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Q&A with Beth O’Leary, author of The Flatshare

We’re so excited that Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare has been chosen to be a part of The Reading Agency’s World Book Night 2021, in partnership with Specsavers. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the annual celebration of books & reading. To celebrate, the theme is ‘Books to Make You Smile’. Ahead of celebrations this Friday 23rd April, we wanted to share this exclusive Q&A with Beth where we discuss all things The Flatshare, the process of writing and authors which have inspired Beth’s books.


What was your writing process like for The Flatshare?

I wrote the novel on the train journey to and from work, so
that pretty much structured my writing process. An hour in
the morning, an hour in the evening. I saved up for in some
noise-cancelling headphones (best decision ever) and used
those to listen to music so I could block out the
background noise (the people who have loud phone
conversations on trains, otherwise known as the devil’s
spawn). I started a playlist of songs that reminded me of
the book, or felt like the right sort of tone, and soon they
became an important part of my writing process – even
now when I listen to them they take me right back to Tiffy
and Leon’s world. I spent about six months splurging a first
draft, then six months editing and reshaping before I tried
sending the story to agents.


What is your favourite scene in the book?

The shower scene! I don’t want to spoiler for anyone who
hasn’t got there yet, but I had That Scene in my head from
so early on in the writing process, which is quite unusual for
me (I tend to figure stuff out as I go, for the most part…) I
was dying to write it, and the thought of getting to that
moment kept me going when I was losing momentum or
considering giving up.


What do you think of the resurgence of uplifting fiction? 

I think when times are tough, books can be the most amazing
escape – and have we ever needed escape more than we do
now? It means a huge amount to me when I hear readers
saying that Tiffy and Leon have given them some distraction
and comfort in these difficult times, and if I can make
somebody’s day 1% better right now, I feel like I’m officially
doing a good job.


Which writers are you most inspired or influenced by?

I love and hugely admire Marian Keyes: she is the queen of
writing real, flawed, lovable, hopeful human beings. For the
same reason I love Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth, who
were kind of doing that same thing just way back when, really
– it still amazes me that I can pick up Sense and Sensibility
and go, oh, we all know a Willoughby, like that book wasn’t
written 200 years ago. I am also a huge fan of romantic
comedies and romance novels: Helen Hoang, Sophie Kinsella,
Christina Lauren, Lindsey Kelk, Paige Toon, Mhairi McFarlane…
I think all of those writers have an influence on my books.
They’re the writers I reach for when I want to treat myself to
something joyful and comforting, and that’s the sort of author
I aspire to be for other readers.