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Claudia Carroll on turning fact to fiction

Claudia Carroll on turning fact to fiction

You know when you open up the fly-leaf of any book, and read a discreet disclaimer that says ‘the work ahead is fiction and that any resemblance to any person is purely coincidental?’ Well, as the late, great Maeve Binchy once famously said, that that’s actually the ‘real’ piece of fiction, right there, buried in the pages just before the acknowledgements…

But what if you happen to be writing a book all about online dating, which involved a whole lot of extensive research and going on countless ‘coffee dates’ with countless guys, none of whom turned out to be Mr Right? Or even Mr Ahh-Sure-He’ll-Do? How best to turn fact to fiction, especially when writing about something so deeply personal? After all, the only way to research any book about online dating is to actually dip your toe in the water, sign up to as many apps as your phone will hold, and dive straight in.

I began writing my latest book, The Love Algorithm, back in the dim, dark, days of lockdown, when we couldn’t even travel more than 2 KM to see our nearest and dearest, never mind even think about meeting some random stranger from Tinder. For those lucky enough to be in happy, functioning coupledom, let me tell you; online dating was an absolute Godsend during the pandemic. You could literally meet someone from the comfort of your sofa in your living room, wearing your tracksuit and with greasy hair and no make-up, without any of the hassle of choosing what to wear for a first date or the stress of worrying about how best to split a bill. My leading character in the book, Kim, is an active multi-dater who’s on countless websites and whose attitude is that this is all a numbers game and that the more dates she goes on, the closer she gets to meeting someone.

‘Research’ threw up a lot. Some of it downright unprintable. There was the guy who brazenly asked me for a lend of money, after we’d barely had time to order coffee. Then there was the guy who was an undertaker, whose idea of a first date was to invite me to watch a body being embalmed. Thanks all the same, but I think I’ll pass. Then there was an older, newly separated Dad who I thought might just have potential – he seemed gentle, warm and caring – until he texted me quite a graphic photo of his genitals – after we’d known each other for barely an hour. Charming.

Where, I wondered, did all the Mr. Darcys of the twenty-first century go? Is this, I thought in despair, what’s out there? Is this all there is, when you’re a middle aged woman navigating the sharkpool of online dating?

But then a wonderful quote from Nora Ephron came back to me. ‘Everything,’ she so wisely said, ‘is copy.’ no matter what you go through as a writer, the good, the bad and the downright miserable – isn’t it all rich source material any author has to draw back on?

And so it came to pass that my new paperback book, The Love Algorithm, made its way into the world. Based on a lot of exhaustive research, but of course, with names and locations all changed utterly so we can’t be sued! Thankfully, readers seemed to connect with my little book baby and I’m thrilled to say it was a top ten bestseller here in Ireland.

It’s launched in March 2023 in the UK and this nervous author will be praying that readers (and online daters) might just enjoy…

Claudia Carroll lives in Dublin. She’s the author of fourteen novels, selling more than half a million copies and gracing the bestseller charts regularly; including the Irish number one spot. Four of her books have been optioned for film and TV. Claudia stars in the Dublin-based soap opera Fair City.

The Love Algorithm by Claudia Carroll is published in paperback by Zaffre on 30 March 2023 at £8.99.

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