novels so there we’d be, me and these two 70 year olds with our Mills and Boons. It was hilarious.”

Ciara kept writing, and started to build up a stash of half-finished novels, scribbles and short stories. At one point, the pile was growing so big, she decided it was time to have a go at completing something, or give up on her hobby altogether.

She worried a little about the ribbing she’d get from her mostly male colleagues about a slushy novel with its fair share of sex scenes, but says she decided to go for it, and the banter when her book, Legally Wed, finally came out was a ‘five-minute wonder’.

“The guys were like, ‘So what pages should we go to, Ciara?’  for a few days, and that was it. My book’s nothing like Fifty Shades by the way, it just has a few raunchy scenes…!”

My book’s nothing like Fifty Shades… by the way, it just has a few raunchy scenes…!”

It was written while Ciara’s two children were still young enough that they needed supervision, so she would wait till she’d put them to bed and then whip the laptop out to write a few chapters. Sometimes she’d work till 2am, and get up again at 7am for the office.

“I wouldn’t do that every night of the week, but I seemed to get a second wind about 10pm, it worked out ok. Then at the weekends I’d do some more. They’re grown up now – my boy’s 26 and my girl 17, so I have my weekends totally free forwriting!”

Her husband, a chef, is Moroccan and so some of that writing takes place in Morocco, on the family farm just outside Casablanca.

Legally Wed

Legally Wed would fall easily into the chick lit category, I suggest, and as a fan of the genre and female writers like Marian Keyes and Maeve Binchey (“she has such a talent for people”), she doesn’t argue with me.

The plot goes along the lines of a traditional romance, with a bit of a twist. A U.S. businessman discovers through an administrative glitch that his right to work in the UK has run out. There’s a big deal going on, it’s in the middle of the credit crunch and without him being in the UK the client won’t deal with things.

A win-win situation

His work colleague, one of the senior managers in the firm, has just bought a great big house in North London and decides they could get married – a win-win situation.

She keeps her job, he gets to stay in the UK, but what they don’t realise is that they have to stay married for three years to qualify for the right to stay, putting up a front that they’re secretly dating.

Says Ciara: “She comes from a family where they want all the women married off, but she was always the career woman and never thought it would happen. He’s a guy that would have been in the press snapped with drop-dead gorgeous, so why wasn’t he picking them?

“He’s got a philanthropic side though, and these vacuous women are not the women he’d really want to associate with. The two turn out to be in lust with each other, so it’s whether it will go any further.”

For the full interview, see this week’s Irish World newspaper (17 May 2014).

For more on the author, see www.ciaraoneill.com and www.amazon.co.uk/Ciara-ONeill.

 

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