Today I’m pleased to welcome Ann O’Loughlin to the blog. Ann is the author of The Ballroom Café and The Judge’s Wife. Her latest novel, The Ludlow Ladies Society was published by Black and White Publishing on 4 July 2017 and is shortlisted for the 2017 Not The Booker Prize run by The Guardian newspaper.
Ann kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Ludlow Ladies Society.
When I sat down to write The Ludlow Ladies’ Society, I knew one thing, I wanted to celebrate that great friendship than can bloom between women even in the most unusual circumstances.
It is what happens Connie Carter, an American dance teacher who has lost everything and everybody she held dear. She has suffered unspeakable loss and comes to Ireland looking for answers. She comes to Ludlow Hall, Wicklow to the house she never even knew existed until her husband died.
She is alone and wants to be alone, but she meets Eve, the former owner of Ludlow Hall until the house was repossessed and purchased by Connie’s husband and Hetty a widow, as well as other members of The Ludlow Ladies’ Society.
Slowly the friendship between Connie, Eve and Hetty develops. Tentative steps are taken and Connie, hurting deeply allows the other women in to her life. She accepts the hands of friendship and in the process it helps ease her own pain. When Eve and Hetty along with the other women of The Ludlow Ladies’ Society begin to stitch memory quilts to remember those they have lost, the secrets of the past tumble out.
Together the women face the hard facts of past events, confront their memories and gain strength from their bonds of friendship.
This is a book about the resilience of women and how they support each other through the hard times. I don’t want anybody thinking it is a sad book though, there are quite funny moments too when the Ludlow ladies sit down and yes, gossip over the patchwork.
2. What inspired the book?
A patchwork quilt I sewed with my mother the huge inspiration behind The Ludlow Ladies’s Society, when the women stitch memory patchwork quilts to remember those they have lost.
When I was a teenager I made a patchwork quilt one summer with my mother from pieces of fabric, she had squirreled away over the years. The fabric was from all the outfits she had made for me. It was a special time between us, stitching the quilt. My patchwork quilt is precious to me now; it is my blanket of memories. In The Ludlow Ladies’ Society the women bond over the quilt making, sharing their secrets and memories.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?
I would just love to be a plan, plan, plan writer, but I am not. I start writing when the characters start talking to me in my head. The characters lead the way and I just follow. When the characters are shouting at me looking for attention it is the best time. The word count goes sky high, but when they are quiet or silent the word count is so low. I wish I was a writer who had storyboards and all that jazz, particularly when I was writing my second novel The Judge’s Wife which moved between two different timelines, but that is not the case.
How long is the process from first line to completed novel?
How long is a piece of string?
4. What did you discover about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?
That all the hard work starts when you type the magic words The End. It is in the rewriting that the novel shines. I am a great believer in rewriting. The first draft is just that, a first draft. It is in the rewriting the story the characters make themselves known fully. I am on my third novel now. I remember with my first book The Ballroom Café, I really did think I would sit down and write a novel and when I reached the end, it would be ready for publication.
Of course as I got deeper in to the novel, I realised rewriting was the key. I rewrite sections several or maybe even ten times and as many times, until I am happy. When all the rewriting is done, that is the time to celebrate.
5. How does it feel to be shortlisted for the 2017 Not the Booker? What does it mean to be recognized this way?
I am thrilled to be shortlisted for Not The Booker. There were so many writers on the long list, I was so surprised to be shortlisted and quite humbled that readers had voted for me. I am also the only Irish writer on the shortlist. I could not believe it when my agent rang to tell me. It is lovely to think my novel will now reach people it may not have otherwise. I hope that readers who like my books will join the discussion in The Guardian and post reviews. Writing is a lonely business so to be part of Not The Booker is really quite exciting.
6. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I like to read. When I am writing, I don’t read, so I have a huge TBR pile beside my bed. Now that The Ludlow Ladies’ Society is safely on the shelves I intend to spend my holidays soaking up the sunshine and catching up on my reading. I am very much looking forward to reading the other shortlisted Not The Booker writers. My other passion is travelling. If I had my way I would travel the world with a small suitcase and a laptop, writing and travelling. Mind you, I think my family would have something to say about that. They are all as passionate about travelling as I am and I think they would want to tag along!
7. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Gosh, I would not like to be confined to one book for the rest of my life. I think the whole thing about reading is we read different books at different times of our lives. Also how awful it would be to miss out on wonder of discovering a new author.
8. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
I have been surprised that I have never been asked my own favourite from my three novels, The Ballroom Café, The Judge’s Wife and The Ludlow Ladies’ Society. It would be so hard to pick, each book has brought me on a wonderful journey. The Ballroom Café and the Judge’s Wife, both bestsellers have been translated in to eight languages and are also published in the US. The Ludlow Ladies’ Society has already been sold to Norway and large print and the audio book will be published next year. The Judge’s Wife was shortlisted in the Romantic Novelist Association and now The Ludlow Ladies’ Society has been shortlisted in Not The Booker. I love all my books and I am very proud of them.
About the book
Connie Carter has lost everybody and everything dear to her. To help nurse her grieving heart and to try and find answers, she moves from her home in America to Ludlow Hall, deep in the Irish countryside. All she knows about Ludlow is that her late husband spent all their money on the house – without ever mentioning it to her. Now Connie needs to know why.
At Ludlow Hall, Connie befriends Eve and Hetty and is introduced to the somewhat curious Ludlow Ladies’ Society. But can Connie ever reveal her hurt? And, more importantly, can she ever understand or forgive? As the Ludlow Ladies stitch patchwork memory quilts to remember those they have loved and lost, the secrets of the past finally begin to surface.
The Ludlow Ladies’ Society is a story of friendship, resilience and compassion, and how women support each other through the most difficult times.
About the author
A leading journalist in Ireland for nearly thirty years, Ann O’Loughlin has covered all major news events of the last three decades. Ann spent most of her career with independent newspapers where she was Security Correspondent at the height of The Troubles, and was a senior journalist on the Irish Independent and Evening Herald. She is currently a senior journalist with the Irish Examiner newspaper covering legal issues. Ann has also lived and worked in India. Originally from the west of Ireland she now lives on the east coast in Co. Wicklow with her husband and two children. Her debut novel The Ballroom Café was a bestseller, with over 250,000 copies sold in eBook. Her second novel The Judge’s Wife was an Irish bestseller for 5 weeks and was shortlisted for a Romantic Novel Award (RoNA) in February 2017.