Last Wednesday, on Guy Fawkes night, in the centre of London, I met my writing heroine Marian Keyes. By chance, the week before, I was trawling through hundreds of unwanted emails to delete, when I stumbled across a newsletter from herself. It was late at night and I had had a drink but luckily I was lucid enough to see my opportunity!
I quickly followed the link to the website to get a ticket to Waterstones in Piccadilly and obtained one within two minutes. Never one to let opportunities go, I could hardly believe my achievement. I only wished I had time to ask a friend along but I didn’t want to miss out myself.
So after a rushed journey from Woking to Waterloo, after a hard days work, I got to the venue with a couple of minutes to spare. Waiting on the table in front of the event was a pile of Marian’s new novel and a choice of cold beverage, so I chose a nice glass of vino tinto and settled down for the evening.
I found a seat and the room was buzzing in anticipation of the arrival Ms Keyes and we weren’t kept waiting long before she appeared from behind us, accompanied by India Knight, herself a well known author, who was going to interview her after the reading.
Marian looked gorgeous in her blue jacquard poncho, which I believe she wore as a joke because she swiftly removed it after mentioning that she promised to wear it. She also brought her container of knobs! (To do with her new hobby renovating furniture). Her fabulous long dark hair framed her pretty face which was made up to perfection (another of her passions) and she wore a pair of dangerously high heels which I would not have been brave enough to wear but looked great on her.
She got a rapturous applause as she took her seat and was introduced by India and took her mike to begin the interview. One thing that struck me was, that she was truly overwhelmed and grateful for the adoration she received, not only in that room but to her fans in general. She even said she was so pleased that we had taken the time to see her when we could have been watching T.V or going to a Firework display! (As if).
It is not a secret that Marian suffers from depression and it has been so debilitating that she has not been able to make public appearances to promote her work for five years. She has written one novel within that time; The Mystery of Mercy Close in 2012, and an autobiographical book about her depression; Saved by Cake. Also an e-book; Mammy Walshe’s A-Z of the Walsh family as a prequel to Mystery of Mercy Close.
Marian then went on to explain the the background story of the newest book; The Woman Who Stole My Life and got to the part where she read an excerpt confidently and so belly-laughingly funny. In her own “voice” (meaning writing voice), which is exactly the same as her actual voice, if that makes any sense?! And she was a real trooper when she carried on despite the mele that was going on outside when a fleet of police cars, sirens blaring, passed by on the way to a protest in Westminster (I found out later on the news).
I just love her Irish accent and I think that the Irish as a race, are natural storytellers. Before I discovered Marian, I used to read all of Maeve Binchey’s books. The irony is; she told us that she never thought she would have a readership in the UK because her writing was too “Irish”!
She told us about her disastrous time trying to break into the American market to no avail and I found it hard to believe that they didn’t like her, but it seems that you can’t please everybody. It appears that this knocked her confidence somewhat and I couldn’t quite make out if this is what lead to her five years in “exile”, so to speak.
Next there was a Q&A session with the audience, which emphasised Marian’s love of Twitter and how she engages with her fans through this medium on a regular basis. She did admit that it has helped her back into writing, through her illness due to the brevity of “Tweets”, by enabling her to write in bite sized pieces. She says she writes for an hour a day in the mornings and I read on her website that it takes her two years to write a book, but they are always worth waiting for, in my opinion.
She also has a love of Strictly Come Dancing, and when asked if she would ever participate, she strenuously declined (and admitted that she had been approached to go on the show) but said she would be too clumsy. As she held the show in such high regard, if she showed herself up, she would never be able to watch it again – she is so funny, we laughed out loud – literally! Somebody else asked what prop would she steal from the show if she had the chance and she answered, innoquivically – Pasha’s jocks! This had us howling with laughter!
When asked if she was offended when her work was classed as “chick lit”, after a long drawn out reply (in her words “why use ten words, when a hundred will do”), she basically said no but that similar male writers don’t get termed as “dick lit”, which again had us in stitches. Although her work is highly amusing (that’s why I love it), it also raises some very serious issues like addiction, rape, abuse to name but a few, but I have never known an author who can combine laughter and sadness so well in equal measures. This is her greatest strength I believe. If I could write a fraction as well as her, I would die happy.
When I eventually got my chance to get my book signed and to speak to her, I told her that I was an aspiring writer but that I would never be as good as her and she told me that of course I would and not to give up. She never thought that she would get published, which seems crazy to me because she has such talent but she has given me inspiration, so I will keep going.