‘The course of true love never did run smooth’

Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott

Cathy Kelly likely didn’t set out to knock J.K. Rowling and her “Harry Potter” series or Dan Brown of “The Da Vinci Code” fame off of the UK bestsellers' list. But that’s precisely what happened about 10 years ago.

Kelly, an Irish story-teller in the tradition of the late Maeve Binchy, started on the road to success with her first book, “Woman to Woman,” in 1997. Her fourth, “Someone Like You,” won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2001.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

“’It Started With Paris,’” she said of her latest, “is about what happens to everyone else in both families when one couple get engaged on top of the Eiffel Tower. There’s the mother thrown into spending time with her ex-husband, and the cake-maker who wonders if she can have love at someone else’s expense and the teenage girl caught in the middle of an embryonic stepfamily crisis.”

Woman called it “an uplifting tale,” while essentialsmagazine.com said, “It's a beautifully written book that's filled to the brim with human emotion.” Woman Magazine added: “The course of true love never did run smooth, and Cathy Kelly takes us on a bumpy journey brimming with life lessons. Full of relatable and lovable characters, this is a heart-warming novel. Will true love prevail? Tissues at the ready!”

The UNICEF Ireland ambassador herself usually has anti-inflammatory gel at the ready, as well as caffeine. “I can’t start the day without strong coffee, 20 minutes of reading and adoration from my three small dogs,” said Kelly, whose other loves include yoga, ethnic jewelry and art.

Cathy Kelly

Place of birth: Belfast.

Spouse: John Sheehan.

Children: Twin sons, Dylan and Murray

Residence: Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow

Published works: I've written 16 novels, including my latest, “It Started With Paris,” as well as a collection of short stories.

What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?

After taking my sons to school, I foother (Irish vernacular: meander/mess around) for about half an hour, make coffee, head into the study, try to avoid the lure of email, and then reread whatever I wrote yesterday. I edit a lot. Non-ideal conditions are when I have to write something non-book, which takes my mind in an entirely different direction. I try to write until I pick my sons up from school. Then, I decompress, hear about their days, and either help with homework or do emails. Or go on Pinterest and look at cute pictures of dogs/yoga moves/crocheted things.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Read, read and then read some more. Practice the skill of writing. Write the book that’s in you and not the book you think either the publishers or critics will like. From the heart is the way to go. Seeing dollar signs will get you one book contract but probably not two.

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

I’ll never forget the thrill of reading Colette for the first time when I was about 17: Cheri and The last of Cheri. Same with Alexandre Dumas: I was 14 and at home from school “sick.”

‘’I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou was so memorable the first time I read it and bizarrely, I don’t know when that was. It feels like I’ve always had that book in my head.

What book are you currently reading?

Elin Hilderbrand’s “The Rumor” – I got an early reading copy. She’s brilliant.

Is there a book you wish you had written?

Too many to mention, really. When I’m writing and I read the back of the cereal packet, the copy on the packet sounds better than what I am currently writing. The inner critic is like the Mama Alien in “Aliens.” I need Sigourney Weaver to go at her with a flame thrower.

Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.

I always start reading hopefully. I think reading with the assumption that the book will be hopeless is a wildly depressing and negative view.

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

Lovely Maya Angelou for her wisdom.

What book changed your life?

Probably the first one of mine I had to courage to send off. I still don’t know where I summoned that courage up and that book changed my life. I was a working journalist who’d always wanted to write and suddenly, I had a three-book deal.

What is your favorite spot in Ireland?

Apart from where I live, I love a place called Ardmore in County Waterford, which is mystical, plus has a really nice five-star hotel called The Cliffhouse. So you can be mystical in comfort and have hot stone massages while thinking about pagan holy wells.

You're Irish if…

You simply can’t sit on a train or a bus without talking to someone, anyone. We like to talk.