You have written so many wonderful books, do you have a particular favourite, or favourites and why?
To be honest, the last book I’ve written is usually my favourite (a) because I’m so relieved I finished it and (b) because I’m still very close to the characters and the situations they’ve found themselves in. But some characters and locations stay with me longer than most like Imogen in The Missing Wife. I felt very close to her while I was writing her story and I love the part of France where much of the novel is set.
When you are thinking about a new book, where do you get your inspiration?
I always find this a hard question to answer because it isn’t any one thing. Sometimes it’s a particular theme that’s been niggling at me for a while, sometimes it’s as simple as seeing a person in the street and wondering about their lives and other times I’m inspired by a place. Three Weddings and A Proposal was inspired both by wanting to write about how women are always judged on the choices they make and by having a drink at a beautiful rooftop pool in Mallorca!
Your descriptions of the different locations in your books are so authentic, are they usually based on your own experiences of places, do you have favourite locations?
I like bringing my characters (and my readers) on physical journeys as well as emotional ones in my books and, as I said, I’m often inspired by the places I travel to. So the descriptions in the books are nearly all based on personal experience. I set a collection of short stories in the Caribbean which is so beautiful that I use the photos I took there as my desktop screensaver! I loved Valencia (the setting for The Hideaway) so much I bought a house there myself. The Women Who Ran away brings my characters on a road trip through France and Spain and is a little bit of an homage to my favourite places in both countries.
Do you have a special routine when you are writing? How do you overcome days when the words just don’t seem to flow?
I used to have a brilliant routine of getting to my desk at 9am, dealing with all my admin and then writing in two hour blocks with a half hour break from 10am until 6pm. That schedule got messed up over the past year or so and so did my usual trick of playing sport when I was struggling with the words. I go for long walks to sort out plotting in my head and it does work, but not as well as playing badminton did. Hopefully my routines will swing into gear again soon.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Read a lot and write a lot. Read critically, identifying what you like and dislike about different authors’ work and what you might have done differently. Write to practise your craft – short stories give you a great sense of completing something.
When you are not writing, what do you do to relax?
Read, play sports and travel. All three came under the cosh during the pandemic and I’m really looking forward to boarding a plane in the not too distant future.
See our review of Sheila O’Flanagan’s latest book – Three Weddings and a Proposal