Welcome, Sharon. Please tell us where you’re from.
I was born in Dublin, Ireland, and it’s where I still live today, right on the coast, with my husband and three children.A lovely part of the world. What sparked your interest in writing?
I can’t remember how it happened, but I was reading before I began school at aged four. I always found words fun and fascinating, and loved making up stories, even as a child. Later on, when I worked as a journalist, I had some short stories published in a women’s magazine. I even won a national short story competition. And for years, whilst my children were young, I started books, but never finished them. But the more I read, and I’m part of a book club, which is a great discipline, the more I wanted to write.Good for you for persevering. What components, in your opinion, make a great story?
There’s only so many basic stories out there, so I suppose you’re always looking for a fresh twist on something. I think you need a really decent plot. The stronger your plot, the easier it is to bring the other components together. After that, characters. Particularly your protagonist and antagonist. As a writer or reader, you need to feel like you know them. You want to be rooting for them all the way to the end.How much of your writing is based on people or events familiar to you?
Going Against Type is set against the backdrop of Dublin newspapers, so it’s something I know a bit about. All the jargon and the kind of things that journalists deal with, that’s all authentic. Some of the characters, especially in the papers, are probably very loosely based on people I would have worked with, but it’s not something I did intentionally. I might have taken a couple of physical or personality traits from people I knew, to use in my own characters. It helped to make them more real.What inspired you to write Going Against Type?
I grew up loving the wonderful Hollywood films of the 1930s and 1940s. One of my favourite on-screen couples was Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey. They just sizzled opposite each other, and they were both such strong characters. One of their films was Woman of the Year, where Tracey plays a sports journalist and Hepburn a highbrow newspaper pundit. And they both write newspaper columns. Hepburn dismisses sport as a waste of time, and Tracey takes her on.Sounds like lots of fun. How did you come up with the title?
They fall in love of course, and the rest is movie history. Anyway, it was my light-bulb moment. I took the idea of the columnists, but in Going Against Type they write under pen-names. And I turned the gender stereotypes on their head, so my heroine is a sports reporter and my hero is a fashion writer. And obviously, I dragged it right into modern day Dublin.
Going Against Type has a few meanings in the story. On the one hand, both characters go against type, because of what they do for a living. There’s a bit of a play on words, as ‘Type’ also refers to newspaper ‘Type’. And most importantly, when my two main characters first get together, they are choosing a different type of person than they’ve previously dated. They are polar opposites.What was the hardest part of the story to write?
The columns were very hard to write. They had to be sharp and controversial, but they couldn’t be my ideas. They had to be the thoughts and opinions of the two fictional newspaper columnists. Having written a newspaper column for a while, I know how difficult it is. This was more difficult again. Also, I actually don’t know a huge amount about sport, but it was very important to me that my heroine was a sports journalist and a huge sports fan. I think sport, and team sport in particular, is brilliant. So I needed to do a lot of research. Charlotte’s columns needed to be natural and authoritative.What was the easiest part of the story to write?
The easiest part of the story was the romance between Charlotte and Derry, and how it evolves. I loved the fact that they (for very good reasons in the story) are forced to keep their alter-egos secret from each other. The book is a fast read, and there’s a lot of dialogue. I love dialogue, it brings a story to life.Do you have a set writing routine?
I mainly write in the mornings, when my children are in school and college. I know of some writers who get up really early to work, but I’m not a great VERY EARLY MORNING person. So I start at about 9am. I take short breaks, and I also try to break up the work a bit. Writing straight through until about for a few hours works sometimes, but usually I need to intersperse with something else. Coffee, for example! I might do a bit of lighter work later on, at night. Editing, reading, printing out changes.If you could go back in time, what author would you most like to invite to share a chat and a glass of wine or a cup of tea?
No competition for this, it would have to be Jane Austen. Who couldn’t love her heroines? Or the sympathetic way she wrote even the characters we laugh at in her books? Of course she wrote novels that reflected the upper class English society that she knew, but they were full of wonderful characters and terrific detail.Who supports your writing activities most?
My family, including my mum, who makes life a lot easier for me. My husband and children have been great, as have some trusted friends and beta readers. And my agent is great for pep talks and practical advice.What advice would you give an aspiring author?
A few things I’ve learned, I guess. First, know how a novel is structured, and nail down a synopsis, a broad structure, and even a step by step outline before you start. That will change as you write, but it’s good to start with it. Once your plot is down, get to know your characters by writing back stories. Then write. Don’t talk about it. Pretend you’re writing for one person. Maybe a friend you know who’d love to read your story. Once you’ve got a rough first draft, start editing and rewriting. And get readers you can trust, to read and give you feedback. My debut took me ten drafts before it was right.Practical tips indeed. Thanks so much for sharing your writing experiences. And now, let’s have a look at Going Against Type.
* * * * *Book Blurb:
Some would say Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Regan has it all. Beautiful, smart, athletic and a great job working as a journalist – in the almost exclusively male sports department. But Charlotte is not quite so sure as she seems. Recently split from her overbearing boyfriend, she escapes for weekends, surfing in the Atlantic, and spends her free nights watching sports, roaring at the TV.
Derry Cullinane is a fashion writer, gossip columnist and sophisticated man-about-town. The go-to guy for any woman seeking expert advice on what fabulous outfit to wear for any given occasion. He’s also tall, dark, good looking – and straight! So what’s the snag? He has a track record of dating glamorous, vain and shallow women.
Charlie gets an opportunity to write a new column under the pen name Side Swipe, but soon is drawn into a war of words and wit with a rival paper’s columnist The Squire – and their verbal fireworks get readers and editors talking. Yet neither Charlie nor Derry knows just who the opponent is...
When Charlotte and Derry meet at the Races, the attraction in instant. As their relationship develops, so much more proves at stake than protecting their alter egos. But a blunder puts Charlotte’s job in jeopardy just as Derry’s past makes front page, and Charlotte begins to doubt her feelings. When Side Swipe and The Squire are finally forced to reveal themselves, will they revert to type – or confound everyone’s expectations?
* * * * *Excerpt:
In this excerpt, my heroine Charlotte, who’s a sports journalist, has been sent to cover the Galway Races on Ladies’ Day. She has given her tips for the day in her previous column (written under the name Side Swipe). It’s her first encounter with Derry, the rival columnist, who writes as The Squire.
* * * * *'Ow!' Charlotte yelled as the man in front of her stepped back heavily on her foot. He turned quickly, scowling down at her from under a Panama hat. Realizing she was clutching her foot in pain, his face cleared to concern.
'I'm terribly sorry. Were you standing very close to me? Is your foot all right?'
Charlotte glared at him in disbelief.
'Yes, that must have been it. I got under your feet! It was completely my fault,' she countered, massaging her foot. He burst out laughing and regarded her small leather brogues.
'You have very small feet, don't you? I really am sorry, I didn't see you at all.'
What was so damned funny? Charlotte drew herself up to her full five foot, three inches and continued to glare up at Panama Hat Man. He had to be at least a foot taller than her.
'You're as clumsy as an elephant,' Charlotte replied indignantly.
'Actually, elephants aren't that clumsy.' The man grinned as he swept off his Panama hat to reveal a shock of black, slightly curling hair.
'Please accept my deepest apologies.' He arched one dark eyebrow. ‘Any tips for the next race?'
'I'm not sure if you should listen to me...'
'On the contrary,' he murmured, a faint Cork accent filtering through, 'Race looks wide open.’
'What's your bet?' shouted the bookie, and Charlotte suddenly realized they'd reached the top of the queue. She nursed her sore foot as Mr Panama Hat muttered to the bookie, before taking his docket and turning briefly around.
'Wish me luck!' he said, before disappearing to view the race.
'You betting miss?' the bookie said.
'Um, sure. A tenner on Green Velvet – to win,' Charlotte decided suddenly, still thrown by the encounter. Dammit, what had she tipped for this race? She couldn’t remember if it was Green Velvet. But the bookie was waiting. She handed over her money. Once the horses were called to starters orders, the bookies' pitch cleared fast.
Charlotte pulled out a notebook and asked the bookmaker a few questions about how the festival was going. The sun disappeared and she pushed her sunglasses on top of her head. She thanked the bookie and glanced around.
No sign of the good looking Panama Hat Man. Good looking? She'd bet her last cent that he bloody knew it too. Who the hell wore Panama hats in Ireland? It had shaded those brown eyes...so get yourself a dog if you like brown eyes, Charlotte. She gave herself a mental shake.
'...Penny Farthing and Lucky Dip, nothing between these two. And Green Velvet’s coming with a late run. Green Velvet gaining! And Margin of Error’s dropped out of it altogether. And with a furlong to go, it’s Penny Farthing and Green Velvet drawing clear.
‘Yes!’Charlotte shouted, scrambling up on to the bookies’ stand to watch the horses gallop to the finish line. ‘Come on Green Velvet!’
‘Penny Farthing and Green Velvet, stride for stride, it must be a photo. I can’t separate them but I think Lucky Dip takes third. Green Velvet may have got it in the last stride....It’s Green Velvet in first place. Green Velvet wins, followed by Penny Farthing. And Lucky Dip takes third.’
Charlotte grinned delightedly at the bookie as she jumped down off the stand. As an afterthought, she pulled out her column, searching for her tips. There it was: her top tip for that race had been Margin of Error. The horse had been badly beaten.
She bit her lip and shrugged philosophically. Nobody got it right all the time.
***'So, did you get lucky?' a deep voice drawled.
Charlotte spun to find Mr Panama Hat grinning down at her. Bloody hell, she thought, smiling back despite herself. Any other man she knew would look utterly ridiculous in what seemed to be a tailor made, striped linen jacket and trousers, combined with that damned hat. But he carried it off with a self-confidence that bordered on swagger.
'Yes actually, I did,' she admitted, still smiling. 'What about you?'
'I lost. My own fault. I took a flier on somebody else's tip.'
Charlotte grinned sympathetically.
Mr Panama Hat shook his head, scowling briefly.
‘I read some bloody sports columnist from Ireland Today. Had a few winners earlier this week. As I said, it's my own fault. I never normally bother with racing tips. Whoever it is, he obviously doesn’t know a horse from a three-legged stool.'
Charlotte swallowed hard.
'So how much did you lose?' she managed, trying to sound casual.
'A thousand.' He caught Charlotte's horrified expression and laughed. 'Hey, don't look so worried! I'm a big boy.'
(For another excerpt, please visit Tirgearr Publishing.)
* * * * *Sharon Black grew up in Dublin. She studied history and politics at University College Dublin and then did post-graduate in journalism at Dublin City University. She has worked for national newspapers, including The Evening Herald and The Irish Examiner. She had short stories published in U Magazine and won the 2010 Dromineer Literary Festival short story competition. When she is not writing, she reads, walks and sees friends. She co-founded a local book club 14 years ago. She loves theatre, old Hollywood films, science fiction and good stand-up comedy. She lives by the coast, with her husband and their three children.
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Going Against Type / eBook Available from