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‘Good friends are very rare’ – Marian Keyes & Anne Marie Scanlon’s 30-year friendship

Marian Keyes
Marian Keyes Credit: Barry McCall

Marian Keyes’ has said her latest novel would not have been written were it not for her best friend Anne Marie Scanlon.

Best friends, they each reflect on a bond that has now spanned nearly 30 years.

‘With Anne-Marie, I can tell her everything’

By Marian Keyes

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ANNE MARIE SCANLON is my friend. My true friend. She is a rare and wonderful person and I feel so grateful to know her and that we’re so close. She and her son Jack are family to myself and my husband, Tony.

Sitting down to write this piece has made me focus on what I value in her most and I suppose the first thing is her loyalty. She’s on my side, I know it in my gut. And her loyalty is to me the person, not me the writer. She stands up for me and she never judges me.

Even though we live in different countries, we’re in constant contact – email, Twitter and phone calls – and we’re a great support to each other. She understands my dodgy mental health and I know that when I’m in a dark place she will never take the position, “What has she to be depressed about?”

She listens to me, gives me compassion and it’s such a relief for me to be able to blurt out everything I’m feeling. I never feel I have to self-censor or only tell her part of the story – with Anne-Marie, I can tell her everything.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Far from it. She’s great company and always full of recommendations for interesting books and television shows. She’s a uniquely gifted raconteur and probably the funniest person I’ve ever met. No-one makes me laugh like she does. Even when we’re talking about the darkest of subjects, we end up having a scream.

I suppose our senses of humour are perfectly aligned, we find the same things funny and if some sort of news story breaks, all she has to do is text me three words that might seem entirely random to anyone else but has me in convulsions.

Here’s an example – ‘Leo Sayer’s jocks.’ That’s meaningless to anyone other than myself and Anne Marie and to explain why it’s funny would be impossible because it’s a long story that goes back years.

That’s another thing about Anne Marie and myself – we’ve known each a long, long time, probably 30 years. She’s younger than me, she was originally a friend of my sister’s but during my years of living in London, Anne Marie and I became close.

As a result, we share countless memories. To have that sense of rootedness and continuity with her is something I really value. I’ve known her for more than half of my life, she didn’t just parachute into my life when I was a successful author, she knew me when I was a broke accounts clerk.

I wish we lived in the same country, I really do. But when she comes to Ireland, she and Jack stay with myself and Tony and we all get on great. We’re extremely relaxed around each other. She goes off and does her own stuff during the day and I’m always impatient for her to get back to me because she’s such a brilliant story-teller that she turns the most mundane events into a performance.

Regarding my work, I trust her implicitly. I always show her my work-in-progress and she will comment honestly – she won’t flimflam me.

If she feels something is unconvincing or confusing, she’ll give it to me straight.

But she’s always kind and always constructive. In fact, I have Anne Marie to thank for the inspiration for The Mystery of Mercy Close because for years she’s been saying that “poor Wayne Diffney” deserved his own book. When I went through a long spell of being unable to write, she insisted that I get working on Wayne, and it kick-started me again.

With her journalism, she’ll often ask me to take a look at her work before she submits it. She’s a brilliant writer, an insightful and gifted interviewer. But I wish she was on telly. I’d love if she had a spot, reporting on Corrie and other TV dramas. She’s so articulate and clever, such an astonishingly gifted and forthright communicator that she’d bring so much pleasure to so many people (especially me).

There was one year when Tony and I were away during Celebrity Big Brother (actually it might have been the year of Leo Sayer’s jocks) and Anne Marie sent us daily email dispatches on the show, and I swear to God, I’ve never read anything so brilliant. In a stream-of-consciousness style, she conjured up the whole series, second-by-second. It was better than watching it.

Anne Marie is full of thoughtful gestures. When I go to stay with her she has all my favourite foods in and lovely pretty bed-linen on the bed and she waits on me hand-and-foot.  She goes to an awful lot of trouble for me. There was one time in Marks and Spencer’s and I was trying to buy a scarf but the assistant couldn’t find a tag on it, so it couldn’t be sold. But a few days later, Anne Marie produced the scarf for me – she’d gone to another Marks and Spencer’s and got it.

What I also value about Anne Marie is the way she includes my husband Tony in everything – we really are family.

Good friends are very rare and I love Anne Marie Scanlon with all my heart

The Mystery of Mercy Close is published by Penguin Books

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