Interview with Author Denise Deegan + Multiple Book Giveaway Preview

*Wouldn’t it be great if you could be 16 again? Come back tomorrow to read the review of Denise Deegan’s latest novel, And By The Way, and enter for a chance to win a copy as part of a 5 book international giveaway! Keep reading to see how she jumped into the world of writing in the midst of her life.

Denise Deegan is a best-selling author of four novels: Turning Turtle, Time in a Bottle, Love Comes Tumbling, and Do You Want What I Want? In February, her first Young-Adult novel, And By The Way, made its debut as the first in a contemporary YA series: The Butterfly Novels. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, Denise has been published in the UK, Germany, Holland, and Korea. She’s here to tell us how she went from running her own business to full-time author!

1) When you decided to write your first book, you were a successful business entrepreneur. But you decided to give it all up and write instead in the end. How exactly did that all fall into place?

I was running a PR business and was pregnant with my second child. My first was a toddler. Life was busy. A friend asked me to do a Masters in PR with her. For some bizarre reason, I signed up. Then she backed out. I loved doing the Masters, though. While doing my Literature Review, I needed a book to help with my research. It didn’t exist. When I completed the Masters, I decided to write that book. It was published a year later.

After that, it was like being bitten by a bug. I just had to write a novel. I started one. Because life was so busy, though, the novel always ended up last on a very long list. I became a very frustrated and (I’m told) angry person! My husband and I had MANY conversations about what I should do. In the end, we decided that I would give up the business, write a novel and spend more time with the kids.

2) What did everyone think of your decision?

Apart from my husband, everyone thought I was mad. They were right. I was             walking away from a successful and profitable business. I had no publisher, no             agent. No book. By then, though, people knew that argument would be pointless. I’d already given up the following careers: nursing, china restoration, pharmaceutical sales, lecturing. I’d left a secure job to set up in business. I’m sure they can’t believe I’m still writing.

3) I think one of the hardest things I’ve discovered, as a writer is the feeling that my book may never been seen. That’s it is a huge gamble. Did you ever have similar thoughts?

We looked at it as a lifestyle choice – I was going to be following my dream and around more for the family. I thought it wouldn’t matter so much if I wasn’t published, as long as I was doing what I loved. That changed once I’d finished the novel, six months later. Publication became hugely important. I felt that everything I’d been doing would be worthless without it. I became very determined, very persistent. I approached getting published like I would have a PR pitch. I did my research, targeted a small number of publishers and agents and ‘sold’ my book. I expected rejection and I got it. Initially.

4) Did you have any experience writing fiction before your first novel, Turning Turtle? How did you prepare yourself to take on such a challenge?

I had no experience. I was wonderfully naïve. Which meant that I wasn’t afraid. I             didn’t see obstacles. I just went for it. I didn’t research how to write a book because I didn’t want my story to be forumlaic. I wanted it to be unique. I also wanted the experience to be fun, an adventure. I took a subject that I loved and had experience of (how the balance of power in a relationship is affected when a woman gives up work) and just started writing. I should say that I took the business of writing very seriously. I had given up a career to write. So I treated it as a career. I wrote every morning, without fail. And I loved it. I have never once regretted my decision.

5) Once you had your ideas and book, how did you get your agent?

From the beginning, I targeted the people I was approaching carefully. When I got             rejections that had words of encouragement in them, I took note of who they were             from. Any advice I got, I took. Most of this was about editing. One agent was             particularly helpful, met me and went through areas I should work on. It was only then I learned about the joy of editing! I spent six weeks working flat out on edits. Then resent the manuscript to those people who had given me advice or encouragement. Two people came back to me – an agent and a publisher. I went with both.

6) Above all, what advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I know many writers. They all have one thing in common – persistence. Stephen King, in his entertaining book, On Writing, writes how when he was trying to get published, he hammered a nail into the wall. Whenever he got a rejection slip, he would slap it up there, and keep on writing. Even before I started to send out my first manuscript to agents and publishers, I’d already started on my second novel. I knew that I would get refusals to my first and I didn’t want that to stop me writing. So, like Stephen King, I just kept on going. It was good to be able to say to publishers and agents that I’d already started on my second book. They do like to be reassured that you have more than one book in you.

7) And By The Way is your first novel as a series, The Butterfly Novels }|{. Where did you get the idea for the series?

I hadn’t planned to write a story about teenagers. I was having coffee with an  artist friend. We thought it might be fun to work together on something and were throwing some ideas around. My friend went to the bathroom. When she was gone, wham, the voice of a sixteen-year-old girl entered my head. She was giving her father a really hard time. She was angry and sarcastic. But also vulnerable. The voice was so strong, I had to write it down. I didn’t know where it would take me – if anywhere at all. I’d started novels before that I had abandoned, months  into them, because they didn’t live up to the original ideas I’d had. I didn’t expect  anything from this. However, I was in the wonderful position of having just finished a two-book deal and I was free.

I decided to play – to just listen to the voice and go on an adventure. I’m still amazed that it has lead to a series. I’m even more amazed at how it has changed my life. I never had the feedback I’ve had with And By The Way. People of all ages are constantly getting in touch (on Facebook, Twitter, email etc) to tell me  how much they loved it.

I have sent books out into the world and never really knew if they had an impact or made a difference. Now teenagers are telling me that they have started to read again because of the And By The Way. Parents are telling me the book has allowed them talk to their kids about issues they’d have found hard to bring up. Adults are telling me the book made them feel sixteen again. My oldest fan (that I know of) is seventy-seven.

8 ) Tell me about your latest book, And By The Way:

A journalist summed up The Butterfly Novels like this, “The complicated lives of             privileged teens.” The series follows three friends, Alex, Sarah and Rachel who             attend Strandbrook College, an elite school in South Dublin. The first book, And By The Way is written from Alex’s point of view. Alex has lost both parents – her mother to cancer and her father, The Rockstar, to work. She is coping the only way she knows how – to draw back from the people she loves so she won’t be hurt again. Luckily, some people won’t accept that, in particular, her friend Rachel and a boy in her class, David McFadden, who knows about loss. This is a story of friendship, first love, loss and learning to live again.

9) You just finished the sequel, And For Your Information. I need to hear some details…or at least subtle hints!

It picks up the story a few weeks later, from the point of view of Sarah, Alex’s friend. In And By The Way, Sarah is, arguably, the most irritating character. In And For Your Information, we get to understand more about her situation, why she is like she is, why she does the things she does. In this book, Sarah starts by going off the rails. Ironically, it helps her. In And For Your Information, Sarah really grows up. I have absolutely fallen in love with her. And am going to find it hard to move on to Rachel for book three.

10) Was it easy writing a sequel as opposed to starting a whole new book?

It was very natural. The characters are very real to me. Very alive. One of the things I love about writing the series, is that I get to explore the same world from different points of view. I love psychology and, through the series, I can explore the different psychologies of the different characters. When I was a teenager I imagined that everyone thought like I did. Luckily, life’s a lot more interesting than that.

I also love the fact that excitement builds with a series. I have got a huge amount of feedback from And By The Way. A lot of people are waiting for And For Your Information. I love that. I love that they have connected with the characters, that they want more and I can give them that. For the first time, I feel I am building a relationship with my readers.  

11) Is it easier to write Young Adult fiction when you have two children?

I think so, yes. Though the voices of the characters come to me (I hear their             dialogue in my head and write it down). I wonder if they’d come as easily if I wasn’t spending so much of my time with teenagers. I don’t consciously listen to my kids to improve my dialogue but I will notice certain new expressions that they are using. Their language is constantly changing. I love it.

I wonder, though, if I like writing YA mostly because I still feel like a teenager most of the time.

12) You live in Dublin, Ireland. One of the many things I discovered while reading And By The Way was the beautiful ocean images illustrated in it. Tell some of your favorite things about Ireland that you love.

OK, for the record, not the rain or the unpredictability of the weather. Funnily, I             love the people most. If I ever think of emigrating, it’s the people I would miss. The Irish have a way about them that I love. It’s in their humour (quick and often self-effacing). It’s in their irreverence. We’re generally a pretty relaxed bunch. You mention the sea and I do love it. I’d feel claustrophobic if it wasn’t nearby. When I am away from Ireland and then come home, I am struck by the greenness of our country (the rain!) and the variety in our landscape. If you’re into cloud watching it’s definitely the place for you.

*Come back tomorrow to read the review of Denise Deegan’s novel, And By The Way, and enter for a chance to win it in an 5 book international giveaway! 

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2 thoughts on “Interview with Author Denise Deegan + Multiple Book Giveaway Preview

  1. Kelly says:

    Wow, great interview Brittany. I love Denise Deegan’s attitude. She is very driven and that inspires me:)

  2. Krista says:

    This sounds like a great book!

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