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Monday, December 5, 2016

Interview with Cecelia Ahern, author of 'Lyrebird'

Hello Darling Readers,

I’m thrilled to bring you a very special Q&A on the blog today – with Irish author Cecelia Ahern! 
She’s the author of bestselling book (turned into tearjerker movie) P.S. I Love You, and another favourite book and film adaptation of mine – Love, Rosie.
She’s also responsible for one of my favourite (much-missed!) comedy shows, Samantha Who?
Cecelia Ahern’s latest book is Lyrebird, which I’m reading now and absolutely loving! 
So without further ado, here’s a special December treat for you …


Q:    Earlier this year you totally switched things up and released your first young adult debut in Flawed. What made you want to write for teens? And how was it harder/easier than writing for adults? 

The story decided it for me. While I’d been asked for years if I would write for Young adults, my response was, ‘I will if I get the idea’. I’m not the kind of writer who decides a genre first, I really follow the ideas. When Flawed came into my mind the first and only character that arrived with the story was 17 year old Celestine North. I think because it’s from the perspective of a teen, then that changed the audience.

However, while I’m so happy to find a new audience, I do think that it is a story for everybody, and people who enjoy my regular adult novels would also identify with this story. I didn’t have to change anything about the way that I write, that all happened naturally when I was writing the story from Celestine’s perspective.

This story came faster than any other novel I’ve ever written. I wrote the first draft in 6 weeks, I couldn’t stop writing until I was finished. I wrote it with my heart pounding, it was a thrilling experience and I think it comes across in the read, it’s pacier than my other novels.

Q:    Your books wriggle their way into reader's hearts, and we find it really hard to let go of characters after the last page - which characters do you most get asked about by fans wanting to know What Happened Next? ... And of all your backlist books, which one would you most likely return to for a sequel?

Flawed is part one of a sequel so that natural and obvious answer to that question is that Perfect will be published in April 2017.  However, I do have a sequel idea for PS I Love You, I’m just in two minds about whether writing it is the best decision.

Q:    Your latest book Lyrebird has lovely Australian connections - what inspired this book, and what sort of research did you do for it? 

I was inspired by a David Attenborough documentary which featured the superb Lyrebird. I watched this little creature with fascination as it built a mound for itself on the forest floor and proceeded to mimic every sound around it, not just the sound of other birds, but of mobile phones, car alarms, a camera shutter, and forest construction vehicles. I thought it was extraordinary and it stayed with me, I filed it away in my memory bank.

It was when I was telling my daughter about the bird, and I showed her the clip, that we both started trying to mimic the sounds the Lyrebird was making. I had a light bulb moment where I wanted to tell the story about a woman who had the abilities of a lyrebird. How would society treat her? How and why could she have this ability?

In terms of the writing, it was a challenge for me because it’s a book about sound, and it’s interesting to write about sound – but the thing that attracted me to the story the most was building a character on the traits of a bird. Laura is the physical manifestation of a bird.

Q:    What is your favourite bit of writing advice you’ve ever received?

My mother’s advice to me was to show my first few chapters of PS I Love You to an agent. I did because of her encouragement and thanks to her my career was born.

Q:  What is the worst piece of writing advice you ever received?

Another author preached to me on the importance of always trying to be better than anyone else, the importance of being number 1 in the charts, and I thought that was the biggest load of crap I’d ever heard.

Q:    What is the number one piece of life advice you would give your teen-self?

It’s all going to be okay. It will work out in the end.

Q:    Is there anything that you’d like to write about, but you haven’t been able to tackle yet?

I love murder mysteries, old fashioned ones like Murder She Wrote and Colombo. I would love to write something like that but give it my own modern, emotional twist.

Q:     The cover of Lyrebird is absolutely stunning - why do you think readers still so attached to books as objects? (even in the digital age?)

I think that when people have an emotional connection to something, to anything, then they form an attachment. Books, stories, can draw people in and invite them into another world. Reading is escapism, therapy, entertainment, it can be a very personal experience.

Q:     Two of your books have been turned into films - P.S. I Love You and Love, Rosie - and you created a critically-acclaimed television series called Samantha Who? ... I'm curious: how has working in film and TV changed the way you write? How has the way you approach writing a book changed over the years?

When I write a novel, I’m always writing it as a novel, not as a future film, but I do have a visual mind so I watch the story in my head and then I write it. I think that’s why film studios have found them attractive to adapt – however writing for film is a very different craft and medium so if you write a novel, as you would a film, then it doesn’t work. Novels dig deeper, can be more introspective, and you can stay in a character’s mind for far longer. Novels are not just about plot – films need plot to constantly move them along.


Cecelia Ahern’s Lyrebird is published by HarperCollins Australia and available now.

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