Christine Doran is an unemployed copy-editor who spends her days drinking tea and writing, in between ferrying her children from place to place. She started out Irish but now lives in America. She describes herself as ‘someone who writes in hope’.
At what age did you realise writing was going to mean something in your life?
I was a voracious reader as a child, and I always enjoyed writing homework essays or coming up with plays for my friends and I to put on for my long-suffering parents. I’m paying for that now, as my 9-year-old keeps writing short dramatic scenes that the whole family is required to act in. They usually end with explosions.
What is your writing routine?
For the past while, since I decided to make a serious attempt at writing a whole book (and then some), I’ve been aiming for 1000 words a day. On a good day, when I know where I’m going with the plot, those words might all come relatively fast. Other days it’s like blood from a stone, squeezing them out in fits and starts. I know all those words won’t stay in the finished product, but I need to get them on paper first, so I have something to work with. If I manage 1000 words all five days of the week, I let myself go shopping on Friday. Then there are the re-writing and editing stages, but those move more quickly for me.
What is your proudest writing moment?
I hope it’s still to come, in the shape of an agent and/or a publishing deal. But for now, I’ve been a proud finalist in blogging awards, I’ve been in print in The Irish Times twice, and – more importantly to me – I’ve heard people who know what they’re talking about tell me that I should keep writing. That’s why I’m still doing it.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
It started with a short story that I’d written several years ago. A while later I decided to take an online writing course (a new-year’s resolution, of course!) and I sent the leader that story as an example of my writing. She read it and said to me, ‘I don’t know why you’re doing this course: keep writing this.’ So – after the requisite long time bumbling about that characterises most things I do – I did. That became a middle-grade fiction novel (age 8-12) that is now in its second iteration, out in the world looking for love. While I was waiting for responses to that I wrote the first draft of a sequel, and gathered vague ideas for the third in what is clearly a trilogy. I’d consider all of those still works in progress, ready to be picked up when required. Most recently, though, I’ve started in on a book with a completely different theme that’s more for a 12-to-14-year-old audience.
Why children’s fiction?
I wrote that original story thinking it was a somewhat childlike tale for adults. I was under the impression that you had to write easier words and simpler sentences for children; but that’s not the case. The person who read it told me it was for children, and from there, things fell into place and I was able to start writing it properly. Looking back, it’s obvious that would be a good niche for me: I have never loved books so well or felt them so deeply as I did when I was between the ages of about 9 and 16.
What would you say to writers who are struggling for inspiration at the moment?
Inspiration is the hardest thing for me. I love a writing prompt, but ideas are hard won. I find them by writing – so I’d say just write. Start writing, and keep writing, and the ideas will find you.
What is the most difficult thing about keeping up a writing life?
At the moment, for me, it’s the uncertainty. My effort is all front-loaded right now because I’ve put in a lot of work for no guaranteed return. If you let the self-doubt get to you, you’ll never even start.
Tell us about your blog, which you write anonymously. What does this do for you and your writing?
My blog is the space that has made me a writer. I’ve been blogging for just about twelve years now, and while the subject matter varies from life as an emigrant to parenting to cooking to writing, its purpose has always, really, been as a place for me to write more or less unselfconsciously.
As you write your blog anonymously, do you think you might publish under a pen name, and if so, why?
No, I don’t plan to do that. I’ll work out some way for my blog readers to connect with my book if and when the time comes; and I’d love to make a separate website or blog for the book as well.
What do you like to read?
I still love children’s and young adult fiction, though these days I’m often screening it in advance for my kids. I’m a lazy reader who likes to re-read old favourites rather than risk something new. I love Marian Keyes and Connie Willis, I trawl second-hand bookshops for old Dick Francis thrillers, and I’m not allowed recommend any Man Booker novels to my friend’s book club any more because they all hated Vernon God Little.
Do you know many writers and do you get to spend time with them?
I do know a few people in real life who are published authors, though I don’t see them often. Sometimes I feel as if wanting to be a writer is about as realistic a career prospect as being a celebrity chef or a supermodel, so it’s nice to know that normal people actually do succeed at this sometimes.
Where do you write?
At my kitchen table, looking our on our scraggly back garden. If I feel that a change of scenery would do me good, I sometimes curl up on the sofa with my laptop and look out the front window instead. I’m wild like that.
LadyNicci comment: I’m lucky enough to read the blog that Christine writes and she has a very authentic, true, writing voice. I would love to read her work for children, because, I’d imagine, if she’s captured the passion that she talks about experiencing in those wonderful
not so wonderful teenage years, then it will be fantastic. In doing this interview Christine wanted to point out that she wasn’t a successful writer in terms of ‘getting paid’. Yet, Christine leads the writers’ life; writing daily, setting targets, editing, revising scripts, working on a trilogy, sending out to agents and publishers. She writes, because she is compelled to write. And this is what the How I Write series is all about: we are all writers – a publishing deal is only one aspect of that. I hope 2016 is the year for Christine. And she has to face the challenge of connecting her work with the anonymity of her blog.
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, unpublished and everywhere in between, 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.