With her latest book 'The Marble Collector' recently being nominated for a major award, The Edition's Catherine Devane spoke to Cecelia Ahern about her career, women in publishing and if she’s had time to catch her breath in the last few years.
Cecelia Ahern has anything but free time on her hands lately, what with being nominated for the Bord Gaise Energy’s Popular Fcition book of the year award for her latest book ‘The Marble Collector’, as well as three new books coming out in the next two years, and book after book being turned into a film. When does the bestselling author get a chance to breathe?
“I’m blocking it out,” laughs the 34 year old Irish author from her home in Dublin. It seems she’s taking everything one step at a time. The next being her nomination for the Bord Gáis Book Awards for her latest novel ‘The Marble Collector’, (which was nominated a week after its release day, may I add.)
“It’s such a great start for the book. Ten years going, it’s my ninth nomination. I really appreciate it and never take it for granted, you never know the year you’re not going to be on the list.”
So what’s her new novel about? The gist of the story is: a young woman called Sabrina comes across a collection of catalogued and incredibly valuable marbles in her dad’s private possessions. She notices that two of the most valuable marbles are missing.
The book then goes on a quest to try and find the missing marbles, but as Sabrina goes on this journey, she discovers that her dad isn’t the man she thought he was. And through discovering more about him, she starts to understand herself a lot more as well.
Cecelia tells me she found the inspiration for the book from the expression, “I lost my marbles.”
“It’s something I say a lot.”
The idea for the story originally stemmed from a series of short stories she’s been writing for the last few years called the ‘The Woman Who…’
“This particular story was going to be about a woman who lost her marbles, but as the story grew, I began to question whose marbles the woman lost.”
According to Cecelia all her books have been challenging to write, but she found her biggest task in the ‘Marble Collector’. Originally the book was only going to be told from the viewpoint of Sabrina. However everyone loved the father’s story so much, that she rewrote the entire book to include the perspective of both Sabrina and her father.
Looking back on it, she doesn’t regret the decision.
“These things are worth doing, as hard as it was. It’s definitely a better book now,” she says with certainty.
If the book continues with the success it’s already generating, does she think there will be a movie deal on the horizon?
“It’s always a bonus when that happens, but it’s never the aim. No one has made an offer so far, but the book hasn’t been sent out to anyone yet.”
Okay, so we’ll put that to bed for now. But what about her other books, will any follow in the footsteps of ‘PS. I Love You’ and ‘Love, Rosie’? Rumours have certainly been flying around that ‘Thanks for the Memories’ and ‘If You Could See Me Now’ were next in line for production.
After a quick pause she exclusively confirms: “I’ll tell you this, the next book to go ahead is ‘The Gift’, then after that it will be ‘The Time of My Life'."
As for the other two novels, ‘If You Could See Me Now’ and ‘Thanks For The Memories'?
“For now there’s no plans yet, a lot of drafts are passing back and forth between people but it’s hard to know.”
I’m also intrigued to find out more about her debut young adult series which is coming out next year. The two book dystopian series will be titled ‘Flawed’ and ‘Perfect’.
It will be set in a world where people are deemed “flawed” and are forced to be branded with F tattoos and live as second-class citizens. When one teenager tries to stand up for a “flawed” passenger on a bus, she’s not only deemed “flawed” herself, but becomes an unlikely poster girl for a growing rebellion.
Even more exciting, is that Warner Brothers have auctioned the right to the series. The movie will be produced by Wendy Finerman (Forrest Gump and The Devil Wears Prada).
“Next year going is going to be quite crazy,” admits Cecelia, “I’ll have my two young adult books out and then my regular adult novel will be out afterwards.”
Without a doubt, Cecelia is no newbie to the publishing world, what with it being eleven years since ‘PS. I Love You’ was released. But what’s it really like? Is the book world a lot different from the movie industry, are women treated with less respect than men, as Jenifer Lawrence publicly spoke up about?
Cecelia disagrees and shows a lot of confidence in the publishing industry.
“I think women are very well treated and there’s a massive appetite for female authors. I personally have no complaint about the pay either.”
With that out of the way I move on from all the craziness that is her life, and ask her the question I love to hear myself… what is she reading at the moment?
“I just finished a fantastic book called ‘The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly’ by Sun-Mi Hwang,” she gushes, “and before that I read ‘The Book of Speculation’ by Erika Swyler.”
As she’s talking I make a mental note to check these books out.
Before pursuing her writing career Cecelia did a degree in print journalism. After that she began a Master’s Degree in DIT Aungier St for three days, before dropping out to write ‘PS. I Love You’.
(WARNING: bestselling and award winning success won’t always come from dropping out of your college course, sorry.)
Though from the experience she gained, can she offer any advice to college students?
“Recognise and zone in on the area you enjoy the most. It’s hard to know what you’re going to do when you leave, but finding out what you like can help. It was my creative side I liked the most, I was no good at print journalism. I had to write something, I had to create something.”
The Marble Collector is out now nationwide.