A Chat with Author Marian Keyes

I had the great fortune of sending best selling author Marian Keyes some questions after reading her newest novel – The Break! A rather large but thoroughly enjoyable read. Check out her new book in our store.

 Q: The Break, your newest book is REALLY big – are all your books this big? And when you start out writing do you know how long the book will be or is it really just a case of how long it ends up taking to tell the story?

A: Hahaha! Sorry! Every time I start a book I always say, ‘Okay, this is going to be a nice short little one’ and somehow it never ever happens. I think it’s because I feel every character, even the minor ones, should be fully developed. And as there’s a massive cast of characters in The Break, it made for a ginormous book.

Q: I listened to the audiobook as well as reading the book – I went back and forth. Obviously, the narrator of the book is Irish – since it would be very peculiar if she said American. Did you have any say over who read the book? Have you met Aiofe?

A: I haven’t met Aoife but she’s read a couple of my other books and everyone from my publishers to my readers think highly of her. I don’t have a veto but I think if I felt that a ‘voice’ was entirely wrong, my concerns would be listened to.

Q: You reference some very popular culture in your new book – for instance, Grey’s Anatomy and Game of Thrones… are you a fan?

A: Of Game of Thrones – totally! Obsessed! I tried Grey’s Anatomy and couldn’t take the blood’n’guts bit. But I watch a HUGE about of tv – huge! It’s my great escape, along with reading. And I think it’s very important to set my books in a recognisable world, so referencing popular culture is a handy way to do it

Q: I couldn’t help but wonder if the Max you reference in the book was based on anyone in real life? I lived in London a while back for 7 years and I was a publicist so it made me laugh thinking back to a rather famous Max publicist working at that time.

A: Oh my god! *Claps hand over mouth* Not even remotely! That never even occurred to me. No, I would NEVER deliberately put a real person into one of my books. At best it would be an egregious abuse of power and at worst, it could be libelous. But it doesn’t stop people seeing either themselves or others in my characters.

Q: Out of your 13 books – is there one that was especially special for you? Or hard to write?

A: The Mystery of Mercy Close is very special because I somehow managed to write it while I was going through a spell of catastrophically bad mental health. I had almost no faith that I’d ever feel normal or well again but with every word of that book that I managed to write, I realised that the old me was still in there somewhere. If I managed to hang on, I might be able to one day reconnect with her.

Q: Where is Dun Laoghaire?

A: It’s a suburb about 7 miles south of Dublin city, it’s on the sea, which sounds far more romantic than it actually is. Dun Laoghaire is an old ferry port and there’s a real mix of people living here. It’s the most liberal of all the boroughs in Ireland, which I’m very proud of. Three writers actually live on my road. We’re only half an hours drive from the mountains and forests of Co Wicklow, also it’s very near my family and although it’s very ordinary, I love it here.

Q: You’re very vocal about mental illness – and deal with it in your writing, can you discuss a bit about why that’s important to you?

A: Because it needs to be normalised. Mental health exists on a spectrum and on any given day anyone can suffer, whether it’s mild anxiety or full-blown psychosis, yet there’s still a massive stigma attached to it. People are afraid to articulate when they’re feeling wretched because they’re afraid they’ll be judged, that it’ll damage their job prospects, or ruin a relationship and of course the silence compounds their distress. As soon as we start regarding mental illness the way we would an asthma attack or diabetes or cancer, the easier life will become for those who suffer.

Q: Goodreads.com has become quite the popular site – since you have 13 books – I’d love to know how important their ratings are to you?

A: High ratings are always welcome, low ratings are always distressing. But my attitude is that I tried my very very best to write the best book I could possibly write and how people experience it is up to them. The relationship between a book and a reader is unique and I have no control over it. So I’m grateful for the nice ratings and with the less nice, well, it’s an opportunity for me to work on my acceptance… ;-0

 

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