Writer’s Block With Clare Daly

SOPHIE GRENHAM talks to author CLARE DALY about HOLLYWOOD CHARACTERS, VAMPIRE APPEAL and getting published …

Photograph by Jenny McCarthy

From a young age, bewitching storyteller Clare Daly has carried two major passions – film and the written word, with a view to combine them both. Clare’s love of the motion picture has meant she’s seldom far from a big screen, starting with a part-time job in UCI Tallaght during her Diploma in Broadcasting and Journalism with Senior College Ballyfermot. As luck would have it, small beginnings paved the way for bigger adventures.

For over twenty years, Clare’s first dream was realised; eventually achieving great success as a publicist in the Irish film industry, doing business with such iconic powerhouses as Warner Bros Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and Twentieth Century Fox. However, while one ambition was getting a standing ovation, the other waited quietly backstage.

It was during one particularly rapturous sleep that inspiration struck for Clare’s first novel Our Destiny Is Blood, a gothic fantasy set during the Irish Famine. Interestingly, another wordsmith who referred to this period in history in his supernatural imaginings was none other than Bram Stoker. One becomes quickly ensconced in the story of darkly gifted teenager Evelyn Mooney who escapes to New York after committing a murder – where she becomes entangled with a clan of vampires. The Irish Examiner has called the book, “a superbly written gothic fantasy adventure, blending in history – original and feisty.”

Clare Daly lives with her husband Vincent and their children Adam (11) and Grace (9) in Celbridge, County Kildare. She is currently a part-time freelance publicist, and working on her next two novels.

Our Destiny Is Blood (€12.99) is available now in e-book and paperback from Amazon.co.uk, as well as Eason’s O’Connell Street, Easons.com, Dubray Books and Alan Hanna’s Bookshop in Rathmines, Dublin.

On home

I live in Celbridge in County Kildare with my husband and two children. We moved here from Lucan eleven years ago, when I gave up my job as a film publicist to be a stay-at-home mum. When I look back now, I don’t think I ever would have started writing if we hadn’t moved and the fact that Celbridge is so rich in history – it certainly had an impact on what I was doing. The old workhouse building still stands (now a paint factory), and beside it there’s a memorial dedicated to the thousands of people buried there during the famine. To be writing in that period and have that physical reminder down the road where I live is very powerful. Also having Castletown House on my doorstep is hugely inspiring. It’s a beautiful place to explore, whether it’s a walk down by the river with the kids or a tour of the house, which is fascinating. Even their coffee shop is a gorgeous space to be in.

On roots

I grew up in Glenview Lawns in Tallaght. My mam was a great cook and loved to experiment. I still vividly remember her making hummus for the first time, when no kid on our road had ever heard of it. Dipping our pitta bread into it as we watched Top of the Pops. It’s still the best I’ve ever tasted. I remember one of my friends telling me that my house always smelled of spices. I guess we ate quite adventurously for our age.

In the early 80s my Dad brought home a typewriter – one of those big heavy office ones and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I spent hours on it, typing letters to imaginary people from my little office. I loved the clatter of the keys and the ping when the roller would glide back. I don’t know what happened to it. It just sort of disappeared. I did pick one up though a few years ago in an antique shop.

On creating

I have an office at home or as it is sometimes known – a haphazard dumping ground for anything that can’t find a place elsewhere. A huge notice board takes up most of one wall. I like having something physical to pin ideas on. In the early days of the first draft it was pictures from the 19th century from clothing, to stately homes, to plantations in the U.S. It then became chapter notes as the book came together. I also have two overflowing bookcases and my 1930s Royal typewriter. It’s not in great shape but then considering it’s in its eighties, it’s doing pretty well. On the walls are two framed movie posters. One for Before Sunset with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (I love that trilogy) and one for Argo that I nabbed when Warner Bros Pictures was moving office a few years back. I guess film and writing are very intertwined for me. I generally write the movie that’s playing in my head.

On bookshops

Unfortunately, Celbridge doesn’t currently have a bookshop, if you discount Tesco and some of the charity shops. And so I generally find myself browsing the Eason store in Liffey Valley Shopping Centre. If I’m in the city, I do love Dubray Books. Their Grafton Street store is a real treasure trove. Because it’s quite a narrow shop, it’s intimate and the staff are very friendly and helpful. Easily a place to get lost in and considering it’s on one of the busiest shopping streets in Dublin, it always feels lovely and calm. When my book first went on sale there, I went in but I couldn’t find it and I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help. The longer I searched, the more my heart sank, drowned by the reality that there are so many books out there vying for attention. I did go back another time when I felt braver and asked a very nice girl who helped me.

On her nightstand

I tend to go back and forth from my Kindle to physical books. I love the feel of a paperback, but as I was going to self-publish on Kindle I knew I really needed to get a feel for one. And I liked it. I think both have their merits. It also means though that my to-be-read pile has grown twice as big. I’m currently reading Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes (recommended to me by an author friend), so I have that on my Kindle but also on my nightstand are Liz Nugent’s Lying In Wait (I really enjoyed Unravelling Oliver so I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it), Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go (that I was delighted to get in a blind book swap at a Rick O’Shea Book Club event) and Joe Hill’s short story collection Strange Weather, which was signed by the man himself when he was in Dublin.

On escapes

I love the wide-open spaces of the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains, when you drive past Killakee and that beautiful view over the city, and on up the winding road towards Glencree. The trees end suddenly and there’s just a vast expanse of mountain and bog with a deep valley in between. It always takes my breath away. When my husband and I got engaged we drove up there. It’s nearly twenty years ago now but it was my birthday and there was a solar eclipse. We parked at the side of the road to take it all in, eating our sandwiches and drinking coffee and wondering what the future held for us. It’s a special place and one the kids now love too.

On movies

We went to the cinema a lot when we were kids, usually to The Classic in Harold’s Cross where my Granny lived. We’d get our quarter of bonbons from Hanlon’s sweet shop and just disappear into the darkness, lost in an adventure. The magic of that experience never wore off for me. A great movie, take for example something like Jaws or Psycho, is the combination of all the key elements working beautifully together; a great story, the director’s style, the visual mastery of the camera, an actor’s ability to lose themselves in a role, a musical score that heightens the experience. To watch a film that encompasses all those things in complete darkness, on the biggest screen possible, is such a wonderful experience.

On getting published

The ambition was there but it was buried deep. In my late teens, I wanted a career in film writing but I got distracted along the way. A chance to work in film distribution came up and it wasn’t until I gave up work years later that it started to crawl slowly back to the surface. When I sat down to write this book, I had no idea how far it would go but it awakened something in me that dulled everything I’d achieved (bar having my children) up to that point. The decision to go it alone and self-publish came out of lots of submissions and rejections telling me the genre wasn’t in trend – that I could wait years for it to come back around. I’m not a great waiter. Life’s too short. With self-publishing I’ve enjoyed the empowerment that goes with taking charge of my own fate and ultimately being in control. The downside of that is the solitary nature then of not only the creative part but the business end too. It can be a lonely pursuit and an expensive one.

On Hollywood characters

When I was working for Warner Bros, I had the absolute treat of taking a journalist to the set of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We stood watching Tim Burton (who I was a huge fan of) direct one of the final scenes and toured some of the sets including Charlie’s house and the town around the factory which were covered in fake snow. I really felt I’d won a golden ticket. To be on the inside of that industry is just a gift. Whether it’s on a film set or working on the red carpet in Leicester Square for films like The Matrix Reloaded, Batman Begins (where I looked after Cillian Murphy), the aforementioned Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (and the gent that was David Kelly, who became like a surrogate Grandpa to me on that tour), all the way to The Hobbit: Battle of The Five Armies when I worked freelance and spent five days looking after the hugely talented Andy Serkis. It was a great job and I count myself very lucky to have had the opportunities I’ve had.

On vampire appeal

I think there’s an ongoing curiosity with what makes them tick. They are immortal, invincible to the things that previously could harm them. They’re physically stronger yet there’s a big price to pay for that, in the way that they survive, drinking blood and taking lives with it. It’s a fascinating dilemma I think – how they handle immortality. How do you make your life worthwhile if it’s never to end? Who do you spend it with or do you go it alone, distancing yourself from humanity? Vampires are very complex characters and I think readers will always be interested in them.

On what’s next

Next is the follow-up to Our Destiny Is Blood, due out later this year. I’ve also got the first draft completed of a modern supernatural detective story, so I’ll be bashing that into shape and looking for a nice home for it. It’s very different to my vampire novels but I had a voice in my head that wouldn’t leave me alone ‘til I wrote about him. When that happens, you can’t ignore it.


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