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Q&A  •  30 May 2024


Deborah Callaghan on writing routines and fictional worlds

The Little Clothes is a clever and affectionate novel from Deborah Callaghan. We caught up with the author to hear about her writing routine, the publishing process and more.

What was your writing process like for The Little Clothes? Did you have a writing routine or any regular rituals?

I write every day. Sometimes twenty words. Sometimes two hundred. But I turn up every day and have done so now for eight years. Often at 3.00 am. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about it. Living with my characters. Picking up snippets from my environment and my memories that may be useful in the narrative. This might sound virtuous, but I’m sure it’s an irritation to others around me.

How did you first come up with the idea for the book?

I can’t really say. The ideas come in at a subconscious level and slosh around for a while before trickling onto the page.

I didn’t sit down and think,‘That’s a good idea. I’ll write it.’ It’s more a matter of feeling my way through. I wish I could describe the process better, but it’s still a mystery to me.

What surprised you most about the publishing process?

Having worked in publishing for thirty-five years, I was generally aware of the process, although a lot has changed since I retired in about 2015.

What surprised me was the difference between what the author experiences as opposed to the experience of the publishing professionals.

I was surprised by, but grateful for, the extent of the editing process. I found it arduous – as though I was constantly defending my child.

But it was great when we cut almost a whole chapter and it made the manuscript so much better. It was like shedding a skin. It freed the narrative.

If you could have dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why?

Gatsby. I could warn him. Plus, the dinner would be lush and the melancholy exquisite.

If you were a character in a novel, what would be your signature quirk or catchphrase?

Scrutiny. A wrinkled brow. A gaze.

What fictional world would you want to live in, and how would you survive or thrive there?

I don’t want to live in a fictional world. I am fully occupied and happy in the here and now.

What's the weirdest talent or skill you have that not many people know about?

There are two. I can thread a needle, no matter how small, often without looking, and I can tell – almost to the minute – what time it is when I wake up, without referring to a clock or phone.

What's your go-to karaoke song, and how well do you perform it?

I loathe karaoke, but I do joke about 'Big Yellow Taxi' being my song . . . and I did once perform it at karaoke. I don’t think it was good. Hopefully nobody noticed or remembered.

Where is your happy place and why?

My home. I am quite hermetic.

What is your #1 tip for aspiring authors?

Keep going.

Feature Title

The Little Clothes
When you are heading towards 40 and people start to notice you a little bit less, what do you do with your new powers of invisibility?
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