Her first novel was published in 2011 to worldwide critical acclaim. And she’s won awards for exaggeration. It did top the Amazon humour chart so she’s officially a best-selling author. She writes children’s books, comedy, women’s fiction and crime novels.
She currently has five ‘lively’ offspring ranging from thirty-four to fifteen years of age, and has no plans to procreate further, much to the relief of the local schools and police force.
She lives on a council estate in County Durham. She is hearing impaired, is allergic to cats and has a phobia of tinned tuna. She’s retired from arguing with people on the internet.
Eileen can be found at:
Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?
I’d just left my husband and was living in poverty with four children. My phone had been cut off because I couldn’t afford to pay the bill and I wrote the first chapter as therapy. I entered it into a competition run by author Wendy Robertson and Bishop Auckland Library and was shocked when it was highly commended. The winning entries were added to an anthology which was read by a commissioning editor at Hodder who loved my story. It inspired me to write the rest of ‘Shit Happens.’
What came first the characters or the world?
I usually hear a voice (Yes, I know it makes me sound unhinged) and from the voice comes a character and then the world.
How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?
Like trying to pull a basketball through a toilet roll tube. I could paper the Angel of the North with my rejection letters. It took me five years to finish it and by then the commissioning editor who loved it had moved on. I got lots of great feedback but no bites until it was seen by the wonderful Ed from Byker Books. They published it as an ebook initially and then as a paperback when the ebook sold well. I’ll be forever grateful to Andy Rivers (amazing writer btw) for my first big opportunity. I still owe him a pint!
How long did it take to write?
Oh I just answered that. Five years, but in my defence I was working, doing a degree and I had four kids.
Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?
No, I can’t listen to music when I’m writing. I find it a distraction. I like absolute silence so I take my hearing aids out.
How many publishers turned you down?
I’ve lots count. So so many. They’ll be sorry one day! 😉 I’ll be more famous than JK and I’ll sweep past them at award ceremonies with my nose in the air, telling my entourage to tell them I’m too important and busy to speak to them but they could email me. Then I’d ghost them for eighteen months before sending a standard rejection which says:
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to work with you but I’ll have to politely decline I’m afraid. Of course this is subjective and other rich and famous authors may feel differently. However, too bad suckers!
What kind of reactions have you had to your book?
Most of my books have had excellent reactions. The reviews are really good for the most part. Sales have been good. The latest has been a little disappointing. I’m not sure why it hasn’t taken off yet because I think it’s my best to date.
What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?
Someone gave me a one star review saying they were going to print it out and use it as toilet paper. HAHAHA! Another man gave Shit Happens one star and he gave a commode five stars. I thought that was hilarious.
What can you tell us about your next book?
It’s a contemporary comedy about a young woman who’s trying to navigate being a working mother while dating and dieting.
Do you take notice of online reviews?
Absolutely. The readers are the most important people. I welcome constructive criticism and I enjoy reading what others have to say about my books. One star reviews are never constructive but they’re often really funny.
Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?
I’ve written in a few different genres: crime, women’s fiction, humour, children’s books, romance. So yes, I’m game for anything (Well anything legal)
What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?
I used to be a teacher but I left in July. I love Mondays now.
Which author(s) inspire you?
Honestly too many to mention but I was first inspired by my big brother, Stephen, who’s a brilliant writer. He wrote stories when I was a kid that fired my imagination. In my early twenties I read Pat Barker’s ‘Union Street’ and ‘Blow Your House Down’ and it was the first time I’d seen people from council estates featured in contemporary literature. It made me think I could write stories about people like me, for people like me. I always knew that one day there would be a book on the shelf with my name on it.
Which genres do you read yourself?
I read most genres. I love anything from picture books to crime novels; literary fiction to contemporary romance. I like books which make me laugh, shock me, and make me cry.
What is your biggest motivator?
The desire for success. I’m not sure what that looks like because I keep moving the goal posts. The initial goal was to be published. I achieved that. Then I wanted to write full time. I’m doing that. Next I’d like an agent and a big publisher, Netflix deal, and Hollywood movie. BAFTA and OSCAR. You have to dream big.
What will always distract you?
My kids and my phone.
How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?
None initially but I’ve since helped design some of them. Blanket of Blood was illustrated by the exceptionally talented Graham Stead, and Emmy Ellis designed the cover of my latest psychological thriller, ‘Hear Me Cry.’
Were you a big reader as a child?
Yes, I’ve always loved reading. My parents took us to the library every week when we were kids and I loved choosing new books and having them stamped. I was competitive at school when it came to moving through the reading schemes, and I used to bump into people and lampposts because I always had my head in a book.
What were your favourite childhood books?
So many! I loved Enid Blyton, The Twins at St Clare’s and Mallory Towers. The Mystery books series fuelled my love of crime literature early on. The Narnia books. I loved Judy Blume’s ‘Blubber’ and ‘Are you There God? It’s Me Margaret’, Judith Kerr’s ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.’ ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole age 13 ¾’ by Sue Townsend and ‘This Is David Speaking’ by Stephanie Ward.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?
I love all bookshops, particularly ones with a café where I can smell coffee and write. I can lose days of my life in there. It’s given me an idea for a children’s book series. Hang on while I go and write it down before I forget it. I love the smell of books, the feel of them, everything about them. My name is Eileen and I’m a book sniffer.
What books can you not resist buying?
Novels. I have more than I’ll ever be able to read yet I still can’t go in a book shop without buying one. I also have Kindle Clickitis. It’s a very painful condition.
Do you have any rituals when writing?
No, I’m not a ritualistic kind of person. I write best when I’m at my desk in my writing room with the phone turned off and the family tied up and gagged.
How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?
I’ve never counted but it’s a lot. I have many author friends and I try to read at least one of each of their books. My latest son always buys me books for birthdays and Christmas and he’s chosen very well so far. I’m still getting through my Christmas gifts.
What is your current or latest read?
I’m currently reading ‘Skin Deep’ by Liz Nugent. I’ve only discovered her recently and I’ve devoured all of her books. Before that it was Alice Feeny, and KA Richardson. I usually have about seven books on the go at once. I’ve just started Miriam Margolyes autobiography. I don’t read many biographies but I love her so I’m making an exception.
Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?
The next one by Susie Lynes, Alice Feeny, Liz Nugent, C.J Tudor, and KA Richardson.
Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?
No, it’s all top secret. If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you. But if you want to start a rumour I’m going to be working with Idris Elba that’s up to you.
Any events in the near future?
Dinner with Idris Elba.
and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?
I like being able to kill people who annoy me 😉
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