Sunday, 15 March 2015

Guest Post: Sheila O'Flanagan Shares The Inspiration Behind 'If You Were Me'

I'm very pleased to have the wonderful Sheila O'Flanagan with me on the blog today. Sheila wants to share with us the inspiration behind her novel If You Were Me

Over to you Sheila....

It was someone asking me if I wasnt a novelist what would I be that sparked of the idea that eventually became If You Were Me.

In my case it was an easy question to answer, because Id had a career in finance before starting to write full-time, and I knew that I would have stayed in finance in some capacity or other - although I also wondered if the economic crisis might have caused me to lose my job!

But I also knew that finance hadnt been my first choice of career. Id wanted to work in a library but got a job offer in a bank instead. Occasionally I used to wonder what my life would have been like if Id been offered that library job. Better? Worse? or just different?

I thought about how random life can be and how we dont always realise that were making big decisions, or even that theyre being made for us without our knowing about it. Yet those things can change and influence our lives more than we know. And so the idea behind If You Were Me was born.

Carlotta has made some very clear decisions about her career and her future husband and shes comfortable with where her life has led her - even if shes stressing about her upcoming wedding and the fact that her mother-in-law isnt her biggest fan. And yet a chance encounter with someone shed known when she was a teenager reminds her of the sort of girl she was when she was younger, and the dreams she had back then. She starts to wonder what her life would have been like if certain things hadnt happened, and if decisions she hasnt had anything to do with hadnt been made.

I wanted Carlotta to be outside of her comfort zone when she had this meeting because I thought it would have a greater impact on her that way; I also thought that Seville would be a perfect location because its one of the most vibrant, emotional cities in the world. Because shes out of her comfort zone Carlotta behaves uncharacteristically too, and so theres a sense of her getting caught up in circumstances beyond her control.

Seville is the backdrop to her suddenly asking herself if shed living the life shes supposed to be living, or if events that she had nothing to do with when she was younger have sent her along a different road. I think its a question that all of us ask ourselves at some point - is this it? Is this the way its supposed to be? And if you were me, if you were faced with a decision you never thought youd have to make, what would you do?

About The Book

From Sheila O'Flanagan, the Number One bestselling author ofSomeone Special and Things We Never Say, comes an unputdownable, heart-searching new novel for every woman who still remembers her first love...

On a sultry summer evening in Seville, anything can happen... 

Carlotta O'Keefe is happily engaged, and the wedding plans are coming together. She's clear about her future path, both personally and in her busy career. Maybe Chris doesn't make her heart race every time she sees him, but you can't have that feeling for ever. Can you?

Then, on a trip to Seville, Carlotta runs into Luke Evans. Luke broke her heart so long ago she'd almost convinced herself she'd forgotten him. Now, he's not that boy any more, but an attractive and intriguing man. And he can explain everything that happened way back when.

Suddenly Carlotta's not so sure of anything any more. Except that what she decides now will shape the rest of her life...

About The Author

As you can see, a Dubliner all my life. My parents owned a grocery shop in the Iveagh Markets, in the Liberties area of the city and I guess city blood runs through my veins.

As a child I enjoyed reading and telling stories and everyone thought that I end up in a job which had something to do with books and literature. But though I applied for a job in the library all of the job offers I got were in commerce.

I turned down lots of them before my mother accepted one for me (I was on holiday at the time). It was in the Central Bank of Ireland and that’s how my career in financial services began.

I started out in administration and then moved jobs until finally I was working as a dealer in a commercial bank. Eventually I was promoted to Chief Dealer (the first female CD in the country). I traded lots of different things – foreign exchange, swaps, options, bonds…all of the kind of things you read about in the papers and that sound very technical and difficult. Of course once you’re doing it, it’s not half as technical as it sounds.

But I still loved reading and writing (which I did in my spare time) and I desperately wanted to write my own book. I guess I never quite got over the fact that I was never offered the library job! In my thirties I decided that it was now or never and I sat down, stuck Chapter 1 on a page, and started. I wrote the whole thing before sending it off.

I was offered a publishing deal (with no advance) by an Irish company but only if I wrote a different book! So back to the drawing board, I started again. It was another two years before it was published. It wasn’t until I’d written a few books and was offered a contract (this time with an advance!) from another publisher that I felt able to give up my trading job and write full time. So, even though it took a long time, I eventually realised my dream of being a full-time writer.

And now I also write a business column for the Irish Times.

When I’m writing a book I want to do three things:

* Tell a good story
* Make the reader feel like they know the characters
* Make each book better than the last

I don’t write for any particular audience but I suppose I must have people like me in mind – people who have busy lives and who like to escape into someone else’s for a while.

I love writing books. I hope you enjoy reading them.

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