Ciara Geraghty on chick lit, love, and details

Last updated 08:08 26/02/2013

Irish author Ciara Geraghty (her first name's pronounced "Keira") started writing when she was 34 and hasn't stopped since, despite the advent of children and husband. Ciara writes novels that are light and laced with humour (she rightly rejects the label "chick lit") despite hefty subject matters. Her fourth novel, Lifesaving for Beginners, is out now - and she kindly answered some questions while in New Zealand as part of a whirlwind book tour.

She also gave what is perhaps the best advice about love I've heard for quite a while ("love is in the details"). I like it so much, I've even asterisked* her answer below!

In writing your novels, do you draw inspiration from other Irish chick lit writers, like Marian Keyes, for example?
I draw inspiration from the fact that Ireland - this little island nation on the outskirts of Europe - is practically falling down with writers. We are a nation of storytellers. When you meet someone on the street, you don't say "hello", you say "any news?", which is your cue to tell a story!

How difficult is it for you to write about serious topics in a light-hearted manner?
I'm drawn to things that go wrong, rather than the things that go right. Happiness and happy people write white on the page. The cracks, the flaws, here is where it gets interesting. But it can't be all doom and gloom because that can become tedious for the reader too. So I use humour to shed some light and give the story and the characters some perspective. I don't find it difficult to mix the dark and the light. It feels natural to me. It feels like real life. Ciara Geraghty

Would you say you're an optimist or a pessimist?
Definitely an optimist. I think it's because I love life. I don't believe in an afterlife or a God, so that has a way of focusing the mind on the present, being grateful for the little things in life that make me happy...good coffee, walking the beach with my dog, listening to my kids tell tales, swimming in the Atlantic ocean, hiking up a mountain with my husband. When you're fairly positive that all will end when you die, life seems more precious. Pessimism would take up a lot of time and energy, I'd say.

It can be hard for some female authors to accept the label "chick lit" at all. How do you feel about that category?
I don't see why we should accept the label "chick lit" at all! The word "chick" is pretty derogatory in Ireland. It's also outdated and sexist. There are many male writers who write about family and relationships (e.g. Roddy Doyle, Nick Hornby, Tony Parsons) and yet we don't class their fiction as "chick lit". How about "dick lit" instead? Wonder what the fellas would say about that?

It is interesting to have commitment phobia from a female viewpoint, with Kat from Lifesaving for Beginners obviously afraid of committing for various reasons. Do you think this is a true reflection of what happens in real life?
I'm not as good at "real life" as I am at the fictional stuff that happens in my head. I'm a bit like Kat that way, better on the "page". So I suppose the answer to your question is, "I don't know." But when I was creating Kat's character, her being a commitment-phobe fitted well with my idea of her. She's someone who hasn't dealt with a fairly traumatic event that happened to her when she was 15, so I wondered how that would impact on a person. What kind of individual would you become if you had lived your life as if the thing that had happened to you never did? I imagine that person being incredibly private, closed off, difficult. In short, I imagined Kat Kerrigan. Would that happen in real life? I suppose it might. That's one of the things I love about fiction; anything is possible.

* Valentine's Day has just been. What advice would you have for the single lovers of the world, male or female, who are potentially seeking true love? How do you know when you've found it, and what advice would you give about staying away from Mr or Miss Wrong?
Ahhh, love. The Great Quest. The Holy Grail. The Mt Everest of the heart. True love isn't something you can look for, find and then have for the rest of your life. It's a moment of pure, undistilled happiness and then, just like that, it's gone and we're on the road again, searching for it. It's effort, it's compromise, it's hard work, it's endurance. But if you're prepared to put the groundwork in, then you are afforded a glimpse of it every now and again and it sustains you, like a bowl of porridge on a cold winter's morning. This goes for Singletons as well as Smug Marrieds. Love is in the details. If you're not looking closely, you'll miss it!

Do you agree with Ciara? Is love in the details?

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