Ali McNamara Interview
Posted on 03 February 2010. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to Ali McNamara, aka WW member Alimac
Tell us something about your background.
From Notting Hill with Love...Actually will be my first novel to be published, but the third novel I’ve written and put through the agent/publisher submission process. Believe me my pile of rejection letters is just as big as anyone else’s! It’s a romantic comedy about a girl that loves the cinema, and sets out to prove to her family and friends that you can actually live your life as if it were a movie.
How, when and why did you first start writing?
My path into writing is a slightly unusual one!
I’ve always been a big fan of the singer, Ronan Keating. One day I had been away on a training course with my work, and I posted a message on his website’s forum about playing Ronan’s music while I’d been staying on my own in a hotel. Another girl responded – Karen, who had also just come back from a training course for her own job and had done exactly the same, and we began a silly late night conversation on the forum about what might happen if Ronan were staying in the same hotel as you. Over time this little chat between ourselves began to develop into a story, to which we kept adding new instalments every night, until we began to realise that more and more people were logging on to the message board simply to find out what happened next in our tale. It sounds incredibly bizarre I know, but its true – the website often used to crash because there were so many people waiting for their nightly fix! Fans from around the world would wait impatiently until I got in from work late at night (because I worked in fitness, I often worked evenings.) demanding the next part of the story. This went on for some months until eventually we’d run out of adventures for Ronan to have, and so we had to bring the story to an end.
We then had so many requests to make the story into a proper book that we decided to do it for charity. I collated, with help of some friends, all the many instalments that were on the forum, edited them into a novel, and then sold email & disc copies of the story to anyone who wanted one.
I then had further requests for more stories, so on my own this time I went on to write two more novel length stories featuring Ronan along the same lines – posting them on the message board in instalments every night – then selling them at the end as a complete novel on disc or email attachment with the proceeds going to charity.
So something that started out as a bit of silly late night banter between two strangers, in total raised over £1000 for Ronan’s cancer charity – The Marie Keating Foundation; brought me together with one of my best friends – Karen, the girl from Glasgow I wrote the first story with; and made me realise that writing was not only something that I really enjoyed doing, but something that other people seemed to enjoy reading too.
I then decided it was time to have a go at writing a ‘proper’ novel, and it was my third attempt at this From Notting Hill with Love...actually which is going to be my first published novel. Oddly it has a Ronan Keating link – in that Ronan sang the theme tune to the movie Notting Hill, a song which features in the story.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got when training to be a personal trainer was ‘always make time to exercise yourself - it’s your job to be fit.’ And I think that’s the same for writers, you should always try to make the time to read. However, that’s sometimes easier said than done, and my new year’s resolution this year is to read more! But when I do get the chance I read very much within my own genre – Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, I particularly admire Cecelia Ahern’s vivid imagination in her later books. She’s not afraid to try something different than books about shopping, fashion and shoes! My writing hero however is not an author, but a script writer – Richard Curtis. He even has a small cameo part in my novel!
How did you get your first agent/ commission/publication? Can you tell us about the process/journey?
As I said before it wasn’t easy, I wasn’t one of those fairy tale authors who get taken on by the first agent they submit to and then subsequently get a six figure publishing deal from the first publisher that takes a look at their manuscript. But I believe in life ‘everything happens for a reason, and if I’d been picked up off the many ‘slush piles’ my manuscripts languished on any earlier, I wouldn’t have met my fantastic agent, Hannah Ferguson of The Marsh Agency. Hannah is great; she’s very down to earth and approachable, enthusiastic and keen. I couldn’t ask for a better literary agent to work with.
My editor at Little Brown, Caroline, is great to work with too, I think I’ve been very lucky in finding such a fantastic team of people who seem to love my novel almost as much as me!
What's the worst thing about writing?
Sitting still so much, definitely. I used to be a fitness instructor so I was very active all day. Writing involves too much sitting down at a desk – not good for the fitness levels or the figure!
And the best?
When you finally get that call.
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