Ciara Smyth is the author of two LGBTQ+ novels; The Falling in Love Montage (2020) and Not My Problem (out today!). Pride Book Tours has kindly arranged a Q&A between myself and Ciara Smyth which you can find below.
Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight or happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name and not in a care home with early onset dementia. A condition that Saoirse may one day turn out to have inherited. So she’s not looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out.
But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.
Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole: They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters actually fall in love… for real.
Aideen has plenty of problems she can’t fix. Her best (and only) friend is pulling away. Her mother’s drinking problem is a constant concern. She’s even running out of outlandish diseases to fake so she can skip PE.
But when Aideen stumbles on her nemesis, overachiever Meabh Kowalski, in the midst of a full-blown meltdown, she sees a problem that—unlike her own disaster of a life—seems refreshingly easy to solve. Meabh is desperate to escape her crushing pile of extracurriculars. Aideen volunteers to help. By pushing Meabh down the stairs.
Problem? Solved. Meabh’s sprained ankle is the perfect excuse to ditch her overwhelming schedule. But when another student learns about their little scheme and brings Aideen another “client” who needs her “help,” it kicks off a semester of traded favors, ill-advised hijinks, and an unexpected chance at love. Fixing other people’s problems won’t fix her own, but it might be the push she needs to start.
What drew you to the YA contemporary romance genre?
I love writing contemporary because I’m a real feelings-monger. Like a fishmonger but for feelings. I love trying to figure out why people do things and what motivates them. And you can definitely do that in other genres but for me, it’s about exploring the problems and difficulties that happen in real life. I don’t think I’d describe Not My Problem as a romance, however, because although there is a lesbian romance storyline it’s not the primary plotline. I wanted there to be a romance I think because I didn’t have any teenage romances myself so maybe I’m rewriting history a bit!
What can you tell us about the book’s main character, Aideen?
Aideen is a wee dote! She is a very sweet person who just wants to do good things and make people happy but she goes about it in the most chaotic way possible. I don’t think she’s very sensible all the time but her heart is in the right place. She has a bit of trouble with authority figures and she isn’t very trusting when they try and help her but she has good reasons for that. Mostly she’s just a person with a lot on her plate and no idea how to cope with it.
Describe Not my Problem in three words?
Chaotic Good Hijinks (I stole that from my editor)
What lessons have you learned since writing your debut? How did they affect your approach to writing Not My Problem?
It’s difficult to compare because I wrote them both under very different circumstances. I wrote the first draft of Montage while I was unemployed, so I would write for four or five hours a day. I had to write the first draft of Not My Problem when I was working and studying so I was writing an hour or so after work every day. But I think with every manuscript you write you kind of absorb a more implicit understanding of story and you develop your voice. It means that when you write a bad chapter or scene it’s really obvious, even when you need outside help to fix it, but that’s why editors are so great.
What do you hope readers will take away from your books?
I always hope that readers just enjoy the story. While I do think that all stories have some kind of implicit message or something to say, (otherwise it would just be a series of events with no point) I prefer to find out from readers what they took from it rather than tell them what they should think!
Which three LGBTQ+ books would you recommend and why?
- The Miseducation of Cameron Post, By Emily M Danforth. It is one of my favourites. It’s a wonderful coming of age, character novel and that’s my favourite kind.
- Deirdre Sullivan’s Perfectly Preventable Deaths because everything Deirdre writes is magic but also I believe there’s a sequel out soon, Precious Catastrophe, so read this one now!
- Misa Sugiura’s Love and Other Natural Disasters. I’m reading it now and I want to talk about it with someone!
If you could eat dinner with any author, who would you choose and where would you eat?
I think I’d pick CJ Skuse because she is so funny. I could ask her what will happen next in her Sweetpea series and I’d get her to show me her Sylvanian family collection. We would eat chips on the beach.
Thank you so much to Ciara Smyth and Pride Book Tours for this Q&A. I recently read Not My Problem and Chaotic Good Hijinks is the perfect description!
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