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Cecelia Ahern on motherhood and being inspired by George Clooney

Best-selling author Cecelia Ahern
Best-selling author Cecelia Ahern

“I WOULDN’T do it if I couldn’t. I’ve got a head full of ideas and it suits me to keep writing.

“But talk to my husband halfway through the year, when I’m going mental, and it’s another story! It always gets done though!”

Cecelia Ahern is in full flow as we chat about deadlines and pressure and just how she handles a busy home life, two small children and the demands of being an international best-selling author.

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Her latest offering, How To Fall In Love, has been receiving excellent reviews and is likely to be a popular Christmas present with her legion of fans.

The story centres around a woman who finds a man attempting to jump from a Dublin bridge and end his life. She talks him down on the basis that she has two weeks to convince him that his life is worth living.

You’d think suicide might not be the topic to turn into a chick-lit novel, but Ahern’s writing brings the story and the characters to life.

“Christine comes across this guy, Adam, who’s threatening to jump. The deal they come to is that she has to convince him that life is beautiful… and she has two weeks to do it. So they go on a lovely journey together.

“The idea just came to me, it was a bizarre idea, one I got from watching that George Clooney film Up In The Air.

“I loved the idea of that character and that week I came across a song called Talk Me Down, which was actually on a Westlife album! (Ahern’s brother-in-law is Nicky Byrne from the former boyband).

George Clooney
George Clooney in Up In The Air

“So my idea really was someone who had to stop people ending their lives. It all came together.”

And that’s the great thing about Cecelia Ahern, everything does come together for her. She’s a grafter, fizzing with ideas and determined to get them down on paper.

But just how do you handle becoming a literary phenomenon in your early 20s?

Her first book, PS: I Love You, topped the best-sellers list and was turned into a movie starring Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank.

“I dealt with it better than I probably would now! I loved that it was successful and I dealt with it by going straight back to work,” she says.

“You’re successful because you work, so I wrote another book. I just got my head down and didn’t think about it too much. Every time I write a novel I think ‘I’m writing this for myself’.

“I’m at my kitchen table, in my pyjamas and I’m going back to that same feeling again. The success of my first book was extremely encouraging and it gave me confidence in my writing.”

Motherhood has meant that the days of rattling out a novel at the kitchen table, however, are gone, for now.

Cecelia reveals that she does all her writing now in the quiet sanctity of a Dublin office, where she works away on regular hours, Monday to Friday.

She added: “I work from 9.30am to 5.30pm five days a week and I have done that ever since I had the kids.

Cecelia Ahern
Cecelia Ahern (right) with actors Sam Claflin and Lily Collins at rehearsals for the film Love, Rosie

“Before they arrived (she has two, a four-year-old and a 15-month-old toddler) I was quite bohemian, writing whenever I had inspiration!

“Now I have structure. I just thought that with kids around you can’t be creative, you can’t daydream, so I save it all up.”

Writing is something that Ahern admits she was pretty much born to do, scribbling away as a seven-year-old on little projects and “daydreams” that she never dared show anyone.

She added: “I think life inspired me, it was just in me. From the age of seven I would write diaries and stories and poems and little songs and I did that for me, really.

“I felt compelled to do it. I never showed it to anyone, it was just in my blood.”

So what is it about Ireland that makes it produce so many outstanding writers and so frequently?

Ahern reckons history has a lot to answer for.

“I get asked this question all the time. I think we are grounded and we’re very self-deprecating as well.

“When it comes to women’s fiction we write about serious issues in a humorous way. Perhaps people enjoy going that bit deeper in a way that makes them feel positive?

“My new book is about suicide, I tried to inject it with humour. I think that’s an Irish way of dealing with things, there’s always someone with a remark to lighten the mood.

“Any country with historical troubles I think breeds thinkers and that breeds writers.”

2014 is going to be another busy year for Ahern with another of her novels about to be given the Hollywood treatment and turned into a film.

Where Rainbows End will be released in the spring under the name the book was given by its American publishers, Love, Rosie.

Ahern continued: “I guess it’s going to be busy! On top of the film coming out I have a German TV show that will be airing in February and then before that I will start working on my next novel in January.

“It’s very regimental. I start writing in January and it has to be finished by June, then we edit in July and August and we are ready to go.

“I put myself under so much personal pressure, so I always end up finishing the book earlier than I am supposed to.

“Writing, for me, is unwinding. It’s also ‘me time’. It’s time I have to myself. I escape into my mind and I get lost in another world.

“But you can really forget about everything when you are in the middle of a mum and toddler group dancing like a lunatic!”

And what advice would Cecelia Ahern give to any aspiring young Irish writer hoping to follow in her keystrokes?

“I think it’s really important to be yourself when you are writing. I have met so many people who idolise a certain writer and try to write like them.

“Find your own voice and be yourself. You are going to be different and unique and you are going to stand out.

“Write about what you are passionate about, not what you think people want to read.

“My best piece of advice is to find an agent. A lot of people are trying to self-publish these days.

“To do that, you really need to understand the industry and I’m not sure I even do, even now!”

How To Fall In Love by Cecelia Ahern is published by HarperCollins

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