Writer in lockdown: we chat to Marian Keyes

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Marian Keyes. (Photo: Dean Chalkley)
Marian Keyes. (Photo: Dean Chalkley)

If all had gone according to plan, Marian Keyes would’ve visited South Africa last year and sat down with us for a few fabulous reader events. But sadly, with most of the world in lockdown, the much-loved Irish author was forced to put her tour on hold.

Luckily, thanks to Skype, we were able to catch up with her at her home in Dún Laoghaire near Dublin to chat about lockdown life and her new novel, Grown Ups.

You should’ve visited our shores by now. Do you know how disappointed your SA fans are that you had to cancel your tour?

I’m also devastated! I was so excited about coming to SA – but hopefully next year.

What have you been getting up to during lockdown?

I’ve been eating a huge amount. It’s been weird – for the first several weeks I was doing a huge number of Zoom interviews and stuff but I couldn’t actually do any writing because my head simply wouldn’t work and it was really hard to read as well. And there’s actually a reason for that. It’s because we were all so frightened. We were all in flight-or-fight mode and when you’re in that state your imagination is sort of disabled. It’s to keep you alert and vigilant, scanning the horizon for danger. For the last three weeks or so I’ve been able to start writing decently but it’s been a really strange, scary, awful time.

So, have you been okay spending so much time in isolation or are you feeling cabin feverish?

I’m okay really with this because I'm an introvert anyway. For the likes of me who normally feels like an oddball it’s been easier than for a lot of people. I’m not a party animal or someone who thrives on the energy of others – but I miss my family a huge amount and I miss affection.

How are you staying sane in lockdown?

Oh, I’m not sure that I am. I suppose a routine – working in the morning and I also try to do some exercise, which is really helping with my anxiety. I run on a treadmill and it disperses that ball of unpleasantness in my tummy. I’m really not a domesticated type but I’ve been making mildly elaborate dinners for myself and my husband which entail doing more than just using the microwave. It kind of gives a focal point to the day. And then I also watch an awful amount of telly and I read a lot. And I also survive with my regular AA meetings, which I’m able to do via Zoom which is just lovely. I have other things built in too – me and my friend Louisa speak to each other over the phone, like in the olden days, every Wednesday night. Things like that are very comforting.

Have you developed any strange habits and obsessions?

I’ve been buying more skin products than usual and I don’t know what that’s about. It doesn’t really make sense because who’s really seeing me? I’ve been dyeing my own hair too – stuff like that.

Marian Keyes: what makes her tick

What makes you laugh?

My husband, my mother, my sisters, Irish people in general.

What makes you angry?

Argh, I’m devastated about what’s going on in the US at the moment. Trump makes me spitting mad – just hearing his voice makes me want to tear my skin off.

Your own most annoying habit:

I overtalk things, I overthink things, I catastrophise.

Favourite word:

Krompir – it’s Serbian for potato. Good, isn’t it?

Thing you know now that you wish you’d known in your 20s:

Everyone is faking it to some degree.

Marian Keyes
Marian Keyes. (Photo: Supplied)

Grown Ups 

By Marian Keyes

Michael Joseph

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.

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