Please welcome guest author Sharon Black to the Cafe!
HI Samantha, I’m delighted to be here as a guest today on your blog. If you don’t mind, I’d like to tell you and your readers a little about myself and my inspiration for my debut novel.
I have a background in journalism, having worked as a features writer after I left college. It was a hugely varied job, which I loved.
I married a fellow journalist, and was lucky enough to be able to take a substantial break from paid work, when my children were small, before returning to write for another national paper for a while.
Down the years I did a lot of writing. Entering short stories for magazines and competitions. Sometimes I got lucky. I also attempted a lot of novels. The back of my wardrobe is full of half-finished, awful stuff, that should never see the light of day!
By the time I was really ready and committed to see it through, it seemed right for me to write about what I knew.
Going Against Type is a romantic comedy, set in the world of Dublin-based national newspapers. It was with the writing of my two main characters, that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.
It’s the story of rival newspaper columnists, who write under pen names, and unknowingly fall in love with their arch enemy: each other! They each have good reason to protect their alter egos. So their relationship develops, each blissfully unaware. Until they are forced to reveal themselves….
So far, so traditional rom-com, you might say. My inspiration was the 1940s Hollywood film, Woman of the Year, which starred Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey. They were a terrific on-screen pair. In Woman of the Year, Hepburn plays a high brow pundit, who rubbishes sport in one of her columns. Tracey is a sports columnist who leaps to defend his beloved sport and in turn, attacks Hepburn’s views, and the sparring begins. In the film, they meet quite quickly and despite knowing who the other person is, they fall in love.
In Going Against Type, I turned the stereotypes around. So Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Regan is the sports buff. At the beginning of the story, she is given a chance to write the new, anonymous sports column, Side Swipe.
My hero, Derry Cullinane is a fashion writer and gossip columnist, The Squire for the rival paper. He’s sophisticated, man-about-town and a bit of a playboy. They fall in love, and that’s where the fun starts.
While that whole build up was great fun to write, it was also quite difficult. I needed to make sure that Charlotte and Derry’s columns were very sharp and acerbic. I wanted to paint a perfect contrast between their relationship via their columns – and their personal relationship together. And of course it meant there was more at stake.
The hardest columns to get right were Charlotte’s, but she was a wonderful character to write. I hugely admire people who are sporty, and I wanted Charlotte to be very different from me. I didn’t want anyone to think I was writing bits of me into my heroine.
So I did a lot of research. I read a lot of sports columnists, then I tried to put myself into the head of a feisty, twenty-something woman, working in an area largely dominated by men.
Her columns took a lot of writing and re-writing. I wanted them to be funny and very controversial. As her columns got better, Charlotte came to life on the page. In the end, she felt like a real person; somebody I had known a long time. And I liked her.
A lot of people are surprised when they see that my hero is a gossip columnist and fashion writer. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, but mainly these are areas in journalism that tend to be dominated by women.
Apart from wanting to shake things up, I wanted to write a strong male character, who is completely comfortable in his own skin, and his fabulous tailor made suits! He is manly, yet completely relaxed with having a female boss and working in a features department, surrounded by women. Actually, he likes that a lot!
I know it’s a cliché, but writing this book was a huge learning experience. Before I started to write, I armed myself with the tools: the nuts and bolts of novel structuring.
I knew I had a good story. I was determined to see it through. I’m so glad I did. I became an author and I’m so grateful for that. And I’m very proud of my debut.
~ ~ ~
Going Against Type
Note: Charlotte is sent to cover Ladies’ Day at The Galway Races. It’s here that she meets Derry for the first 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.’
Charlotte stared at him in amazement. Who did that? Maybe he was a rich eccentric, the kind of guy who hung around the race courses, betting big. Not caring whether or not he won – or lost everything on the day. That said, she was damned if she’d come clean!
‘So do you normally gamble this recklessly Mr…?’ Charlotte trailed away meaninglfully, biro poised over her notebook. He stuck out his hand, a warm smile forming.
‘Sorry I should have introduced myself. I’m…’
‘Derry! Where have you been? They’re just about to start the judging. Come on darling, I have to go line up. I want you to be able to see!’
A tall blonde, wearing a rose pink knee-length dress with tiny matching jacket, pink stiletto sling-back shoes and a dizzy spiral of cream and pink headwear, teetered over and clung to Derry’s arm. She looked, Charlotte thought, vaguely familiar. The blonde smiled tightly at Charlotte and then noticed her press badge.
‘Oooh, you’re from the papers! Maybe I could talk to you when the judging’s over. Do you have a photographer with you?’ She didn’t wait for Charlotte to answer, but rushed on. ‘You’ll have to excuse us right now, okay?’
‘Of course, don’t let me delay you,’ Charlotte said, stepping back.
‘Wait,’ Derry began, shooting her a sudden intrigued look. ‘You’re not with Ireland Today, are you?’
‘Shit. Charlotte managed a surprised laugh.
‘Um, yes,’ she squeaked. ‘I’m er, writing a piece on Ladies Day.’
‘Oh right.’ He frowned. ‘What about their Side Swipe columnist? Do you know him?’
Lie Charlotte. And do it well.
‘No. It’s being written anonymously. I think the writer works from home…’ She smiled brightly at him. Behind Derry, the blonde shot Charlotte a steely glare. Charlotte glanced one last time at Derry.
‘You should go. And I have to work. Nice to meet you.’ She turned and walked away.
~ ~ ~
GOING AGAINST TYPE
by Sharon Black
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 as 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 is soon 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 whom the opponent is…
When Charlotte and Derry meet at the Races, the attraction is 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?
~ ~ ~
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 in a Dublin coastal village, with her husband and their three children.
FACEBOOK AUTHOR PG: http://on.fb.me/1AG4C3J