Marian Keyes: Author Interview

Bestselling author Marian Keyes, 44, tells woman&home how giving up alcohol led to her first book

I started drinking as a teenager. I felt uncomfortable in myself and alcohol took those uncomfortable feelings away. It was a slow, fairly insidious sort of decline. Even though I was behaving, living and drinking like an alcoholic, I never thought I was one. But the more I drank, the more depressed I became. Eventually a suicide attempt blew my whole life up in my face.

I felt my life was over when it dawned on me in rehab that I could never drink again. But I learned I was different from how I thought I was. I’m quite introverted but I’m not shy.

Marian and writing
I had started writing four months before I stopped drinking. I wrote a short story. It was the last little thing that could save me.

I was just buzzing with ideas and the desire to write once the alcohol was out of my system. Every book since has been utter torment to write but my first, Watermelon, wrote itself. Getting it published by Penguin was absolutely a dream come true. Until then, I had always considered myself one of life’s failures.

I used to write in bed, starting when I woke up. I believe that creative work comes from our subconscious mind so I try to keep the gap between sleep and writing as minimal as possible. But This Charming Man was the last hurrah. I’ve slipped a disc in my neck and the physios have made it their mission to completely overhaul me, so I’ve had to get a desk and a chair, which just fills me with despondency.

Marian's new book
This Charming Man was inspired by a story I heard while I was in South Africa about a high court judge who killed his wife. She had been to the police, but had been ignored because of her husband’s powerful status. I spoke to a lot of women and the message that came through was that abusive men are generally charming and charismatic. They have to be, otherwise they’d never have anyone to abuse.

Domestic violence appalls me more than anything else. It just beggars belief that there’s so much brutality in a supposedly civilised society and that the victims are the ones who are ashamed.

Marian's new novel, This Charming Man is out in May (Michael Joseph, £17.99)

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