Flashback : An interview with author Fiona O’Malley (June, 2013).

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Fiona O’Malley is the author of What Would Kate Do? The Diary of a Walking Disaster (which launched on Saturday night!).

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Fiona and ask her a few questions! Apart from this new book, Fiona writes for magazines including Vogue and also wrote The Daily Fail: The Musical! All while doing a Masters in Journalism. You can find her blog at this address: http://alliwanttodoiswritesally.blogspot.ie or visit her website at: http://www.fionaomalley.co.uk

The Interview.. 

Q1: What can you tell me about the book? 

What Would Kate Do: The Diary of a Walking Disaster! is a story about a girl who idolizes The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, and tries to follow her footsteps in life but fails miserably. She is in her 30’s and is terrified of being left on the shelf while she is maid of honour for her two best friends’ weddings. Instead of ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ her motto in life is ‘What Would Kate Do?’ It’s a chick-flick novel: think Bridget Jones meets The Devil Wears Prada! It’s a chick-lit comedy.

I hope people like it. I’d like to think I’m funny. If I’m not, I guess the joke will be the book! Here’s a joke for you: my life! I spend every spare second I can hunched over my laptop in my tiny studio apartment in London, wrapped up in woollens because it’s so cold with drafts and I’m too poor to afford the heating. I live off a diet of watered-down porridge. I don’t mind it though. I made the choice of becoming a writer and, coming from a single-parent background, I wasn’t raised with luxury. I work really hard to create art and the struggle years will make the end result (which I hope is success) all the more worth it. Pain is temporary. Rejection is temporary. If I give up, it’s forever.

Q2: What kind of creative process do you use? Did it take you long to write the book?

Although I was playing around with the plot idea in my head and on paper for a while, I wrote it in two months. Writing things fast is never a problem, I guess being trained as a journalist with a pressure to make deadlines and being very organised means I’m very disciplined with my time, however, the re-drafting was the most tedious part. That took a year.

Q3: You’re self-publishing this book. Is that a difficult road to take? 

It has its positives and negatives. The positives are that I own all of the rights so if there are any future progressions, like if the book is turned into a film or if it is released in paper back form in the future, I’ll be in a better position to negotiate my cut etc. It’s also a cheaper and more efficient way to get copies of the book around. The hugely negative thing was that a lot of people in the older generation don’t know how to use kindles, iPods, iPads or their laptops to download the book. I am so bad with technology too though. The last time I came home my auntie asked me, “As a writer, do you use the kringle or do you prefer paperback books?”, which explains where I get my aptitude for technology from. In the future, I’ll ask my grandchildren, “What is this complex device children?” They’ll give me an overly kind smile and say “That, granny, is a doorbell!”

Although I wouldn’t recommend self-publishing for people who don’t know much about marketing or the press, I have the advantage of A) The book was inspired by one of the most photographed women in the world so I am hoping there will be a lot of interest in it B) Having worked at VogueThe Sunday Times and The Irish Times with a few ‘aul columns myself, I have media contacts in Ireland and the UK which I’m taking advantage of in terms of publicity for the book. I’m playing to my strengths.

Q4: You’ve also written The Daily Fail: The Musical! which was successfully funded through Kickstarter (and endorsed by Andrew Llyod Webber!) How does it feel to see that all coming together? Are you all set for the show’s premiere in July? 

Although it’s flattering that a lot of people are enthusiastic about the musical, it takes an immense amount of work. It’s very emotional seeing it all come together. When I see UTC’s (The Untold Theatre Company, which Fiona co-founded) work evolving before my eyes, I know that working myself into the ground is worth it. I am confident that the show in July will be a success. The four creators of the musical (me: the writer & co-producer; Adam Wollerton: the director & co-producer; Joseph Alexander: the composer; and Rachel Kelly: the choreographer) all have the same work ethic with a commitment to excellence so it works well. If people like it, we’ll take it to the West End this autumn.

Q5: You’re a busy lady! Where do you get the drive from? 

I am very proud of what I have achieved so far, but it didn’t come easy (I applied to Vogue 106 times before I got in, which means I got rejected 105 times) but I really must emphasise that I am, by no means, superior to the average person in intelligence or talent. I couldn’t be plainer if I tried! That’s not false modesty or anything, I just don’t want the pressure of people building me up to something I’m not. Like every girl, I have moments where I’m webbed with self-doubt and riddled with insecurities. Whatever I lack in intelligence or natural ability I make up for in hard work and a sense of humour. In school, I was a below average student. I worked really hard to get really mediocre results. The only things I was good at were music, art and languages – all of the creative subjects. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I stuck with my strengths and did languages under the BA International at NUIG. I followed what I liked and was good at. To me, that’s the secret to success: working your ass off at what you like and what you’re good at. Where do I get the drive from? I’m not sure entirely. I just strive for progress, learning, growing and always moving forward, no matter what.

Q6: I’m guessing that this is only the beginning for you… What’s next?

I definitely want to continue writing – books, plays, musicals, sitcoms and movies.

I am so lucky to be able to do what I love and although more often than not it’s financially crippling, I know that long-term, I wouldn’t be happy in any other field than the arts. Poverty is stressful, degrading and strips you of your self-esteem but if it is the cost of doing what I love, so be it. I would rather be happy and deprived than spoiled and miserable.

I am certain that I would go insane if I stopped writing. I can no more stop writing than a musician can stop playing. It is my warmth, passion and mind stretched out for others to read and experience, with the hope that I can provide laughter, thoughts and an emotional journey for others who have felt the same or who simply want to laugh at someone else’s struggle, comforted in the notion that every single person in life goes through a struggle because the struggle is life – what a depressing, terrifying, liberating, wonderful thought! My next book is called Memoirs of a Basset Hound and it’s about my journey to Vogue. That will be released in 2014. I also plan to write two more What Would Kate Do? books as I have enough ideas for a trilogy.

Q7: You’ve chosen to launch your book in Galway… Why Galway?

I am launching the book in Galway because it’s where my family live and because it’s one of my favourite places in the world. Being a true sun goddess, I hope to top-up on my tan when I’m home on the sun-drenched beaches of the West of Ireland. Snort. I burn in the rain. I will always have a grá for Galway. When you have a love affair with a place, it’s very hard to let it go.

Q8: Any advice for aspiring writers/playwrights?  

For anyone who wants to be an artist – any type of artist – I’d say to accept that it’s going to be tough, very tough, but if you’re willing to put in the work without getting paid or credit, if you’re willing to live like a pauper and walk like a king, if you’re willing to commit yourself to excellence without the disability of an ego, then you will succeed!

FOUR QUICK ONES! 

 – Favorite book?

The Harry Potter collection (I’m a huge nerd!)

 – Favorite musical?

Wicked or The Daily Fail!

 – Biggest inspiration?

Biggest inspiration is easily my mother. She’s a kind, warm, powerhouse woman who is proof that success is not about status, pay or popularity. It’s about turning negative situations into positive ones. If I’m half the person she is someday, I’ll be happy with that!

 – Maltesers or Minstrels?

Minstrels.

What Would Kate Do? The Diary of a Walking Disaster is available to buy on Amazon now: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Would-Diary-Walking-Disaster-ebook/dp/B00DNE2IGO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372706197&sr=8-1&keywords=what+would+kate+do+diary+of+a+walking+disaster

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Flashback: An interview with Royseven’s Paul Walsh (January, 2011).

royseven

Royseven recently played in NUIG as part of the SU Sessions.
The guys arrived from Dublin where they were doing interviews ahead of their
new album release for “You Say We Say”. Unfortunately two members were
delayed in traffic but the others in the band adapted very well to being a
four piece and played a really enjoyable gig. The album looks set to be a
winner.

After their set, I got a few minutes with Paul Walsh to talk about the band.

Katy: First off, how did you all get involved in Royseven?
Paul Walsh: We were in a band called Jove together and the bass player left.
We took on another bass player, plus a guitar player, and decided it was time
to change the name, change the sound a little bit, and that’s how Royseven
came to be. How the name came to be is another bloody story!

K: Where did the name come from?
P: Well we wanted to call the band Roy after the first song we wrote
together, but there were four other bands called Roy around the world, so
for copyright reasons we couldn’t go there. Then we thought, well there are
six of us in the band, we could call it Roysix but that doesn’t work,
doesn’t sound phonetically nice, in any way pleasant. I heard an interview
with David Bowie, and he said “a song is never complete until somebody
outside the writing process has heard it”, so we thought there’re six in the
band plus the listener.  So that’s Royseven.  We think it’s a sweet little
idea.

K: You’ve had great success, including meteor awards. Does that make it
easier for the band?
P:  No. Not really. People expect more, and then you have hiccups like
today and people go “Oh my God, they won what? They shouldn’t have won
anything!” So, no, it doesn’t make it any easier, no. I mean it’s probably
easier from a PR perspective because it’s something to talk about, but that
was three or four years ago now, so we don’t really use it you know? We
wouldn’t use it.

K: After your debut album, “The Art of Insincerity” you went on tour for
quite a bit.
P: We didn’t intentionally take a break. We changed record companies, and
we were waiting for a particular producer. So all in all, with signing the
new deal, which took a year to negotiate, and waiting for this producer,
which took a year, we starting recording in November ’09 and finished in
July 2010. So time just flies! The main thing is for us is we’re happy with the
product we have, we’re really happy with the album. The response so far has
been really good, and positive from people.

K: As your first album was received so well, was it nerve-wracking to go
back to the drawing board and start all over again?
P: No, because I think we’d learned so many lessons from the first
record, so many things we could have done a lot better and we toured Europe
with the first record, which is quite difficult because a lot of songs on
the first album were quite mid tempo, and with this record we wanted to have
songs that we could play live, that would get people moving, and more
involved, and maybe more accessible to sing along, maybe not so heavy and
introspective. So we kind of geared the album towards that. We were looking
forward to a chance to prove ourselves, that we could do something slightly
different without completely reinventing the wheel, you know?

K: The first released single from this is “Killer”. What was the
inspiration for it?
P: Quite honestly, my manager joked with me one day and said. “Why can’t
you write a song like the Killers?” and I thought, “Well we’re not the
fucking Killers” and then actually, the word ‘killer’ seemed appealing and I
liked that, and we’d be touring so I was watching Criminal Minds back to
back a LOT. So I thought well I never usually do any narrative lyric, so I
thought I’d just write a story about a guy. Yeah, it’s really weird, the way
it came about, but it worked out and we like it so.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUvlRWskhVM

K: Great. Now a few questions so people can get to know you better!
Favorite You Tube video right now?
P: I was looking at one today from American guys coming back from a
bachelor party, and one of the guys is asleep in the passenger seat? So the
others in the seven-seater car decide to all scream frantically like they’re
about to crash, to wake this guy up. So they have the camera on him, and all
you can hear is the guys going “AHHHHH!!”.  So the passenger guy wakes up
and automatically starts screaming as well because he’s taken up by this
emotion you know? So that’s what I looked at today, that was really funny so
I put that on my Facebook page.

K: Cat or Dog?
P:  You see, traditionally, I’m a cat person, but we have a dog at home
the last few years and I really love the dog, so the dog’s kind of taken
over now. You seem pleased about that. You don’t like cats at all, no? Cats
don’t give a shit. Cats are smart. I like the independence of a cat, I like
that they’re sort of like “fuck you, I’m gonna do this on my own and if you
want to throw me out, that’s fine, I’ll be fine!” whereas as a dog would be
like, ‘Oh my God! Don’t throw me out!”

K: Maltesers of Minstrels?
P: Maltesers. It’s the lighter way to enjoy chocolate. I love Maltesers.
They’re lovely!

K: A line of a song that means something to you.
P: “Before you slip into unconsciousness I’d like to have another kiss,
another flashing chance at bliss, another kiss, another kiss”. “Crystal
Ship” by The Doors. The first line, it’s a beautiful line.

K: Finally, what’s up next for Royseven?
P: Rehearse! No, what’s up for Royseven next is, we’re off to Germany on
Thursday because… I can’t tell you why we’re off to Germany but there’s
a press conference on Friday morning for something that’s happening for the
band now, we’re really happy about it*. So then we’re over to Germany again,
we’re doing the Ruby Sessions in Dublin next Tuesday, another acoustic
thing. I promise it’ll be better than this. Then we’re back to Germany the
weekend of the 11th and 12th of February to do two shows in Hanover. The
album release then, and gigs associated with that, so TV shows and all that
kind of stuff. Then back to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and try to make a
go of it. Now if that all goes pear shaped, back to college!

*It was announced on Friday that Royseven are the newcomer for Rock at this
year’s VW Sound Foundation. They were chosen over 150 applicants.

Flashback : An interview with Keywest’s Andy Kavanagh (March, 2011).

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Keywest recently played in NUIG as part of the SU Sessions.
After the gig, I got a chance to speak with lead singer and co-songwriter of
the band, Andrew (Andy) Kavanagh.

Katy: This is not Keywest’s first time playing in NUIG.
Andy: No, it isn’t. We were down in Galway one day for a gig, a year and a
half ago I’d say, and while we were there two of the lads in the band went
busking. They didn’t do very well on their own, and so we started playing
with them that day and got a great response. That’s why we’ve been asked to
NUIG so many times I guess, just from busking.

K: You seem to have a very loyal (and large) fan base here in Galway too.
A: Certainly. We were absolutely shocked to see anybody here. We’ve
played in NUIG three times in total, the first time it was pretty empty, the
second one was moderately full, and then today it was amazing! It’s
brilliant. We’re delighted.

K: To go back to the Keywest roots for a minute, was music a big deal in
your families growing up?
A: Yeah, with everyone in the band. I’m from an entire family of singers,
my grandmother and her seven sisters. They were all kind of somewhat famous
on the cabaret scene back in the day so I’m the first one to sort of take
that up as the male in the family. With the rest of the boys it’s the same
thing. I’ve been to Performing Arts and Glover (Andrew Glover) was one of
the top classical piano players in the country so we kind of stole him! For
a long time his mother actually hated me, it’s a true story, for taking him
away from classical piano. He was the number one guy, he finished all his
piano grades at twelve and he had started at six years old. He’s a monster
of a musician! It’s absolutely staggering what he can do. But yeah, his mom
for a very long time, until she kind of came around to the idea, really
didn’t like me. She saw us on The Late Late Show and that won her over.

K: To go from practicing music as a child, to having a producer like Mark
Needham, who is responsible for The Killers’ ‘Mr. Brightside’, taking an
interest in working with the band. It must have been quite the change for all
of you!
A: It’s phenomenal, yeah. You know, Mark does that, he develops bands.
There’s a new band out at the moment called Neon Trees, and they have a
massive song on the radio called ‘Animal’ right now. He set them up the same
way he did with us. They went to him, he helped develop them, he helped
get them working with people. So we spent the last two years developing,
taking trips over, and recording this album. This particular album we’re
putting out here is only going to be put out in Ireland. It’s not going to
see the light of day anywhere else because it’s what we’ve been writing over
the course of the last two years. The album in the US is a bunch of
co-writes so that will be album two in Ireland. We’re excited about this
first one because we’ve written it for so long and we feel it’s brilliant.
It’s a real personal expression of what we had to do, so we’re putting it out
anyway.

K: And it was after meeting Mark that you released your first single,
‘Miss You Most’.
A: Yeah, we were a completely different band back then. We had R ‘n’ B
elements and because we were songwriters first, we didn’t know what we
wanted to do. We’re from very different backgrounds in music and we had this
one song ‘Miss You Most’. Mark said that he loved that and that he didn’t
really like the other avenue so his input started to develop us and re-route
our direction. I started listening to U2 and Snow Patrol and Kings of Leon
because I’ve always traditionally listened to soul and R’ n ‘B acts and
because myself and Glover would be the primary writers in the band, I had to
get out and make some different kind of music. So now the album has that,
it’s a mixture of all those bands!

K: And the busking, where does that come in?
A: It was a necessity initially. Sam (Marder) and James (Lock) had moved
over from England and at that time everything was pretty bad. We were trying
to just get by and pay the rent while still devoting enough time to keep the
momentum of the band going. They were trying to busk as a two piece in
Dublin and, as I said, we just happened to busk one day in Galway and we got
such a good response that we’ve been busking ever since. Gigging as well. We
don’t want to do pub gigs and become known as a cover band, so we’re trying
to limit that down. That’s why on the street we get to tell our side of the
story and explain we’re not a cover band, but we don’t mind playing them for
your entertainment.

K: So then what was it like to go from busking on the street to making an
album in an L.A. studio?
A: It was ridiculous, such a contrast. Mind-blowing. We were taking limos
and we had a house with a Jacuzzi and a pool. Mind you, all those kind of
extras weren’t paid by the busking, obviously, that was all to do with the
publishing companies and the labels we were dealing with. Busking paid for
the flights, living expenses and that kind of stuff for the month. It was
absolutely amazing. And the people we got to meet and work with too. One
particular time I found myself out at a party, and we were amongst all these
people and I was chatting away to this guy called Quentin or something like
that. Then, as I got drunker I was like, “Are you Taio Cruz?” And the man
was like, “Yeah”. Embarrassing. I think he’s great so I was like, “Oh.
Howya!” That happened more than once! The lads got to rehearse with all
sorts of bands in the rehearsal studios and you know, got to jam with them.
Some being the big rock stars of our days like Bon Jovi and New York Dolls.
It was just amazing.

K: On the subject of famous musicians, you recently met Paulo Nutini.
A: He’s a bit mad. He’s just wired from the moment you meet him to the
moment he leaves. He arrived singing, that’s no joke. In the back area he
was just mad, just ready for action! He’s great craic.

K: To focus on Keywest again, your upcoming album is called ‘The Message’
and is out in September (2011),
A: We’re going to open it with our first big headline act in Dublin.
K: Any spoilers you can give me?
A: There are twelve, possibly thirteen songs on it. We’re still debating
one. We’re definitely thinking quality, not quantity. As I’ve said, we’ve
written it for two years and have a ton of songs to choose from. There’s
sort of a religious theme going through it but it’s not about religion. It’s
more about our own personal experiences so there’s a song on there called
‘Absolute’ and one called ‘Road To Damnation’. So that runs through it. It’s
great, I’m delighted with how it’s turned out and as I said it’s the perfect
expression of the experiences we’ve had over the many years we’ve known each
other.  So please God other people will see it that way!

K: Great. Now, a few quick questions! First CD/Tape you ever bought.
A: This is going to be embarrassing. I think the first CD I bought was
Boys II Men and I think the album was called ‘Two’. I was a huge Boys II Men
fan and they released ‘End of the Road’ over the film Boomerang in 1990 and
I was just a nipper at that point. My auntie was a big fan and it was her
influence that put me on to soul music so that was my first. I think I was
about three or four or something like that?

K: Your favorite song on the radio right now?
A: I’m trying to think what’s on the radio right now. I’d probably say
‘Animal’ by Neon Trees. I like that song, or Adele’s new song is very good.
She’s a great story, to see her talent coming through despite all the
critics initially.

K: You were writing songs yourself at a very young age. Would you have
any advice for people who want to start writing their own songs?
A: You have to start young and you have to just keep on writing. It takes
such a long time to get good at it, it really does. You look back on your
old songs and go, “What were you thinking? How did that happen?” You just
have to keep writing song after song after song and don’t expect each song
to be your hit. Just write it for the sake of writing it and then hopefully
one day you will write something that will get you where you want to go.

K: Maltesers or Minstrels?
A: Minstrels. I like dark chocolate.

K: Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to all your Galway fans?
A: Well the single’s out soon and we have the support of i102, as far as
I know, so if they want to help us out they can inundate them with requests.
That would certainly move things along!