Caroline Busher is an award-winning author who teaches creating writing courses. She graduated with a First Class Honours MA in Creative Writing and is a curator for Wexford Literary Festival. Her debut novel The Ghosts of Magnificent Children is published by Poolbeg.
Tell us about your earliest memories of writing?
I was in the school playground on a bitterly cold day and I was seven years old. My brown duffle coat scratched my skin and my fingers were numb with the cold. The idea for a story came to me fully formed and the need to write was immediate. I placed my hand in my pocket and pulled out a sweet wrapper and a pencil, I frantically jotted down a string of seemingly innocuous words. I continued on a crumpled tissue unable to stop. The desire to create, to imagine, to write was born.
You say being an only child led you to spend a lot of time writing and making up fantasy worlds. Do you think this is true of many only children?
I have a relentless thirst for seeking out the bizarre and peculiar. As an only child I spent my days reading and writing fantastical stories. I can only speak for myself when I say the characters in the books I read leapt off the pages, they became my friends. I imagined going on adventures with them to faraway islands, slaying dragons and creating magic potions. Children are able to delve into their imaginations in a way that adults can’t. I think all children have this ability; it is the reason why childhood is magical.
What is your writing routine? Do you aim for a word count a day or are you a binge writer?
When I am writing a novel I become consumed with the piece of work that I am creating. I spend hours conducting research and reading before I put pen to paper. When I sit down to write, I am focused and strict about my writing routine. I set achievable goals and spend long days in my writing studio. I enjoy the creative surge that comes with the first draft, however, it is during the editing process that your novel takes shape.
You grew up in a Victorian house in England. Tell us how this may have contributed to your love of historical fiction writing?
The crumbling redbrick remains of the Victorian Era are entrenched in my imagination. I grew up in a Victorian House in the gritty industrialized north of England and the seeds for stories were firmly planted in my mind from an early age. I read books in the attic and encountered ghosts beneath the floorboards. My connection with the past is intrinsically linked to my childhood. I imagined the people who lived in my house during the Victorian Times. I pictured them walking down secret passageways and visiting ornate mansions. It is where my appreciation for historical fiction writing began.
What sort of research do you do – are you in depth?
Historical Fiction writing requires a certain amount of research. You are asking a reader to enter a world that you have created; in order for this world to be authentic a certain amount of research has to take place. It is during the research process that I might encounter the idea for a story. I read old newspaper articles, trawl through vintage clothing stores and read history books. This is one part of the writing process that I enjoy, I feel as though I am getting to know my characters and the world that they occupied.
How did you come to find your agent and was Ghosts of Magnificent Children your first novel?
In June 2014 I attended the Date With An Agent event at Wexford Literary Festival. I had ten minutes to pitch my novel to American agent Tracy Brennan of Trace Literary Agency (USA). Tracy appeared very interested in my work; we clicked right away and I was hopeful but also realistic. I understood it is very difficult to get agent representation, so I waited a few weeks for Tracy to contact me and when she did she asked me to send her my full manuscript and a couple of months later she offered to represent me. I have written two novels and both have been accepted by Poolbeg Press as part of a three book deal.
Tell us how you felt when you found out you were to be published by Poolbeg?
I was offered a three book deal with Poolbeg Press in March this year, It is a dream come true, all my years of hard work have finally paid off. Seeing my book for the first time was wonderful and it is a feeling that I will never forget.
Your book has been chosen for a very significant project in Dublin. Tell us about this and how it came about?
The Ghosts of Magnificent Children has been chosen for a major project called Battle of the Book. Fingal Libraries and Dublin Airport Authority have selected my book to be read by children in primary schools across the Fingal area. Each child will receive a copy of the book and Fingal Libraries have arranged an exciting programme of events for the students. At the end of the three month reading period a section of Dublin Airport will be dedicated to The Ghosts of Magnificent Children and there will be a final “battle” between the schools involved with a quiz based on the book in Dublin Airport. It is fantastic to be selected for such a significant project. I was contacted by Fingal Libraries during the summer and they told me that they were considering my book for the Battle of the Book. It is very exciting for me as a debut author to be involved in such a large scale project.
You hold a first class honours in an MA in creative writing from UCD. Why did you decide to study and what difference has it made to your writing?
I applied for the MA in Creative Writing as I felt I needed to learn more about the craft of writing from skilled practitioners who are successful writers and who understand what it is like to write a novel from start to finish – writers such as Frank McGuinness, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, James Ryan and Paul Perry. I also wanted to have my own work analysed and critiqued in a constructive way by experts in the field of creative writing. Deciding to study for my MA in Creative Writing was the best decision I’ve made to date in relation to my career as a writer. I can only describe it as accelerated learning. I could have reached the same level of learning without the MA but it would’ve taken me years to achieve on my own. It is also a unique opportunity to look at your own work more closely; it helps you to find your voice and to develop your style. I highly recommend the MA to anyone who is serious about becoming a writer. Yes, it is hard work but I really believe that the time and commitment you put into the MA will pay off in the end. It helps you to edit your work – you will instinctively learn what to leave in and what to take out. You will learn how to develop characters and plot, and you will understand the importance of setting. But most of all you will be given the opportunity to push your writing to a new level, in a supportive and nurturing environment.
Do you think we are inspired by our surroundings? Would your writing have happened if you didn’t move to Ireland?
Place has an impact on the way that I write and I am inspired by my surroundings. Whether it be the Victorian House that I grew up in on the outskirts of Manchester or my home is Enniscorthy which is a rolling valley steeped in character nestled beneath the Black Stairs Mountains. Place informs my experiences and this inevitably seeps into my writing. If I hadn’t moved to Ireland I would still be writing although the stories would be different.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Thankfully I have never suffered from this affliction. I have lots of ideas for novels which keep coming.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I am writing my second novel The Girl Who Ate The Stars. It is inspired by folklore and will be published by Poolbeg Press next year. My work as a creative writing facilitator takes me to schools and libraries throughout the country. The next couple of weeks will be especially busy for me as The Children’s Books Festival starts in October and The Ghosts of Magnificent Children will be launched in the same month also.
What do you like to read?
Reading is essential to me as a writer and I read as widely as possible. I enjoy classic novels, historical fiction, I also like to read short story collections and poetry. There are beautifully crafted children’s and YA books which I read on a regular basis.
Where do you write?
I write in my writing studio. That’s where I scribble down stories and ideas for my novels. I’ve also got bookshelves, crammed with my favourite books; classics and new releases sit side by side. I’ve a stove to keep the cold away. My husband is a painter and printmaker so I’m surrounded by paintings and pieces of art as I write.
The Ghosts of Magnificent Children is available in bookshops and on Amazon
LadyNicci comment: I’ve come to know Caroline through social media and was delighted to meet her in person recently in Wexford. She has a very generous and sweet spirit and it comes through in all her communications, I’m so happy to see her success as it couldn’t happen to a nicer or harder working writer. On meeting, it didn’t take us long to move on to our shared love of historical fiction writing and swapping ghost stories – which, as echoes of the past, can help inspire stories and characters in our writing. I’m fascinated by her urges as a child to write almost uncontrollably. I too spent hours scribbling, although my stories were never fully formed, and still aren’t! I also asked her about her creative writing MA as it’s something I would like to complete in the future. The Battle of the Book sounds like a fantastic initiative from Fingal Council and with our wealth of Irish writers is something that could be rolled out in every community. Details are below of Caroline’s launches, should anyone wish to go along and support.
Book Launch Details: I’m delighted to be kicking off Caroline’s Book Blog Tour for The Ghosts of Magnificent Children. Two launches to mark its publication take place in October 2016. The Dublin launch will be held in the Gutter Bookshop, Templebar on Tuesday 11th October at 6.30pm. E.R.Murray author of The Book of Learning – Nine Lives Trilogy, which was chosen for the 2016 Dublin UNESCO Citywide Read for Children will be officially launching the evening. The Wexford launch takes places in The Wilds, Enniscorthy on 13th October at 6:30pm. All are welcome to attend.
How I write is a blog post series published on Sundays on www.ladynicci.com. The posts aim to give a voice to writers, published, unpublished and everywhere in between, to help and encourage other writers. Email email@example.com for more details.