A time for friends

Time to start valuing yourself

Patricia Scanlan.

Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott

A recent Irish Independent reviewer explained why, in her view, Patricia Scanlan has spent so much time over the past 25 years at the top of the bestsellers’ lists: “There’s something wonderfully enjoyable about Scanlan’s books, which somehow manage to be deliciously escapist and grounded in real, recognizable ordinary life at the same time.”

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When asked to summarize her latest, “A Time For Friends,” the novelist herself said: “[It] covers universal themes, including friends who are not really friends, social climbing, status and greed, the boom and bust years in Ireland and the USA, family rows about caring for elderly parents, rearing children, childhood abuse and homophobia.”

Scanlan continued: “Set in Ireland, New York and London, the underlying theme is valuing yourself and asking: ‘When do you stop flying over oceans for someone who wouldn’t jump over a puddle for you?’”

Her No. 1 bestsellers, which have sold millions worldwide, include the “City Girl” trilogy, “Finishing Touches,” “Foreign Affairs,” “Mirror Mirror,” “Promises Promises,” “Francesca’s Party” and “With All My Love.”

Scanlan is also the series editor of “The Open Door” novellas: a literacy project she developed with New Island Publishers, which has become a critical and commercial success internationally. She has written four books for the series.

Patricia Scanlan

Date of birth: Nov. 12, 1956

Place of birth: Dublin

Residence: Dublin

What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?

I tend to start a novel slowly as I’m only getting to know my characters. I liken it to being at wedding you don’t want to be at. You don’t know the guests and you don’t want to know them. But that soon wears off and I love when the novel starts pushing me.

I would write all day and all night nearing the end of a novel. Unfortunately real life and family commitments interfere. I do my best to write every day. My ideal place to write is in Wicklow; overlooking the corn field, with the Wicklow hills in the distance, no land line, no emails, just me and my laptop.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Stop faffing around, sit at your computer and start writing the novel you’ve always wanted to write. And keep in mind that once you sign publishing contract writing becomes a business so enjoy the joy and freedom of writing that first novel.

Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.

“The Grey Goose of Kilnevin” by Patricia Lynch – a magical Irish author – was read to us by my mother. It truly fired up my imagination. I was in that little tighin with Sheila, Fergus, the Ballad Singer and the old lady, all on their way to Bridgie Swallow’s to buy butter. I was lying on the bed made of fresh leaves, eating floury potatoes with salt and butter while the wind howled like banshees, outside. Pure magic.

“Little Women” – I so wanted to be Jo March and get my stories published.

“The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne” by Brian Moore – the skill of this male writer getting inside the head of the lonely spinster, Judith, was an absolute inspiration to me.

What book are you currently reading?

Edna O’ Brien’s latest novel, “The Little Red Chairs.”

Is there a book you wish you had written?

“Saving Grace” by Irish author Ciara Geraghty. It made me laugh, it made me cry. It is a superb book.

Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.

John Banville’s “The Book of Evidence” was unputdownable.

If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?

Margaret Mitchell, who wrote “Gone With The Wind.”

What book changed your life?

Two did. Rhona Jaffe’s “Class Reunion” and Edna O’Brien’s “The Country Girls” made me know for sure I wanted to be a writer.

What is your favorite spot in Ireland?

Ballintim, Co Wicklow. And Ballytrent beach, near Rosslare Harbor.

You're Irish…

When you comment on “the great stretch in the evenings” or “the nights are drawing in.”