October 2011


Roisin Meaney is the author of seven novels, including The Things We Do For Love (aka Life Drawing for Beginners) and Half Seven on a Thursday. Her next novel, With Regards to the Moon, is out next April. She has worked as a teacher and lives in Ireland. Her website is (Interview by Shirley Benton-Bailey)

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  1. 1. Tell us about your books.

    To date I've had seven adult novels published in Ireland and two children's books. Both of the children's books and some of the novels have been translated into various languages, so you never know where you might see Roisin Meaney on a bookshop shelf. My sixth novel secured a US deal and was published in April this year across the US and Canada, and next year my seventh will be whizzing across the Atlantic as well, so exciting times right now. I'm currently working on my eighth novel, With Regards to the Moon, which is due for release here in Ireland next April, all going well. My books would fall into the romantic fiction category, but I try to make them about much more than just a boy meets girl story. All of human life is there really, the good, the bad and the ugly. I write about real people in real situations, no glossing over, no glamourising - my aim is to write about people and situations the reader can identify and empathise with, because that's what I look for in a book. They're all set in present day Ireland, and I try to give them a distinctly Irish flavour (as opposed to an Oirish flavour). My US editor tells me that's one of the reasons she chose to publish me.

  2. 2. What was your path to publication?

    I'm afraid my answer to this is guaranteed to make all aspiring writers hate me - my first novel, which I wrote in 2001-2002, won a Write a Bestseller competition which was being run by a new Irish publisher, Tivoli. The prize was a two-book deal and so my first two novels were published in 2004 and 2005 respectively without receiving a single rejection. I do feel bad about that, honest! I put it down to a combination of having a decent story and hopefully a little talent, and being in the right place at the right time. Sadly, Tivoli folded after a few years but by then I had got myself fixed up with an agent who found me a deal with Hodder Headline Ireland, and I'm still with them five books later. (They're now Hachette Books Ireland.) It was through Hachette that I got my US deal - they sold the rights to a sister company in New York. Prior to 2001 I'd thought vaguely about trying to write a book - I'd worked as an advertising copywriter in London in the early 90s and it whetted my appetite a bit - but I didn't get around to doing anything about it till 2001, when I took a career break from my teaching career and headed to San Francisco for a year. In 2008, with four novels and two children's books under my belt, I took the quantum leap and gave up teaching to be a full-time writer, and so far so good (fingers crossed). I just love it.

  3. 3. How do you write - are you a planner or a go-with-the-flow writer?

    I usually begin with a character, and spend some time getting to know her. Then I build a storyline around her, which usually leads to a few sub-plots if I think about it for long enough. I put some kind of a plot down on paper then, and lash away. Generally the plot I began with changes quite a bit as I go along, but I'm not too bothered. I would have a fair idea where I want everyone to end up, so I steer them gently in that direction. As regards a writing day, I generally sit down in front of the computer when I get up and see how long I last. On a good day that could be until dinnertime, other days I might get a couple of hours done before the enthusiasm wanes. I seem to have an inner clock that keeps me more or less on track for the deadline, so if I'm behind schedule it prods me a bit to stay on track.

  4. 4. How long does it take you to write each book?

    On average I aim for a book a year, and this would include a few weeks of non-writing here and there while the editor/copy editor/proofreader has a read, so about nine months of writing for me.

  5. 5. Which of your books is your own personal favourite?

    Do I have a favourite? I always feel guilty admitting that Half Seven on a Thursday might be it, and I'm not sure why. I think it might be that I love Edward Bull, my main man, who looks a little like Tommy Lee Jones and is a bit sad and cranky, which has always appealed to me in a man (which probably explains why I'm single).

  6. 6. How do you feel about the chick lit label?

    Not mad about it. I don't write for chicks, I write for women of all ages. And chick lit to me implies light-hearted stories where nothing really bad happens. Like I said earlier, I have plenty of darkness going on in my stories; they're real life, only with pretend characters.

  7. 7. Who are your favourite authors?

    Ian McEwan, Ann Tyler, William Trevor, Anita Shreve, Vladimir Nabokov, Kate Atkinson.

  8. 8. If you ever experience writer's block or if the creative muse is hard to find, what do you do to resolve the situation?

    Leave it alone and it will come home, wagging its tail behind it. I go off and do something else, and sooner or later the blanks are filled (thank goodness).

  9. 9. How do you envisage the publishing world in five years time?

    Hard to know. It's upsetting when a bookshop closes, but I'm assuming that's more to do with the global recession than with a loss of interest in reading. I'm not too worried about e-books, reading is reading as far as I'm concerned (although I can't see myself ever abandoning the heft of a book in favour of a little electronic gadget). I think books will always be with us though - it's a sensory thing more than just the words. The smell of a new book - or an old book - just can't be replicated electronically (I hope). The act of turning a page, of flicking through a book, of slipping out a bookmark ... call me old fashioned, I don't care!

  10. 10. Describe your career as an author in three words.

    Dream. Come. True.

  11. 11. What advice would you give aspiring authors?

    Read good authors. Write whenever you can, preferably daily. Keep a notebook handy. Eavesdrop. Tell everyone you're going to write a book so you feel under pressure to deliver. Laugh in the face of rejection.

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