Frequently Asked Questions
Martina Devlin talks about midnight feasts, reading books while her friend sizzles at her new boyfriend and trying to trick the slob part of her nature into switching on the computer.
What inspires you to write?
I write because it's what I love to do best - simple as that. I really like eating chocolate, spending all day in my pyjamas, watching old black and white films (All About Eve with Bette Davis is a favourite), having midnight feasts with madly over-excited nieces and nephews, walking by the sea with an ice-cream from Teddy's, drinking coffee and gossiping with friends. But I'm happiest of all when I'm writing, I suppose it's the storytelling bug. As for inspiration - well, you'd be amazed how much can be gleaned from midnight feasts, drinking coffee, walking by the sea...
Do you have a writing routine?
I potter about in the morning drinking coffee, reading newspapers, checking Twitter, wishing the post was more interesting, wondering who I can ring and basically doing anything to avoid switching on the laptop. Finally guilt, an emotion I have never been able to overcome, spurs me into action and I change into a deeply unflattering pair of jogging bottoms and venture into the study. And then I always wonder what the fuss was about because once I start I'm grand. It's just that initial impetus to face the blank screen which I find problematic. I keep trying to trick myself into it - just sign on and then you can make a lovely pot of coffee without even writing a word.
How do you cure writer's block?
Tough love - I punish myself into it. Basically I force myself to sit at the computer screen and eventually boredom overcomes the writer's block and something trickles out in the way of words. I suppose all those years of working as a journalist help because you know there's no point in waiting for the muse to strike or newspapers would be full of yawning empty spaces where a scintillating 1,000-word article on why pet-owners feed their animals more wholesome food than they eat themselves should be.
What are you reading at the moment?
Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse which I borrowed from a friend. I started reading it when I was at her house for dinner so I could meet her new boyfriend. There were only the three of us and I felt I had to do something to occupy myself or I'd be scorched by all the sizzling glances ricocheting between the pair of them. They're at that early stage when everyone else feels like a voyeur beside them. I may have to buy the book anyway because - forget about that over-hyped shoe fetish - you can never have too many books.
What's the biggest myth about being a writer?
That it makes you wealthy. I know more writers starving in garrets than lounging in palatial splendour. Well, not exactly starving, but a bit on the skinny side. Most of them would be happy to make a decent living from their craft, never mind hit the jackpot, but many authors have to juggle writing in their spare time with holding down a day job. This isn't what you want to hear, is it?
What advice would you give budding authors?
If you really want to write, then sit down and get on with it. A lot of people talk the talk but that's all they ever do. Here's an amazing secret I've discovered: if you plod away, week after week, eventually your book will be finished - that's a promise. Now, a few basics. Once it's done - or sooner if you feel confident enough - choose three agents who handle the type of book you've written. Send off an SAE, a brief synopsis and the first three chapters. Don't be disheartened by rejections - we've all been rejected. It isn't exactly good for the soul but it isn't the end of the world either. Just think to yourself: 'That person is going to be so sorry when I'm number one in the bestsellers.' I also recommend giving a nasty character their name. Then try somebody else. Or have a lash at writing another novel. Or both. Also, pay no attention to that malarkey about literature versus commercial fiction because there's only good and bad writing. So my most important advice of all, and I've saved it to last, is to write from the heart.
Who is your all-time favourite author?
Since I don't want to make any enemies of living authors who've been overlooked, I'll sneakily just name some dead ones. Virginia Woolf, even if she was a desperate snob, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy - although you have to be in the whole of your health before you can tackle him - WB Yeats, Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare, because he used such fabulous words. Like gaudy, for example.
What can readers expect from you in the future?
I'm always working on something even if it never sees the light of day. If all else fails, maybe I could get a job in a diner. I fancy being one of those world-weary, but with a heart of gold, waitresses you see in old black and white films. Might even give me a plot.