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
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 Vogue, The 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?
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