Marian Keyes chats to YOU about her new book

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Marian Keyes (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Marian Keyes (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The Caseys are an extremely tight-knit family. They do everything together, including weekends away, anniversaries and holidays. Yet although the three Casey brothers – Johnny, Ed and Liam – and their wives – Jessie, Cara and Nell – and kids practically live in one another’s pockets, they know surprisingly little about one another. There are dark secrets which have the potential to tear the family apart. And these all come spilling out at a birthday bash after Ed’s wife, Cara, falls and bumps her head. Suffering from an undiagnosed concussion, she suddenly finds it impossible to keep her mouth shut.

MARIAN ON HER NEW BOOK

Reading Grown Ups, I had to wonder about the inspiration behind it? Was it a bad family holiday?

Yeah, there’s this group of people I’ve been friends with for a very long time and we go away together now and again. In recent years one of the friends has been difficult in that rows break out around her. There was one weekend when we went away and she didn’t come and it was odd how harmonious everything was. I noticed that tension had left my stomach.

The next time I met her she made reference to that weekend and it was on the tip of my tongue to say, “We had such a lovely time because you weren’t there.” Now that’s not the kind of thing I’d ever say; I’m not that kind of person. But in that moment I thought, “What if someone lost the ability to dissemble or to lie, what would be the outcome?” You know how we all white lie our way through life in order to remain functional and civilised. If people said what they felt all the time, things would be a lot more combative.

Parallel to that, I knew somebody who got concussion and suddenly she couldn’t keep her thoughts to herself. So it was the connection of those two things. I thought what if somebody just couldn’t stop telling the truth? What would that do to a group of people that had very complex but finely balanced relationships with each other?

That’s putting it mildly – the Caseys all have secrets, especially the women. 

You see, everyone has secrets and I think most secrets are accompanied by shame. Most of us think that nobody else functions like that but everyone has secrets – things that we don’t want other people to know about.

In your own life, how honest are you?

I’m not confrontational at all. But there are times when relationships have gone weird and it’s become necessary to have those conversations. Sometimes if you value a friendship it’s important to say the unpleasant stuff.

Was Grown Ups a fun book to write?

Yeah, it was fun having all those characters to play. I liked a lot of the characters and I guess I just wanted them to all be okay at the end of it all.

Which of the women do you feel you have the most in common with?

I share some characteristics with Jessie, to my shame. I’m the eldest in my family – I have four brothers and sisters – and I’m the one who’s kind of going around organising the family weekends. I’m fond of having us all together in one place. I’m very Jessie-like in the way I go rounding people up like a farmer’s sheep dog – that’s me alright. And like her, I also love online shopping. About three-quarters of my life seems to be spent opening the door to the DHL man to take delivery of yet another box from Zara. I’m never happier than when I’m going to bed at 10pm, getting out the old tablet and looking at lovely dresses and shoes online. There’s no greater pleasure.

How long did it take you to write this book?

Oh a long time – it took me two-and-a-half years. The thing was my dad got sick. He was sick for eight months before he died and I just couldn’t work in the same way. It’s hard to describe but I found it impossible to finish the book. I was stuck with all my characters at a particular point and for months I had no idea what to do with them. My publishers moved the date. It was meant to come out in Autumn 2019 and it didn’t come out until February 2020 and right up to the last minute, I actually asked my publisher if she'd give me six more months and just defer it again. She said no, that it was finished and fine. But all my certainty and all my ability to judge my work disappeared.

So you’re telling me after writing 14 novels it never gets easier?

Of course it doesn’t! And I actually think that’s a good thing. I'm writing now [a sequel to her 1998 smash-hit Rachel’s Holiday] and I’m dogged by the sense it’s wrong and if I feel that, it usually means that it needs more work.

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