Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Author Interview: Cecelia Ahern

Yesterday Jenn and I reviewed Cecelia Ahern's newest novel The Book of Tomorrow.  Today we are thrilled she took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.

GJR: In The Book of Tomorrow, I really enjoyed watching Tamara grow from a spoiled teenager to a mature young woman right before my eyes. What inspired you to tell her story? Is there anyone she is modeled after?

Cecelia Ahern: Thank you. Tamara isn't based on any one individual but rather on a breed of young women that seemed to grow in Ireland during the time when the economy was booming. Of course she is her own unique character but the sense of self-importance, and on a more positive note, the confidence which she has is very much how teenage girls are today. They are so much more aware of their appearance, of each other, of designer clothes and labels. I think they are more sophisticated in many ways. Some have a sense of entitlement and do very little to receive so very much. Obviously not all girls are like this but the celtic tiger bred a lot of young women who didn't know what it was like to not get what they wanted. I wanted to take this kind of personality and strip them of all the material possessions that they feel identify them to the world and really look at who is beneath - that is a vulnerable young woman trying to find herself.

GJR: If you had your very own Book of Tomorrow, would you use it?

CA: I would find it very difficult not to open the page the night before, I have very little patience so I think I couldn't wait to see what tomorrow held. In saying that, I'm not interested in going to fortune tellers or tarot card readers to hear my future, I would rather just let it happen, but if there was a book sitting right beside me that could tell me what was going to happen, I would find it very hard not to have a peek. For Tamara it becomes a huge responsibility because as soon as she has seen what tomorrow will bring she feels an enormous responsibility to have to change it and help people. And once she changes one thing, it has an effect on the next day and she is almost trapped in having to see it through to the end.

GJR: Once a novel is complete, are you ever tempted to revisit past characters and shake up their lives a bit?

CA: I always feel that I have brought the character to the correct place at the end of the novel, so I don't feel the need to revisit them. However, The Book of Tomorrow is the first time I felt I could revisit the character and the story because a book that reveals tomorrow can take her down so many paths in her life.

GRJ: One reason why I love your novels is your ability to describe places with such detail that I can picture each place perfectly. Do you get your inspiration for settings from places you have been or do you image them yourself?

CA: Finding a setting for the story is a mixture of both imagining it and seeing an actual place that exists. For most of my books I use my imagination and create a world within our world that doesn't actually exist but is a place that the reader can identify with. For The Gift and The Book of Tomorrow I actually decided to use real places - for The Gift I used Dublin city at its height of the boom where there was so much happening and a crazy rhythm and pace that was in tune with the main character. In The Book of Tomorrow I had the idea for a few years but couldn't find where to place it or who to put in the story, then I visited a place called Killeen which is beside Dunsaney Castle and I immediately had a sense of its history, and got a kind of eery feeling there. I knew it was the right place for spoiled city girl Tamara because it was the opposite environment from what she'd grown up in. I took the feeling that I got while there and created the fictional Kilsaney.

GJR: If you were not a writer, what would you be doing?

CA: Before I wrote PS I Love You I had begun a Masters Degree in Film Production however I left after two days to write my first novel. I have a huge love for Television and film and so I would imagine I'd be on a film set somewhere making tea or coffee for the director!

GJR: What motivates you to write? How do you overcome the dreaded writers’ block?

CA: I have many different answers for this. I feel compelled to write, I feel that being a writer is just who I am. I don't choose to write a story, it comes to me and it spins around and around in my head and won't go away until I put pen to paper. It's like therapy, writing helps my busy head and transports me to a place with other characters in another world and I get lost in it. Then, when I have begun a book, what motivates me is the character. I fall in love with them, I can't get them out of my head and I can't relax until their story is told or else I've left them in limbo, stuck on a page somewhere pondering something for all eternity. I want to help move them on and bring them to a good place. Once I've started something I must finish and am very focused in that way.

Writer's block comes and goes and when it comes I must remember that it will soon go. Last week I went to bed for an hour, this week I went for a massage, if it happens again next week, I'm going to get drunk. But seriously, a block usually comes when you're trying to push the story in the wrong way. You need to think about making changes about what you've already done instead of just trying to figure out where to go next. It's very frustrating but I always have to remind myself that it doesn't last forever. (touch wood)

GJR: Are you working on a new novel? If so, can you tell us the premise?

CA: I'm working on my eighth novel at the moment and I can't tell you the premise because I never give anything away until I'm finished! However I have a book of two short stories called The Memory Maker and Girl in the Mirror; The Memory Maker is about an old man who invents a machine which can help input new memories into your mind; things you wish you could have done or said. Girl in the Mirror is a kind of a gothic thriller about a mirror which can steal your identity.

GJR: Who are your favorite authors to read? Why?

CA: Lee Child because he has created a character called Jack Reacher who I am secretly in love with.

Karin Slaughter because she is a wonderful writer and I love returning to read about the same characters in each book; I care about them a lot.

Mitch Albom because I love his ideas and his writing is beautiful.

GJR: What are your top 3 favorite books?

CA: The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Golfing with God by Roland Merullo, For One More Day by Mitch Albom

GJR: What are you currently reading?

CA: Neil Jordan's "Mistaken"

GJR: Something different: Do you prefer “tree” books or ebooks? If it’s “tree” books, do you dog-ear pages or use a bookmark? Do you still use your library card?

CA: I prefer Tree books by far. I don't dog-ear any pages, I use a bookmark, I won't lend anybody my books, they are too precious!

GJR: When you write, do you have total quiet or background noise? Has this changed over the years?

CA: I light a candle and I have no back ground noise and I have always worked like this.

GJR: Will you continue to write YA novels in addition to your contemporary fiction?

CA: I never choose which genre or which age group I'm going to write for. I just write the story as it comes to my mind, how it feels the most natural and I wait for the right audience to find my stories.

GJR: Do you keep a diary or journal?

CA: Yes! I love the feel of pen going on paper - it's like therapy for me so I could never stop.

Thanks again to Ms. Ahern for visiting with us.  Don't forget to enter our drawing to win a copy of The Book of Tomorrow.


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