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Saturday 19 August 2017

I was 'frazzled' by pressure of writing the second book

REALITY BITES: RTE's Rachael English tells Joanna Kiernan how she drew inspiration from a number of real-life Morning Ireland news stories for her second novel about a struggling family

a lot can happen in two years. Just ask RTE broadcaster Rachael English, who as well as getting to grips with the news of the day, is making the headlines herself after delivering the second installment of her two book deal with UK publishing giant Orion.

The Morning Ireland presenter secured a six-figure deal after writing her first book, Going Back, which was published in June 2013.

However, writing her debut novel was a much more of a relaxed affair -Rachael secured the dream deal before informing any of her RTE colleagues.

This time around, the pressure to deliver was most definitely on.

"I didn't tell anybody when I was writing the first book. As a friend of mine says, half of Ireland is writing a book, so I kept it to myself," Rachael explains.

"I really only told most of the people on Morning Ireland when it was sold and I knew there was going to be a press release about it, but with the second book it has been so different because people know what you're doing."

FRAZZLED

"There was a stage when I was doing this book that I got really frazzled," Rachael says.

"I didn't realise to what extent you are on the clock. The publishers have no great time for people who take years to write their second book. It was a lot more pressure."

Earlier this year, Rachael, who lives in Ranelagh with her husband - the business journalist Eamon Quinn - took some unpaid leave to finish the book.

"In many ways, Morning Ireland is the ideal job. I don't think you could do a programme on your own for example, five days a week and write a novel - maybe you could, but not in a year," she says.

"I have been lucky; I approached RTE a couple of years ago to cut back my hours, not saying what I was doing. At the time things were really bad, so for anyone who approached them and said 'I'm offering to take a pay cut' it wasn't as though they were going to turn you down!" Rachael laughs.

She now works three days a week for the State broadcaster, which gives her time to write.

However, she is keen to stress that writing novels is certainly not something one gets into for the money.

"People think you get a big lump sum and head off to Hawaii, but unfortunately it doesn't work like that. It's great and has enabled me to take time off work, but it's certainly not money that you'd retire on," Rachael explains.

She has no intention of giving up the day job just yet, but is hopeful of reaching a point where it may become an option at some stage in the future.

"I'd like to think that at some stage I'd be able to write full-time, but I don't know when that is going to be possible and it's not as though I don't enjoy my day job too," Rachel smiles.

"If I hated going into work it would be different, but I don't. Even though nobody likes getting up at half four in the morning!"

Rachael has worked on news and current affairs programmes in RTE radio for the last 23 years. During this time she has witnessed the organisation change considerably.

Recently, Rachael's RTE colleague Marian Finucane described how at one point in RTE radio, there was a lack of men.

"It got to the stage that it was nearly universally women who were producers," Marian Finucane previously said. "I know there aren't that many still on air, but certainly in the background in production."

colourful

While Rachael never experienced this gender imbalance directly, it is something she was aware of that women are the supporting roles behind the scenes - but men are taking centre stage in front of the microphone.

"It's never been a feature of any programme I have worked on; there tends to be more men in news and current affairs programmes, but I know that it has happened in some area," she said.

"At one stage it was kind of mad, because there were all of these women behind the scenes, but if you listened to the radio it was man, man, man, man, two men and a man."

Rachael's work in RTE has provided her with a lot of material and colourful characters to inspire her fiction writing.

Her new novel Each & Every One tells the tale of the Shine family, whose hardworking parents Gus and Joan fund the charmed lifestyles of their four adult children, until financial difficulties hit.

"It's about how they all cope and in most cases they cope pretty badly," Rachael explains.

"One of the places I got the idea from was in 2010 or so, when things we really bad and you would always see these families in court together on the news. I found it really interesting how you might only know of one person in a family and then all of a sudden all the sons and daughters appear as well. It became a sort of national fascination.

"It happened particularly with the Quinn family," Rachael adds. "While the Shine family in the book really don't bear any resemblance to any of the families who have been in the news, that was what gave me the idea."

One of the characters in Each & Every One is an Independent Dublin City Councillor, who strikes a pretty pathetic figure, abandons his political principles when convenient and has his father pay for his children's private education. So did any particular politician inspire this character?

"There was a multitude of them," Rachael laughs.

Rachael is back on air with Morning Ireland and is already planning her third book.

Each & Every One, published by Orion, is out now

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