Andrea Mara is a freelance writer and blogger, who lives in Dublin with her husband and three children. She attempts – often badly – to balance work, family and writing, then lets off steam on her blog, OfficeMum.ie. Andrea has completed her first suspense novel ‘The People Next Door’ and is summoning up the courage to send it to an agent and publisher.
At what age did you realise writing was going to mean something in your life?
Like lots and lots of people, I loved writing stories and poems as a kid, but for many, many years, the only writing I did was at work – emails and projects and reports! Then two and a half years ago, I started blogging, and began to think about trying fiction. One evening, a blog reader who is an author told me that I should try writing a book, and it stuck – the seed was sown. So in February 2014, I wrote my first line, and just kept going from there.
What is your writing routine?
I write at night after the kids have gone to bed – I was very disciplined while getting my one and only manuscript finished, but editing and rewriting is a very different story! And for the last few months, all my time has been taken up with freelance writing (I’ve just moved from my office job to work from home freelance writing) so I haven’t had much time to focus on fiction.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
I find if I step away from my manuscript for any length of time, it’s hard to get back into it. But once I’m in it, it starts to flow again. I’ve had plenty of writer’sblock moment with short story efforts and freelance writing – and of course, the longer it goes on, the worse it gets. The only solution for me is to step away, stop trying to think about what I want to write, and then the answer comes at the least expected moment. Like in the shower, or breaking up a row between the kids…
What is your proudest writing moment?
Finishing my manuscript (called The People Next Door) the night before my fortieth birthday – typing ‘the end’ and knowing I had ninety-five thousand words written felt fantastic. On the non-fiction side of things, winning a blog award last month was a very proud moment, as was the publication of my first newspaper feature earlier this year.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m still rewriting The People Next Door. I wrote it without a huge amount of planning. I’ve learned a lot about writing since, and each time I rewrite it, I see things I want to tweak. So it’s in every sense a work in progress. I’m working on some short stories, but slowly. I want to get them right before submitting them anywhere.
Have you been published and if not, do you believe you will be?
I haven’t been and I don’t know if I will be! I suspect a real writer would ‘know’ but I can’t say. It’s a very competitive industry. I need to get brave and just send my manuscript out or I’ll never know!
What would you say to writers who are struggling for inspiration at the moment?
The author who told me to write a book also said, ‘Just start writing and keep going – don’t worry about getting it right, you can edit afterwards.’ That’s how I got to the end. Without her advice, I suspect I’d still be rewriting the first paragraph. So that’s what I’d say – just start writing, and write as though nobody will ever, ever see it. See what happens. Also, I think if you’re someone who sees an everyday situation or overhears a conversation and wonders ‘What if…’ or ‘Imagine if…’ and conjures up the beginning of a story hooked on that, you’re on the right track to being a writer – now you just have to write it down.
What do you like to read?
Domestic noir, crime fiction, anything with a bit of mystery. Which is what I’m trying to write too! Sometimes I read what I consider to be a really, really well-written book, like The Goldfinch for example, and think ‘I’ll never do this’ and then I read a moderately good piece of crime fiction – something that’s a page turner but not going to win the Booker Prize – and I think maybe I can do it!
Do you know many writers and do you get to spend time with them?
Not so much in real life but I have some online friends who are writers – they are fantastic for practical advice and the ‘what should I do next?’ type questions. And always full of encouragement, which is probably what I need most.
Where do you write?
At my kitchen table, or if I’m very tired at night, I relocate to the couch and try not to get too distracted by TV, Facebook, Twitter, husband and wine!
LadyNicci comment: For me as a writer, Andrea’s comment about reading a masterpiece and not feeling adequate rings very true. Then I read something else – maybe a little lower brow and think – I can do this! Do you identify with any of Andrea’s comments?
How I write is a weekly blog post series published on Sundays on www.ladynicci.com. The posts aim to give a voice to writers, published or unpublished, to help and encourage other writers. If you would like to take part email firstname.lastname@example.org with How I Write in the subject line.