The essential Marian Keyes

21 June 2020 - 00:00 By
Bestselling author Marian Keyes.
Bestselling author Marian Keyes.
Image: Rune Hellestad/Getty Images

Published in the Sunday Times (21/06/2020)

How she writes

"I have a desk in the spare room and I start in the morning when I'm ready. I'm not rigid about times and word count. It doesn't work for me - I would find it such a tyranny. If I had to write 3,000 words they would be rubbish. I'd rather work on a scene and connect with it. And I don't write in a straight line. At the moment I'm writing something that happened in the past for Rachel and Luke and the reader won't find out about it until quite close to the end of the book, but I need to know about it so I can deal with them in the now. I stay with it until I believe it. Until I understand it. I always say there's no wrong way to write. This is just the way I do it."

Funny business

"It's important to be funny. It's just the way I was brought up. I learnt how to subconsciously structure a narrative. What you hold back, what you repeat, it became instinctive. Innate. Sex is difficult to write and so is high emotion. I fear lapsing into melodrama. It's difficult to try and find that balance between excavating emotion accurately and fully and not just tipping over into daytime soapie."

What's in her handbag

"I went to a smaller bag because I'm being frugal at the moment.

  • My wallet
  • Keys
  • About 40 pairs of glasses - I've got reading glasses, sunglasses, ordinary glasses
  • About a thousand lipsticks
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Hair bubbles. That's another thing that I often go to the chemist (what Irish call pharmacies) for. I'm terrified of not having something to put my hair up with.
  • Some sort of painkiller. I'm a proper Virgo. If anyone has a headache they can come to me. Proper indigestion tablets as well
  • Millions of receipts."

The love is real

Keyes loves pharmacies (I confess to her that I do too). "I don't understand my love for the places but my love is real. I'm the only person I know that browses in a pharmacy. You learn so much about humans, about life from the contents on the shelves. I confess that I buy a load of tweezers. Keyes says: "I often said if I was on a deserted island and I was allowed one item it would be tweezers. You'd never be bored if you had tweezers. Hours and hours of fun."

Favourite lines

"I've never been comfortable with a credit card that isn't at its limit. I get that nagging feeling, like someone left the gas on." - The Other Side of the Story

"Failed relationships can be described as so much wasted makeup." - Watermelon

"Show me a person who doesn't have a past and I'll show you a boring bastard." - Last Chance Saloon

"Nothing sinister. Just getting exercise. Although some might consider that sinister." And, "... as you know, I don't believe in fear, just an invention by men so they get all the money and good jobs ." - Anybody Out There?

"You only grow up by living through the shit that life throws at you." - Rachel's Holiday

"I love Prada. Not so much the clothes, which are for malnourished 13-year-olds, but I covet, with covety covetousness, the shoes and handbags. Like, I LOVE them. If I was given a choice between world peace and a Prada handbag, I'd dither. (I'm not proud of this, I'm only saying.)" - Further Under the Duvet

"I remember reading somewhere that the chemicals produced in the brain by a lengthy Twitter session are similar to those produced by cocaine." - The Woman Who Stole My Life

"I don't want to be dead. I'm curious about how things will turn out. This is good, right?" - The Break

Fans' favourite characters

"Mammy Walsh. Every sister in the family - Claire, Margaret, Rachel, Anna, Helen - are total craiks, but Mammy Walsh remains the favourite because of her irreverent humour and her total disregard for cooking.

Katherine in Last Chance Saloon. There are other characters, like the dear Finton and the obnoxious Tara, but one can't help the affinity for Katherine. Strong and confident, and we get to learn about her horrible past.

Luke Costello from Rachel's Holiday - dreamy, manly, honest. What more do you want?" 

Compiled by Jennifer Platt