Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!
If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.
I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!
Denise Deegan is an Irish author of eight novels. Her latest, Through the Barricades, is her first work of historical fiction. Prior to that Denise wrote a popular Young Adult trilogy called The Butterfly Novels. She also writes contemporary women’s fiction under the pen name Aimee Alexander. She has been published by Penguin, Hachette, Random House and Lake Union Publishing. Her latest Aimee Alexander novel, The Accidental Life of Greg Millar, has become an international bestseller.
1) Can you tell us a bit about your first book?
My first novel was called Turning Turtle. It is the story of a woman who gives up work to follow her dream of writing fiction while spending more time with her two young children. It all goes terribly wrong when the balance of power shifts in her relationship with her husband.
2) What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?
I was doing a literature review for a Masters in PR. I realised that a book didn’t exist that should. So I wrote that book of non-fiction. As soon as it was published I experienced an overwhelming urge to write a novel. I had no agent, no publisher and no idea for a novel but I gave up my PR business and went ahead anyway.
3) How long did it take you to write your first book?
Six months for the first draft.
4) If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?
I sent the manuscript out without ever going over it, which was incredibly naïve. Luckily, an agent saw something in it and gave me editing advice.
5) Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?
It was traditionally published. Back then it was the only option. However, when it went out of print and the rights reverted to me, self-publishing had become an option. Attracted by that adventure, I relaunched myself. I chose a pen name, Aimee Alexander (the names of my children combined). I edited the novel afresh and renamed it All We Have Lost. Self-publishing has been an amazing adventure. One of my novels, The Accidental Life of Greg Millar, was spotted by Amazon imprint, Lake Union Publishing. They republished it under their imprint. It became an international bestseller.
6) Do you have any tips for other first time authors?
Love writing. Keep loving writing, no matter how many rejections you get. Remind yourself that you are doing this because you love it, because you can’t not do it. Keep going. Consider self-publishing. It is a legitimate option where you have full control. Still Alice was initially self-published, as was The Martian. If you decide on self-publishing, get your book as good as it can be; hire a professional editor and cover designer and get your stories out to the world. And: GOOD LUCK.
Tell us about your first…
7) Book you bought
Pride and Prejudice. I had a massive Jane Austen obsession in my teens. I read – and reread – all her novels. Incredibly shy, I experienced romance vicariously through the characters. There was a lot of sighing!
I remember falling off my tricycle, smashing my mouth, my lips becoming hugely swollen, being fed a scone and hating scones for years afterwards.
9) Person you fell in love with
Joe. My husband. First love. Massive love. Recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary by renewing our vows in Rome. It was where we wanted to marry all those years ago but succumbed to family pressure to marry at home. Which turned out to be lovely too.
10) Holiday you went on
Family holiday in Benidorm, I think.
11) Prize you won
I got some award or other for coming first in my PR class.
12) Album you purchased
The Very Best of Leo Sayer.
13) Sport you enjoyed participating in
Hockey. Tennis. Swimming.
14) Embarrassing moment you can remember
As a teenager, to make small talk, I asked a friend of a friend if she’d washed her hair. (It looked wet.) She hadn’t. It was greasy.
My Golden Retriever, Bashful. OK, he wasn’t mine per se. He was the family pet. But he loved me the most! Just don’t ask my brothers or sister!
16) Time you were in trouble
As a teenager, I was caught sneaking out of school at lunch hour, which was against the rules. I’m sure I was in trouble with my parents many times before that but this is the memory that sticks.
17) Choice of alternative career if you weren’t an author
I’ve been a nurse, a china restorer, a pharmaceutical sales rep, a checkout girl, a public relations consultant and entrepreneur and a college lecturer.
18) Time you had any independence
At seventeen, I began training to be a nurse. I earned an income. And grew up fast. My independence has always been hugely important to me.
19) Toy that you recall loving
An old teddy given to me by my grandfather. It had been his. Still have him. Even have a picture of him on my desk.
20) Time you felt like an adult
When I started nurse training.
21) Time you realised you were good at something
At school, I realised I could draw. This was a relief as my older brother was a bit of a genius.
22) Dish you cooked
My friend and I cooked a stir-fry (of sorts) for our parents. Then the six of us sat down together. It’s a very happy memory.
23) Time you were really scared
As a child, I was getting off a bus with my family. They weren’t quick enough and the bus took off with them still clambering down the stairs. I was left alone at the bus stop in a strange city. It was my first time on a bus and it never occurred to me that they would just get off at the next stop and walk back.
Thank you to Denise Deegan for this enjoyable interview and congratulations on your best seller, I must say I'm impressed that you can fall off a tricycle, I thought those were very stable and very hard to fall from, and I say that as someone with no balance!
Denise Deegan lives in Dublin with her family where she regularly dreams of sunshine, a life without cooking and her novels being made into movies.
Denise has been a nurse, a china restorer, a pharmaceutical sales rep, a public relations officer, an entrepreneur and a college lecturer. Her most difficult job was being a checkout girl, although ultimately this experience did inspire a short story…
Denise writes for both adults and teenagers. Her novels have been published by Penguin, Random House, Hachette and Lake Union Publishing. Writing under the pen name Aimee Alexander, Denise's contemporary family dramas have become international best-sellers on Kindle.