Claudia Carroll on catfish, online dating and the pull of Manhattan

The bestselling author and actor on the inspiration for her new novel, Meet Me in Manhattan

 Claudia Carroll: “The book is all about catfish, and if you don’t know what that means, then it’s a fairly safe bet you’re either happily married or deeply committed and well and truly out of the shark pool of online dating.  Which I’m not. And believe you me, online dating is a minefield, mainly because people lie online, all the time.” Photograph: Eric Luke

Claudia Carroll: “The book is all about catfish, and if you don’t know what that means, then it’s a fairly safe bet you’re either happily married or deeply committed and well and truly out of the shark pool of online dating. Which I’m not. And believe you me, online dating is a minefield, mainly because people lie online, all the time.” Photograph: Eric Luke

 

So who doesn’t love Manhattan? I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s come back from there who doesn’t plan on winning the Lotto, then throwing caution to the wind, packing their bags, applying for a Green Card and uprooting to the Upper East Side.

I’ve been in love with the place ever since I first went there on a family trip way back in the dim, distant Eighties, to support my Dad who was a regular runner in the NYC marathon. Manhattan then, though, was a very different place to the sparkling metropolis it is today; back then it was pre-Giuliani and the whole city was scary, seemingly overrun with gun crime and where apparently a mugging happened every two seconds. Even in the posh parts.

I’ve a distinct memory of a tour guide warning us at all costs not to stand still on the streets to look up and admire the vast skyscrapers like the Chrysler or the Empire State.

“Why’s that?” I asked, then a gobshite aged 15.

“Because this will clearly identify you as a tourist and to a thief, you might as well have a neon sign over your head saying ‘mug me!’” came the worrying answer.

And our guide’s other useful tip? In the event of being mugged, hand over any rings you’re wearing quickly and without putting up any kind of a struggle. Failure to do this,’ we were warned, meant they’d just chop off your finger to get the ring off you quicker. Gulp.

Anyway, the whole trip passed off without any of us being hospitalised, mugged or ending up on NBC news in a body bag. Like the Paddies that we are, we stayed in Fitzpatrick’s, because God forbid my mother would have to go a day without her Lyons tea, Kerrygold butter or The Irish Times. And in spite of all the dire warnings and how your felt you were taking your life in your hands just walking around Times Square at night, I just fell hopelessly in love with the place. With the buzz, the high-octane energy and that feeling that you could turn a corner and walk straight into Woody Allen shooting one of his movies. Or maybe running away from a mugger.

So a family tradition was born and we started going every year, just for a little pre-Christmas shopping skite. It was the Celtic Tiger years by then and things had gone bananas. I’m not joking, you’d see busloads of us Irish heading out to the discount malls at Woodbury Common and Jersey Gardens and loading up trolley after trolley with Abercrombie T-shirts that happened to have a fiver off them. Arriving back in Dublin airport at 5.30am was a huge adrenaline surge as then of course you had to run the dreaded gamut of green channel versus red channel. Back then, the big thing among us shoppers was, “well? Did you MITC?” Discreet shopper-speak for “Make it through customs”.

Anyway, I’d always wanted to set at least part of a novel there and when the idea for Meet Me in Manhattan came along, I grabbed the chance. The book is all about catfish, and if you don’t know what that means, then it’s a fairly safe bet you’re either happily married or deeply committed and well and truly out of the shark pool of online dating.

Which I’m not. And believe you me, online dating is a minefield, mainly because people lie online, all the time. And OK, so you allow for the odd little white lie, where you might knock a few years off your age, a few pounds off your waistline or even sex up your job a bit; everyone’s at that and you get used to it pretty fast.

But I’m talking about out-and-out chancers who are nothing but fully-fledged catfish. Catfish you see, is a really derogatory internet term used to describe anyone who goes on all these online sites to create totally false and misleading profiles, with absolutely no guilt or shame about it at all. And why do they do it? Purely because they can.

Anyway, back to the article that inspired Meet Me in Manhattan. So I read a piece about a woman who worked as a journalist in London and who led a normal, busy, full life. And she met a guy online who told her he was a special needs teacher who took care of his parents and who lived in a fairly remote village in Cumbria. They started messaging each other and pretty soon, messaging led to phone calls and in no time this woman felt like she was almost in a virtual relationship, albeit that the pair of them had yet to met.

They’d arranged to, of course, but the first time your man had to cancel on account of one of his parents needing urgent hospital treatment, and the second time it was because she had last-minute deadlines foisted on her that she couldn’t get out of. But the third time he cancelled on her, she got suspicious and started to use her journalistic contacts to sniff around a bit.

And between the jigs and the reels she managed to track this guy down, which apparently isn’t that hard to do these days, when every text, email and call you make can be geo-tagged fairly accurately. But when she did eventually land on his doorstep she was in for the land of her life. Because this wasn’t a man who’d been calling her at all. Turned out – get this – that it had been a schoolgirl all along , who just had a voice that sounded weirdly masculine and deep over the phone. Would you believe it?

So that was the springboard for me really. I though about dating in Ireland, where no matter who you hook up with, someone you know is bound to know their granny’s cousin’s neighbor. And I measured it up against the States, where dating-wise, you can pretty much get away with murder. In fact dating sites, as far as I can see, are a bit like the Wild West these days. Anything goes and anyone can get away with anything.

Which of course, is a dream come true for a novelist.

So I though, how about an Irish heroine who meets a guy who’s a pilot based in Manhattan? Or so he claims.

Because no one ever lies online, do they? And better yet, when she realises she’s been duped, suppose she decides to teach this eejit a lesson he’ll never forget?

Claudia Carroll’s new novel, Meet Me in Manhattan, is being published  on March 26th by Avon, an imprint of HaperCollins

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.