When Authors Outshine Their Books

I really like Marian Keyes.  I could listen to her natter on for hours because I find her sense of wit intelligent, sharp and unmistakably Irish – which also makes her such an engaging writer.  Like Maeve Binchy, she is a true story teller and takes an unabashed approach to honesty that really marks her out as a strong and unique voice in Irish female fiction.  I laugh, I cry and I genuinely learn a little bit more about the human condition when I read her books or listen to her interviews.  Just follow her on twitter, you’ll know what I mean.

Anyhoo, I decided to take a stroll down by the shore the other day and brought my headphones to listen to some ‘walk faster’ music.  I ended up on a radio station I NEVER listen to – it’s fuddy-duddy’ Radio 1, for fuddy-duddies.  But lo and behold, who was being interviewed, but Marian Keyes.  Hurray!  Despite the fact that she was being interviewed by Marian Finucane, who, with her love of smoking cigarettes, doesn’t exactly have the dulcet tones you’d imagine are required for radio, but there you go.  The fuddy-duddies must really like her too, because she earns about €300,000 per annum for approximately 4 hours of radio a week.  That’s more than the Taoiseach!

But I digress.  So I’m pleasantly surprised to find Marian (Keyes that is) in me ear, with all her endearing turns of phrase (or is it turn of phrases?).  Inevitably, it soon becomes clear that this interview is going to be all about Marian’s personal struggle with depression – something which has been well documented over the last few years.  I read all about her efforts to cope with the illness in the paper and she even wrote a book about how her love of baking really helped her through.  I think she’s single-handedly removing a lot of the stigma associated with the illness and I really respect her for that.  It can’t be easy to talk about.

So despite the fact that I was on a lovely walk on a sunny morning by the sea and looking for ‘walk faster’ music, I was drawn into the conversation and became really engrossed in Marian’s story.  She used a great analogy for depression, saying that it’s “like having a stone in your shoe, but instead of trying to get rid of it, you learn to walk with it”.  It was difficult to hear of her suicidal tendancies, which the interviewer seemed intent on analysing to the nth degree, but again she spoke with such honesty and courage, that I found myself engaged, despite already knowing the details.

So, to my surprise, this quote from Marian Keyes came out the following day about her interview:

“She has the compassion and empathy of a cardboard box.”

“I tried my best but feel shitty and ashamed and frustrated that ‘Marians tragic tragicness’ seems to be the most interesting thing about me.”

I couldn’t believe it, she sounded so animated during the interview, even though she was talking about some difficult issues.  She came across as someone who has been through challenging times and as a result, is more comfortable in her own skin – which is of course a great inspiration to other people out there with similar issues.  However, when I thought about it, it suddenly dawned on me, I hadn’t a clue what her book was called.  Surely, she was on that radio program to launch her new novel, but all I can remember the interviewer saying was, “Good luck with your book”.  Granted, I missed the beginning, she may have mentioned it then, but surely to God the most important thing to the writer is to publicise her new book?  (It’s The Woman Who Stole My Life by the way, I haven’t read it yet).

Ms Keyes was obviously annoyed that once again, her personal woes took centre stage over her writing career and I don’t blame her.  But isn’t that the media?  They reduce celebrities to caricatures and prefer to find an angle that will grab the headlines, rather than focus on their work.  Marian Keyes is such a successful author and personally, I’d like to know more about her writing process, her inspiration etc., but is it the case that once you open up to the media in that way, the boundaries become blurred and suddenly it’s open season on your personal life?

As a self-published author, I am always looking for new ways to promote my book and can only dream about having Marian Finucane poking her well-paid nose into my business, but conversely, it must be very frustrating to be one of the most sucessful authors in female fiction and find that nobody wants to talk about your books!  You can listen to the interview here – be warned, it’s long.

Or you can check out my novels on Amazon!

The Mysterious Bakery On Rue de Paris (7) - Copy

Amazon UK   Amazon US

The Cross of Santiago-Amazon - Copy

Amazon UK   Amazon US

How books can change your life

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!