Only a few weeks’ ago, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of December Girl, the debut novel of fellow Irish historical fiction author, Nicola Cassidy. I’m a few chapters in and really loving this story. It grabs your attention straight away – I read the first chapter with my heart pounding!
Nicola has found some time in her very busy life to come along and join me in the library this evening to share some insights into her life as an author.
You are very welcome, Nicola, please introduce yourself:
My name is Nicola Cassidy, I’m a writer and blogger and I work as a marketing manager. I’m Mum to two small girls and when I’m not cleaning the house, writing or fussing over my daughters, I’m out singing or rehearsing with a pop and funk band I’ve recently joined. It’s a busy life.
Did you read much as a child? Are you an avid reader now? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
Yes, I loved books. It took a bit of persuasion mind – I wasn’t too keen on moving on from picture books to novels, but after being forced to read Sweet Valley Twins by my best friend around the age of eight, I was hooked. I read a huge amount in my teenage years, usually historical fiction. I’m pretty sure that’s where my love of the genre was born. I devoured Catherine Cookson and Helen Forrester. As an adult I found it difficult to find books I loved, it’s only recently, since I’ve made forays into the publishing world myself that I’ve discovered a whole new raft of authors. I choose books by their style – their language, their prose – the setting or genre isn’t important, it’s the writing that attracts me.
Are you self-published or traditionally published?
I’m published by Bombshell Books, which is a new digital imprint of Bloodhound Books.
Which genre do you write in and why?
I write historical fiction because I like disappearing into the past and imagining what it was like. I’m not opposed to writing in contemporary styles, however, and my short stories and a stage play I recently wrote were set in the present. I like trying everything and challenging myself. My novels, for the foreseeable, however, will be historical fiction.
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
I’ve had many influencers. My English teacher Mrs McCartan in secondary school was a huge influence on me – she spotted my talent early on and encouraged it. She made me feel that I could do things with my writing, which I have. My writing tutor Greg Baxter, who taught me advanced creative writing in the Irish Writer’s Centre was also a big influence. He introduced me to so many fabulous literary writers and showed us how to try and attain that standard. We were encouraged to never settle for less. And then all the books I’ve read of course, the writers I’ve loved – the prose that I wish I could copy. Writing is an ongoing craft – I’m always learning, always striving to do better.
Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?
Very much so. I didn’t find my ‘flow’ until I decided to set my book locally. I’d been searching for something to write about, but I didn’t know what. As soon as I decided I’d set a novel in the Boyne Valley at the end of the 19th century, everything fell into place. It was very important to me that I wrote about the area and tried to put across to readers what a spiritual, beautiful place it is. There’s a reason our ancestors came here thousands of years ago to build their temples.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
Lots of the writing process is difficult. None of it’s easy. Actually sitting down to write. Trying to come up with a good, believable plot. Weaving it all together. Pace. Structure. I’ve had to learn a lot and as I’ve only written one (proper) book I think I have a lifetime of difficulty ahead! That said, when I get into it and it’s just me and the laptop and my story and I write and finish a chapter that I’m happy with, there’s nothing like the high I feel. It’s probably addictive.
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
It used to be the night time from 9pm onwards, and I’d have a glass of wine and just type. Now with two children under the age of three it’s difficult and bedtimes are erratic, so I grab my writing time whenever I can. Now I quite enjoy writing in the morning hours, during nap time, during daylight. I feel fresher.
What is the best thing about being an author? And the flipside – what is the worst?
The best thing is being able to be creative for a living. Getting recognition or a wage for using your talent, creating art and in some way influencing people is a most satisfying way to exist. The worst thing about being an author is being creative for a living. It’s so precarious and worrisome, especially when you have a family to support and a high cost of living in Ireland. That’s why I try to find the balance – working towards supporting myself with my writing, while keeping my feet firmly on the ground. No lofty notions now.
Is social media an essential chore or something you enjoy? Which forum do you prefer?
I wouldn’t call it a chore. As a marketer I think that’s a terrible thought to have about social media! But I do understand that it’s time consuming and can zap away precious writing and especially, reading time. I enjoy it though – I always have – I love interacting with others, and I learn so much from it. I have platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and would interact with those the most. I have Pinterest and Snapchat accounts but barely use them. I think you should find the medium you enjoy the most and get involved. Then it doesn’t feel like a chore!
If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?
I don’t think my life would be that different in that I’d still be working in marketing or a marketing related discipline. I enjoy marketing and PR roles because they are so creative and you’re always trying to communicate in the best way to your target audience. The same as creative writing really.
It’s the last day and the earth is facing oblivion – what book would you read?
I’d probably take out my battered copy of Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor and have a read and a bit of a cry. Though in fairness, if it was the last day on earth, I’d more likely be watching events on Twitter than curled up in my bed reading!
Please tell us about December Girl
My debut novel December Girl has just been published by Bombshell Books. It’s available on Amazon as a paperback and digital download. It’s a historical fiction novel, inspired by true events and follows the tale of Molly Thomas who is evicted from her home at the end of the 19th century in the Boyne Valley, Ireland. She faces a life of turmoil as she tries to overcome the challenges thrown at her, one of which is the kidnapping of her young baby, Oliver. (Click here to find out more about this book on Amazon).
Nicola’s book is on sale from 1st to 7th December, so don’t miss this opportunity to check out some wonderful writing.
Thanks, Nicola. It was lovely to have you as a guest in the library this evening. I wish you all the best with December Girl and your writing career.
If you’d like to know more about Nicola, please follow her links below.