Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Interview Tuesday: Ciara Quinlan

Hi all! Today I welcome Ciara Quinlan to my blog for another round of Interview Tuesday. Let's just jump straight in, shall we?
Tell me a little about yourself?

Well, I'm 24 and have been writing since I was 4. My teddy bear turned into a giant green bear with steel teeth and fought nightmares and evil wasps to protect me. I felt his tale needed to be told.

I have two degrees, one in journalism and, more recently, a lesser degree in sales and marketing.
I'm currently interning in a company that makes websites, flyers and branded promotional products. Before that I worked in Dublin for two PR companies after interning at a tabloid newspaper and as a sub-editor for a magazine. I've published articles in a few newspapers and in the magazine I was working in. To be honest though, working with news when I spend so much time away in fantasy lands to be trusted with facts. Both of these were done with the hopes of improving my writing.

Right now, I'm writing about a girl who loses something physical (like a lung) every time she makes a wish, a demon who has been sentenced to community service as a good conscience and a more traditional fantasy that features a girl who would have been born blind had someone not decided to steal her some dragon eyes. 

Wow those are some great ideas. Where do you get them from? 

Dreams, adverts, flippant statements other people say, arguing mermaid muses who decide to not let me sleep sometime. The usual.

Do you still have the protector teddy bear? 

Yes, I do. I still can't sleep without him, which is a little pathetic. I plan to be buried with the thing, strange as that is. I heard a theory from a friend that cuddly toys age 2 years for very normal year. Like dog years. Do you have anything like that?

Yes I still have most of my toys from when I was a baby. Don't keep them in my room, though, but I can't give them away either. Do you have any writing quirks?

Writing quirks? Well, I am prone to talking to myself. Usually I have two laptops in front of me as well so I can reward myself with episode of my favourite show or read manga or blogs.
I avoid any books while actually writing. If I write and my rewards are reading, I become an awful copy cat. When I read north hanger abbey, my writing read like a script for some period BBC drama for a week! 

Hahaha I know what you mean. That's why I mostly avoid the genre that I'm writing in. What does your routine look like, if you have one?

It's way too easy to absorb another person's style, or not even notice that you have nicked a phrase.
Sunday has been my 'writing' day for awhile now. Everyone I know knows to leave me be. Otherwise I write whenever I have a spare five minutes. I try to write every day, even if it's just a line or two. I find that not writing makes me feel completely miserable and guilty while writing makes me feel more fulfilled, even if it's just a few words. 

I feel like that too. If I don't write, everything annoys me. Do you plan ahead before you write?

It depends on the story. Some I need to have every detail mapped out and trolled through baby-name websites to find theperfect names for the characters. I need blueprints from the important buildings. I need to draw out maps. I need to know the history of the world and the very personal history of the characters and sometimes even their parents. Other stories I just sit and write.

I have noticed that much of it depends on where it's set and how many characters I have. If it's a whole new world full of shiny people, it'll take awhile. However, if it has a small cast of characters and is set either in our world or somewhere similar, I'm more interested in finding out how they will react to each other in sticky situations.

Makes sense. I also have more complex works that took a lot more time to peg down completely. Want to tell us a bit about your favorite character?

My own favourite character. Let's see. I like my kick-ass girls and daring rouges, but I have to admit a certain soft spot for a shy little boy named Talon. He can talk to birds and dogs but has trouble talking to people. He's a complete coward and is afraid of everything but every inch of him is loyal and loving. He wouldn't hurt a fly. In fact, he would protect that fly while shaking in his boots.
Oh, why do I get a horrible sinking feeling that I will pay in writer's block for picking a favourite?

He sounds really sweet. Unlike my favorite, who's anything but. Speaking of writer's block. What do you do when you get it?

I have a few like that as well. They are the ones I'm worried about. When I have writer's block I will try anything. I'll make up play-lists of songs that I think fit the characters. I'll draw. I'll free-write. I'll write a letter. I'll edit. If that doesn't work I try to write the scene with just dialogue. When that fails, I sulk and pout.

If there's a persistent block then something's missing from the story or it's not paced right. Something is up.
Not too long ago I wrote something that I liked while writing it (although I did find it difficult at points) but typing it out and editing it felt like a real chore.

So I wrote out all my scenes in post-its and put them in order. I realised that in every chapter they was either someone being saved, or someone new coming into the story. The pacing was all over the place and some of the key scenes felt forced.

It has to be completely re-written, minus two characters I really, really loved. I would have been saved a lot of time and pain if I had listened to my writer's block earlier and examined the story a bit closer.

What do you do with characters and pieces of narration that you have to edit out?

I keep an excel sheet of all my characters. Hopefully they'll find their way into another story, but I don't actively try to put them into stories either. One sentence is always better than two and the same can be said of character. If their job in the story can be done by someone else, they don't belong there. No matter how wonderful they are.

As for anything else I cut, I'm brutal. It comes from working in newspapers, where word count is very strict, and editing other people's stuff. It has to fit with the other writing and it has to be as short as you can make it.
Often you'd write something, give it in and hear. "Great, just like that but in 200 words instead of 500." It's not nice but it gives you a precision to your writing nothing else can.

Where can people reach you on the social networks?

I'm on facebook but I don't use it all that often.

Facebook me

I don't really get twitter, to be honest.
Pinterest though, I'm addicted to
My pinboard.
I think my family may be plotting an intervention soon.

Thanks so much for this interview, Ciara! I really enjoyed it. 

Anyone else want to be interviewed? Just let me know and we can talk about it. My e-mail address is mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

Do you keep a stuffed toy from your childhood?


  1. I have an old Teddy Bear that talks somewhere in the house. Please don't bury me with him though.
    Great interview, ladies!

    1. Is he in the walls? Cause talking from the walls sounds a little scary...

  2. Your teddy bear sounds terrifyingly awesome. ;)

    1. Why thank you? Was that a compliment? It felt like a compliment. XD

  3. Great interview!

    I would hate to be a nightmare or evil wasp and run into that bear.

    Talon sounds like a sweet character.

    1. Thank you! All these comments are so nice. I'm smiling like mad.

  4. Ciara sounds like she won't have a problem in the editing department. Being brutal when it comes to editing is a good thing!

  5. What a great interview :) Ciara has a wonderfully creative mind.

  6. What awesome ideas! Stolen dragon eyes - high price for wishes - wow! I like that Excel spreadsheet idea for tracking characters.

    Hey, I'd love to be interviewed!

    1. Oh, you should Margo. It's so much fun and Misha's really nice about it.

  7. What a fun interview. Loved it! And now I don't feel so guilty when I have two computers on the go too! lol.

  8. Thanks for the great interview!

  9. Nice to meet you, Ciara! I find I can't read and also write in the same time frame - I feel like all I want to do is *keep* reading. It's so much easier than all the brain-work required for story-building! :-)
    Some Dark Romantic

  10. Enjoyed reading this interesting and probing interview. I was fascinated by Ciara's reference to mermaids and especially the demon "sentenced" to community service. The imagery is exciting to think of.
    With twenty years of experience, I'm sure she will have a positive impact with her writing very soon.
    Great interview Misha.

  11. Thanks everyone. Couldn't ask for a nicer bunch and you all have me writing like crazy! (So I don't feel guilty after all the wonderful comments)

  12. Sorry I'm a little late to the party. Last week was crazy busy! Anyway, Ciara, I enjoyed reading how creatively your mind works. I also like how your work in newspapers has helped you edit and keep strict word counts. I think I need that kind of inspiration! Good luck with all your exciting projects! :)


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