I’ve always loved reading and when I was a child I used to write stories for my younger sisters as a bribe to make them do my share of the housework. It usually worked!
Ireland is famed for its writers, but for me growing up most of the novels were rural in both their settings and their points of view. I wanted to read books about people like me, who lived in the city and struggled with the chaotic bus timetable and had dreams and ambitions that had nothing to do with the farm. I also wanted to read novels in which the women were the heroes of their own stories and not simply there because they were someone’s wife, mother or daughter.
Although I was constantly writing, the idea of being a novelist was a bit of a pipe dream. I had to earn a living and so I got a job in finance. It was the complete opposite of anything I’d ever expected to do but – at least for a time – I enjoyed it and I did well.
But the dream wouldn’t go away and in my thirties I decided that I would make a real effort to write my novel. Eventually, after a couple of false starts, Dreaming of A Stranger was written and published and became an Irish bestseller.
Since then I’ve written more than 20 novels as well as 3 collections of short stories and 2 novels for children all of which have been bestsellers both in Ireland and overseas. They include The Hideaway, What Happened That Night, Isobel’s Wedding and Suddenly Single and my sales have topped 8 million around the world. My next book is called Her Husband’s Mistake and is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook. In it, Roxy, my heroine, has to reassess her rock-solid marriage after a shattering discovery.
In most of my books, I put women in situations where they have to dig deep inside themselves to find their inner strength even though sometimes they struggle to realise it’s there. Readers often ask who my favourite characters are, but every one of the women in my books is as close to me as a member of my family. (For the time when I’m writing a book they’re even closer because they’re in my head 24/7. At least with the family I can put the phone down!)
Regardless of who my readers are, always try to do three things when I’m writing:
Tell a good story
Make the reader feel like they know the characters
Make each book better than the last
I’ve been very lucky in having so many books published and hearing from readers all around the world. And I’m glad that, when times were tough, I remembered the quote that ‘a professional writer is an amateur who wouldn’t quit”
I’m a passionate avocate for increasing literacy and helping people who have come to reading late in life so that they can find the same pleasure in reading as I’ve had. I’ve taken part in a number of different televised projects to help people who’ve struggled with reading and writing and I’ve contributed to both the Quick Reads and Open Doors series of novellas for new readers. I’m also a board member of Fighting Words, the creative writing centre set up by Booker prize-winner Roddy Doyle where I’ve worked with teenagers to write their own published stories and retired people who are working on their memoirs.
Read about my other interests here.