The Penguin Q&A: Marian Keyes

The bestselling author of The Woman Who Stole My Life reveals her own relationship with reading

Marian Keyes

What is your earliest reading memory?

Reading an Enid Blyton book late at night and my dad coming in to tell me to turn the light off and go to sleep and me not wanting to stop reading. I think I was about six.

What are you reading (or re-reading) at the moment?

I usually have several books on the go – at the moment I’m reading Beatlebone, a new novel by an Irish writer called Kevin Barry – his first novel was called City Of Bohane and I love how he uses language – he’s dazzling and playful.

I’ve also nearly finished a crime-y yoke called Curtain Call by Anthony Quinn. It’s a serial killer thing set in London in 1937 (or it might be 1936, one of those years). The crime element of the book isn’t hugely compelling but the atmosphere is wonderful – there’s a real sense of how it must have been living in Britain, as it faced into World War II, how people flirted with fascism and tried to pretend that a catastrophe wasn’t hovering just out of view.

Not many people know this, but I’m very good at…

Untangling knotted necklace chains. I know. It’s not very exciting, but I’m bad at most things (I’m a clumsy weakling, with a poor singing voice…). In fact the only area in which I really excel is anything pertaining to ill-health – I catch EVERYTHING that’s going – but this is no secret! Yes, I 'enjoy' bad health.

What’s the most useful piece of advice about writing you’ve been given?

'Just sit down and do it.' I know. It’s not exactly what anyone wants to hear. Before I started writing I thought there was some sort of secret method and that those people who were published were in on the secret and jealously guarded it. It was a terrible shock to discover that if I didn’t sit down and write my book, then my book wouldn’t get written! And now when people ask me for advice and I tell them what I was told, I can see their eyes narrow and their thoughts curdle. She seems so nice but she’s mean, just like all the others…

And finally, what’s the question no one has ever asked you but you wish they would?

There isn’t one. When I’m lucky enough to do events and get to meet my readers, we cover all kinds of topics. People know the things that interest me (as well as books, I care about shoes, sexism, nail varnishes, Strictly, Scandinavian telly, the quest for happiness, cakes and a multitude of other things) and I try to create an atmosphere where people are comfortable asking me about anything that they want.

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