I’ve often heard interviewers ask this question of authors, “Name a book that changed your life”, and they inevitably list off the kind of high brow, literary titles that make you feel a bit unsure of your own choice. I could say it was Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ that changed my life, but I would never have dared to read Kafka if it hadn’t been for the two authors that brought me back to reading and consequently, changed the course of my life.
Allow me to set the scene. The year was 2002 and I was living in Montreal, Canada – doing the whole working abroad thing that is the typical Irish experience. Well after three years, the gloss had worn off my Canadian dream and I was really starting to miss home, my family and just being able to have a conversation with someone who understood me (literally and metaphorically!) I grew weary of bridging the cultural divides with my Canadian friends and no matter how hard I tried, I always felt like the outsider.
Then one day I took myself off to my local library on Sherbrooke Street (money was tight – I couldn’t afford to buy much at Chapters) and found two of the most important catalysts in my life – Maeve Binchy and Marian Keyes. Reading stories written about Ireland by Irish women was just the kind of connection with home that I needed at that time. Tara Road and Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married became my new best friends. I felt so lucky that a library on the other side of world stocked so many books by Irish writers and so I continued. Watermelon, Rachel’s Holiday, The Glass Lake, Evening Class – I was hooked!
In time I realised that it wasn’t just the link to home that made these books so precious to me, but something in the back of my mind was beginning to stir: a long lost dream of becoming a storyteller myself. As a child, I was known for being the one who made up long, rambling stories that probably didn’t make any since, but engrossed me in a way that little else did (apart from drawing – but that’s another story!)
Before I knew it, I was rushing home from my job in the evenings to start work on my very first novel. I was writing. Something I would never have dared attempt before borrowing those books from the library. Not only that, over time I found everything in my life changing – I quit my job, moved back to Ireland and I haven’t looked back. It was bye-bye corporate world, hello creativity 🙂 So, to Marian Keyes and the late, great Maeve Binchy, thank you for your stories because they were companions when I badly needed them and provided the spark to inspire me to follow my dreams. And to all my fellow emerging authors – that’s how powerful stories can be, so keep going, it’s worth it!