Q&A With Sheila O’Flanagan – Plus A Video Reading!

cover of sheila flanagan book three weddings and a proposalDelphine is at a wedding when the shocking news comes. Suddenly her life changes for ever.

Delphine has worked hard for her success and knows she’s got everything she wants. But not everyone agrees.

Her opinionated family aren’t convinced that living alone with no plans to ‘settle down’ could possibly make her truly happy. No one appreciates it when she drops everything, day or night, whenever her boss Conrad calls.

Yet she wouldn’t change a thing. And when Conrad makes her a surprise offer, it’s clear that her hard work is going to pay off.

A few short days later, Delphine’s life is unrecognisable. The man who once broke her heart has suddenly reappeared, and a shocking tragedy turns her world on its head.

She must rethink everything that matters to her, and to those around her. She has to decide, once and for all, if love, family and a little compromise should come before career, security and independence… and whether she’s prepared to make that choice.

About the author

Sheila O’Flanagan is the author of nearly 30 bestselling chart-toppers, including The Women Who Ran Away, Her Husband’s Mistake, The Hideaway, What Happened That Night, The Missing Wife and All For You (winner of the Irish Independent Popular Fiction Book of the Year Award).

After working in banking and finance for a number of years, Sheila’s love for writing blossomed into curating stories about relationships in all their many forms. Follow her   @sheilaoflanagan Facebook.com/sheilabooks

Sheila tells My Weekly fiction editor Claire about her early career, and her latest work…

When did you first start writing fiction? 

I’ve always been a storyteller. When I was very young my mum would read to me every day and whenever a book was finished I’d ask her ‘what happened next’. She used to turn the question around and ask me what I thought happened next. I would make up a story about the characters in the book we’d been reading together.

As soon as I could write, I started writing my own stories (with crayon illustrations). When I was in my teens I wrote a boarding school series, even though I’d never been to boarding school. I used them to bribe my sister to do my share of the housework because I was ‘busy writing’. I was in my mid-thirties before I wrote my first book. 

How did you feel when you heard the news that your first novel had been accepted for publication? 

 I think every writer is a little bit in shock when they hear their novel is going to be published. I certainly didn’t quite believe it. But I had a lot of time to get used to the idea because it was two years after it was accepted before it was finally published as Dreaming Of A Stranger. I used that time to write my second novel, Caroline’s Sister, which was a good thing as it kept me occupied and not obsessing about the first book.

Also, I was writing without too much pressure and it meant that I already had a second book finished when the first one came out. Despite being published over 20 years ago, Caroline’s Sister is still a readers’ favourite. 

Tell me a bit about what inspired your current book and what you hope people will love about it. 

Three Weddings And A Proposal is my 26th book and I really enjoyed writing about my heroine, Delphine or “Delphie”, who’s a strong woman facing big changes in her life.

Delphie’s story was inspired by wanting to write about the pressures and judgments that are made about women no matter what life choices we make. It always astonishes me how much criticism women come in for whether it’s about their working lives, their home lives, how they look, how they behave… it’s relentless.

Even though Delphie is happy with her life she still has to listen to various members of her family ‘worry’ about her because she’s not living it the way they think is best.

They all love her, they just think they know better than her.

I hope readers will enjoy and maybe relate to that thing of everyone having an opinion on your life, and also to the office politics Delphie has to put up with.

I also hope they’ll love the gorgeous settings in Ireland and Mallorca. Plus. of course, all the surprises and glamour at the fabulous summer weddings she goes to. 

Sheila reads from Three Weddings And A Proposal...

What tips would you give to aspiring novelists? 

  • My favourite quote about writing is that a professional writer is ‘an amateur who wouldn’t quit’. All of us start out as amateurs and all of us need time and patience to perfect our craft. Of course we never really do perfect it, we just hope that we improve with each book. Certainly the idea of writing a better book each time is something that keeps me motivated.
  • There’s so much advice for aspiring novelists out there it’s sometimes hard to know what’s useful and what isn’t. A novel is a long piece of work and I advise writers (because you are a writer even if you’re not a published writer yet) to practise writing short stories to get used to starting and finishing something. Too many of us have unfinished novels sitting in a folder on the laptop, and you’ll never get it published if you don’t finish it! 
  • When it comes to your novel, it’s important to write the story that interests you the most. You’ll be with your characters for a long time, so you have to care about them and want to tell their story.
  • And finally, read a lot. Most of us write because we love to read. But it’s good to read books a little more critically when you’re starting to write yourself, seeing what works and what doesn’t, what you like and what you don’t, noting how the writer has developed the story and wondering if you’d do anything differently. 

Where do you find your writing inspiration? 

One of the questions I’m asked most is where I get my inspiration from. It’s one that I find difficult to answer, as it’s never one thing. It can be as simple as seeing a person walking along a street, or being in a place, new or familiar, or a theme that interests me. Sometimes it comes into my head almost fully formed. Sometimes it’s just the flicker of an idea that I have to think about for ages and work out how to develop.

I’ve always got ideas bubbling away in the background and sometimes they’re in my head for years before I find the right way to tell the story. Sometimes I have an idea and I know straight away it’s going to be the next book. Three Weddings And A Proposal was one that bubbled for a while before I worked out the best way of telling it, and I hope I’ve done justice to Delphie as a character and written a story readers are going to enjoy. 

Whats next? Are you working on another book? 

I am indeed working on another book, although I don’t ever talk about it until it’s finished. It’s the only thing I’m properly superstitious about. Also, I’m never really sure where the book is heading until I’m about halfway there.

Another favourite quote of mine is that writing a book is like driving a car in the fog. You can see just enough ahead of you to keep going. Fingers crossed I stay on the road! 

Three Weddings And A Proposal by Sheila O’Flanagan is published by Headline Review, £20 HB