Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Sharon Black: Going Against Type

Please give a warm Heart of Fiction welcome to Sharon Black.

Sharon hails from South County Dublin, Ireland, where she lives with her husband and three kids. She's trained as a journalist, working for some of Ireland's most upstanding periodicals (The Irish Examiner and The Evening Herald), but found her niche in fiction. And today, she introduces us to her debut novel.

Going Against Type is a story near and dear to Sharon's heart. Not just because it's her first published novel. It's because of the setting.

Charlotte 'Charlie' Regan works as a sports journalist and her contemporary, Derry Cullinane, works as a fashion writer and gossip columnist. This story blows stereotypes right out of the water from page one.

Some would say Charlie has the perfect life. She's gorgeous, smart, and has a dream job. Despite the recent breakup with her boyfriend, she's pretty happy. Except for one thing. Her big break. Being the only woman sports writer in the department, Charlie finds it difficult at best to get put onto really big stories.

Derry, on the other hand, has no trouble getting the big stories. Not only is he good at what he does, he's also very popular with ladies seeking expert advice on fashion, and of course, they want to know the latest gossip in the fashion industry. Derry is every girly-girl's go-to man. He's the quintessential 'tall, dark, and handsome', and straight. He's also part of the industry's gossip, as he has a reputation as a lady's man who dates only glamorous women. But even Mr Popularity is looking for some different excitement.

When Charlie is given the opportunity to write a new column, it's under the pen name, Side Swipe. It's not long before someone called The Squire focuses in on Side Swipe and the battle begins. While Charlie and Derry know each other professionally, neither know they're sparring with each other.

Going Against Type is an absolutely engaging story full of surprises. A lady in a male dominated occupation, and a straight man in an industry dominated by women and gay men -- Already, this story opens the door for all kinds of shenanigans. Add the element of secret pen names and a public venue in which to voice some rather strong opinions, and readers will be kept up at night turning pages to see what happens next. Sharon Black uses her wonderful author voice to spin us a great story with lots of twists to keep us on edge. Pitting her protagonists in occupations against stereotype means there's a lot of maneuverability for a quirky and interesting plot. And this story has it. This is a really fun read with believable characters, fun situations, and a well-developed plot. I say, great start to your fiction writing career, Sharon. Well done.

Before we get to the excerpt, we've had a quick chat with Sharon.

Welcome to Heart of Fiction, Sharon, and congrats on the release of your debut novel.

Please, tell our readers something about you, the author. Such as, what is your daily writing routine like?
I tend to write in the mornings, when my children are at school and college.  Sometimes I write as much as I can and then reward myself with a coffee in my local Italian cafe. Or sometimes I need the coffee just to write. I love when I have a clear plan in my head of a particular scene, because I can write that anywhere. If I’m feeling restless, I will take an A4 pad and go to the cafe, tuck myself away in a corner and write longhand. People wonder how I can work like that, but I worked as a journalist in busy newsrooms and features departments. People were always talking  and shouting around me, so you learn to tune everything out and just concentrate on what you have to do. 
In the evenings I might write a bit more, if I’m not too tired. Or I might read over what I’ve written that morning, and start to edit. 
It takes a lot of concentration to write, and a lot of the same concentration to tun out the noise around you. A busy newsroom sounds like the perfect place to hone that skill!

Now that you're home, and writing great fiction, tell us about your new desk . . . What's your writing space like?
At home, my writing space is a big, wrap-around desk at the very end of my kitchen. It’s an incredible mess, but actually I know where everything is! My back is to the wall and I have really big windows on one side, with a view of my garden. If I’m doing bits during the day, when the kids are home, the kitchen is always busy. But even though I’m aware of what’s going on, I can work away if I have to. And it’s handy to be able to check things or write something down if I think of it, during the day. It’s also a great way to keep an eye on my youngest, doing homework! 
Sounds like a great little niche for you. You're tucked away but also in a hive of familial activity.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?
I love reading, so I do a lot of that. I also get to the theatre or the cinema when I can, although that’s not as often as I’d like. I live near the sea and there’s a nature reserve not too far, so I walk with friends. Despite (or maybe because of) the fact that writing is a very solitary thing, it’s really important to me to see friends. Living in a suburban village makes for a great community spirit and I’m lucky to know lots of people.
When we can, my husband and I have family or friends around for dinner. We both enjoy that, because I quite like cooking (although I hate baking!) and it’s always an excellent excuse to clean the house!!!
Apart from that, my week is pretty mad, weekend included, because my kids are busy. So there’s a lot of ferrying around and supporting them. Normal parenting stuff. I wouldn’t have it any other way.  
I know the reserve you're talking about. I've always enjoyed the view from the DART. Wonderful place to walk. And you're right about being social when you're not working. Getting out in the fresh air is also great for helping one work out those plot knots, as well as the knots in your back ;-)

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, and best luck with this story.

Before we get to the excerpt for this story, don't forget that your comment could net you a free copy of this book. Be sure to leave your contact email.

• • •

Some would say Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Regan has it all. Beautiful, smart, athletic, and a great job working as a journalist – in the almost exclusively male sports department. But Charlotte is not quite so sure as she seem. Recently split from her overbearing boyfriend, she escapes for weekends surfing in the Atlantic, and spends her free nights watching sports, roaring at the TV.

Derry Cullinane is a fashion writer, gossip columnist, and sophisticated man-about-town – The go-to guy for any woman seeking expert advice on what fabulous outfit to wear for any given occasion. He’s also tall, dark, good looking . . . and straight! So what’s the snag? He has a track record of dating glamorous, vain, and shallow women.

Charlie gets an opportunity to write a new column under the pen name Side Swipe, but soon is drawn into a war of words and wit with a rival paper’s columnist, The Squire, and their verbal fireworks get readers and editors talking. Yet neither Charlie nor Derry knows just who the opponent is.

When Charlotte and Derry meet at the Races, the attraction is instant. As their relationship develops, so much more proves at stake than protecting their alter egos. But a blunder puts Charlotte’s job in jeopardy just as Derry’s past makes front page, and Charlotte begins to doubt her feelings. When Side Swipe and The Squire are finally forced to reveal themselves, will they revert to type – or confound everyone’s expectations?

Charlotte had waited years for Donal to utter those magical words. This morning he'd finally said them.

'We're trying you out as a columnist, Charlie. Go grab 'em by the–'

'Thank you, Donal,' Charlotte replied fervently. Yesssss!!!! She mentally punched the air. 'I won't let you down.'

Maybe not the magical words every girl longed to hear but for Charlotte Regan – sports reporter for Ireland Today – they were music to her ears.

Now she sat at a blank computer screen in the noisy sports department and thought hard about her first column. The sports editor had given her carte blanche. She grinned mischievously as she typed her introduction.

What witless wonder dreamt up the idea of men's underwear with the logo 'Small' emblazoned on it?

And what was English striker Adam Small thinking when he recently dunked his two big feet into the tacky world of big brand fashion?

'Charlie?'

'Donal!'

'What are you down to do this weekend?'

Oh, let's see. Paint my toenails. Bathe in goats milk. Have wild sex with that gorgeous new reporter in the newsroom.

'I'm covering the hurling match on Sunday...'

'I need you to get down to Cork. There's open war! Nine months stand off and the players have called a strike from next week. No one gets that GAA bloodletting the way you can.'

'Uh hmm. I was there yesterday. Just drove up last night.'

'Yesterday? Monday? You were in Cork?' Donal's eyes widened. Charlotte nodded. What other yesterday was there? Maybe he was surprised she'd gone down on a day off.

'And I got a story.'

Donal rubbed his nose as he stared in bewilderment at Charlotte. 'What are you talking about, Charlie?'

She smiled patiently.

'I mean I went into the dressing room last night and got a story. JJ Nevin's not being disciplined. The selectors haven’t been stood down. Nevin’s switching codes. He’s going to sign for Galway. He’ll be playing soccer in the Airtricity League.'

Donal, Charlotte thought, not for the first time, did a great goldfish impression.

'When were you going to tell me?' he managed finally. Then, as an afterthought added, 'hang on, you went in where last night?'

'The dressing room.'

Donal glanced over at the deputy sports editor, Tim Hanlon, who grinned and shrugged. 'They let you in?' His eyes narrowed.

'Not the first time I've been in a men’s dressing room,' Charlotte said, enjoying herself now. 'Well yes, but...'

'What am I supposed to do? Let the male reporters steal a march? Who'd stop me anyway?

After JJ was substituted, he was taking a shower. I'd never get a story if I were shy!'

'Nobody could accuse you of being shy, Charlie,' John Dempsey, the soccer correspondent announced as he strode in and threw a newspaper down on the adjacent desk. 'We talking about the weekend activities?'

Charlotte rolled wide-set, hazel green eyes and grinned.

'Not yet.' She switched her attention back to Donal. 'Anyway, Nevin – clothed in a towel I might add – and I had a long talk. He filled me in on the whole thing. 
They're announcing the signing on Thursday.'

'And we lead with the story tomorrow in the supplement!' Donal said, slapping his hand down delightedly. 'You boys hearing this? None of you will ever be half the man Charlie is!'

• • •

Sharon Black trained as a journalist and worked for The Evening Herald and The Irish Examiner.

She has had short stories published and she won the 2010 Dromineer Literary Festival short story competition.

She lives in Sandymount, Dublin with her husband and their three children.

Find Sharon Online --

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sharon-Black-Author-Page/1433997893531882
Twitter - https://twitter.com/Authorsharonb
Blog - http://www.sharonblackauthor.blogspot.com
Tirgearr Publishing - http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Black_Sharon

Don't forget that your comment could net you a free copy of this book.
Be sure to leave your contact email.


8 comments:

  1. Welcome to Heart of Fiction, Sharon, and congrats on a stunning debut of your first novel.

    I've said it from the start . . . awesome cover. And it goes with an awesome story. I love this one.

    Where did you get the idea for this story?

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  2. Morning Kemberlee, and thank you for hosting me today on Heart of Fiction. I love the cover too - it's very Hollywood! Speaking of which, my favourite Hollywood films when I was growing up, were the old ones from the 1930s and '40s. In particular I loved the string of movies made by Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. One of them, Woman of the Year, featured Hepburn as a highbrow pundit and Tracy as a sports columnist. She starts to attack his column, and dismisses sport as a waste of time - but they end up falling in love. I thought, what if? Make my heroine a sports reporter, make the man a (straight) fashion journalist. And then hide their real identities behind pen names.

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  3. Congratulations, Sharon! I am curious about which suburban village you live in! My guess is either Sandymount or Blackrock? Or down in Dalkey? Best of luck with the book!
    David

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  4. Thanks a million, David. Yes, I live in Sandymount. We're locked in by the DART lines on one side and the sea on the other! But actually, it's really lovely. I've always felt incredibly lucky to live here. Looking forward to reading your latest release.
    Sharon.

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  5. Very Hollywood Sharon... I like it. And if you want a good one, see Adam's Rib... one of the best.
    If you go back a little further... 1937 is one of his VERY VERY BEST... Captains Courageous ! Makes me cry every time !! Now that's movie making !

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  6. Hi Tegon, I remember watching Adam's Rib, yeah loved that one. I don't remember the other one you mention, so I'll have to look that one up. It sounds like one for a cold winter's night and a fire! They were both such fine actors, weren't they? I could always feel the chemistry between them in a movie.

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  7. Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, Sharon! You have the ideal background for writing Going Against Type. It sounds a really interesting plot. Best of luck with it.

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  8. Thanks Joan, I guess it was always something I was going to do for a debut, you know? I was quite comfortable writing in that setting, and I could nearly see the types of characters I was writing. I still had to research the sport, though. Although even that got easier as I understood Charlie and Derry better; I just knew the sort of things they'd say. X

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