I was a month overdue and I often wonder what my life would have been like if I’d been born on time and been a dynamic, sunny Leo, instead of a perfectionist Virgo; it was a hard lesson to learn and since then I’ve always been very punctual.
When I left school I went to college, got a law degree, then put it to good use by going to London and getting a job as a waitress. Eventually I upped and got respectable and got a job in an accounts office, where I worked (I use the term oh-so-loosely) for a long, long, long time. I thought I’d be there forever, that I’d end up as a grumpy old woman with forty cats and that small boys would throw stones at me. What I certainly had no notion of doing was becoming a writer.
By the time I was 30 it had all come to a terrible head and, after a suicide attempt, I was lucky enough to get into rehab. (Mind you I didn’t feel lucky at the time! I thought my life was over.) However, I’ve been one of the fortunate ones and I’ve stayed sober and – more importantly – happy about it, ever since.
I began writing short stories four months before I finally stopped drinking, and after I came out of rehab I decided to send them off to a publisher. So that they’d take me seriously, I enclosed a letter saying I’d written part of a novel. Which I hadn’t. I had no intention of so doing, either – I was much more into the instant gratification of short stories. But they wrote back and said, send the novel, and for once in my self-destructive life I didn’t shoot myself in the foot. I wrote four chapters of my first novel Watermelon in a week, and was offered a three-book contract on the strength of it.
In November 1996 I was finally able to give up my day job and become – allegedly anyway – a full time writer. Except that almost from the moment all my time was free to write with, I began to try and distract myself and do anything but write. I’m up and down the stairs, checking to see if the mail has come. (Even after it already has.) I pray for the phone to ring, I make appointments for root-canal treatment and toy with the notion of scrubbing the kitchen floor. Anything other than switch on the computer. Of course, once I start it’s not so bad, I always find.
Rachel’s Holiday is about someone coming to terms with addiction, and The Mystery of Mercy Close is a romantic comedy detective novel about depression. Okay, so this doesn’t exactly sound like a laugh a minute, but in my experience the best comedy is rooted in darkness. All of my books are different but share a common theme of people who are In The Bad Place, and who achieve some form of redemption. I’ve been In The Bad Place myself many’s the time, which wasn’t very pleasant while it was happening but has since come in very handy for writing about it.
Fourteen years ago I moved back to live in Ireland. So that I wouldn’t miss London too much I imported an Englishman (well, actually I married him.). I was worried that I’d hate the small-town feel of Dublin, but what I hadn’t realised was that while I’d been away it had become Groovyville. It became impossible to buy “a grand cup of tea” because all that was available is skinny double mocha lattes, although we may be heading back to the real Ireland now.
I’ve always felt like a bit of an oddball and paradoxically, by writing about people who feel lonely or disconnected, I’ve been contacted by a huge number of people who feel exactly the same way that I do, so I no longer feel alone.
To sum up, I used to be addicted to shoes, handbags and chocolate in all its wonderful forms. I’ve given up the chocolate, and I’m learning to cook proper food. All quite normal, really.