Monday, 10 June 2013

Debut Spotlight: Kathleen MacMahon

Today's debut spotlight features Irish author Kathleen MacMahon whose debut book This Is How it Ends has been selected as one of the 10 books in the Summer 2013 Richard and Judy book club and is the current book of the week.     

This is when it begins Autumn, 2008. 

This is where it begins The coast of Dublin. 

This is why it begins Bruno, an American, has come to Ireland to search for his roots. Addie, an out-of-work architect, is recovering from heartbreak while taking care of her infirm father. When their worlds collide, they experience a connection unlike any they've previously felt, but soon their newfound love will be tested in ways they never imagined possible. 

This is how it ends ... 

Kathleen MacMahon is a former radio and television journalist with Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE. The grand-daughter of the distinguished short story writer Mary Lavin, Kathleen lives in Dublin with her husband and twin daughters. The hardback edition of This is How it Ends, her first novel, was a No.1 bestseller in Ireland for five consecutive weeks and spent nine weeks in the Top Ten bestseller list.

This is How It Ends is one of the books I'll be reading this summer as I've signed up to do a Richard and Judy reading challenge so my review will follow but in the meantime Kathleen kindly agreed to answer a few questions...

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? 
It’s a love story, but I hope it’s an unconventional kind of love story. It’s about two people who find happiness when they’re least expecting it. It’s set against the backdrop of the election of Obama in the US and the start of the global recession. I really wanted to use that turbulent setting to prompt the characters to question what really matters in life.

Which comes first, the characters or the plot?
In this case, the characters came first. I had an idea in my head of a woman who had arrived at a point in her life where she was alone, through no fault of her own and she was sadder than she deserved to be. I wanted something to happen to her that would make her happy. That was the driving force behind the novel, my desire for Addie to find joy and fulfilment in her life.  

Are you able to give us a hint as to what your next novel is about?  
The next novel is about family. It’s about the stories that lurk beneath the surface in a family, and what happens when they rise to the surface. I’m fascinated by the endless ability we have as human beings, to ignore the things that are right in front of us.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? 

I’ve always had the desire to write, which is a different thing perhaps. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the urge to find a set of words to describe what I see and feel, and to make sense of those things within the confines of a story.

Have you ever had writer’s block? 
I’ve never been stuck with an empty page in front of me, if that’s what you mean by writer’s block. But I’ve suffered from editor’s block, where you have a hundred thousand words written and you know you need to reshape them but you can’t for the life of you think how. That’s when you suffer.  

If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I’ve loved most of the jobs I’ve ever done. I worked as a waitress while I was in college, and I loved being in the middle of all the madness of a busy restaurant. After leaving college, I worked as a radio and TV reporter for fifteen years. In the end of the day the job of a reporter is to tell stories, so it’s not a million miles away from being a writer. In my next life, I’d like to be an opera singer. I’d love to be able to reduce a whole auditorium to tears with just the sound of my voice. That must be something.

How long did it take you to get your first book published? 
This Is How It Ends had a charmed trajectory, right from the start. I finished it in early 2011 and handed it straight over to my agent. I expressly asked her NOT to keep me informed about any interest there might be in it. I didn’t want to have to deal with the stress of that. So the first I knew of it was when she called me from the London Book air in the Spring of 2011 to tell me the news that it had found a publisher.

Do you have a set daily writing routine?
My routine is determined by my kids. As soon as they go out the door in the morning, that’s my cue to sit down at the desk. I work right through to the moment when they tumble back in the door. It always feels like they’ve only been gone for five minutes

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?


Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books?
Definitely physical copies. I tried using an e-reader but I didn’t take to it. I like to feel the heft of the pages in my hand. I like to run my fingers over the art work on the cover. I like to come back to a book years later and find grains of sand between the ages and to remember where I was when I read it.  

Are there any books you’ve read that you wish you’d written?
I wish I’d written The English Patient. It has everything in it that I would want to write into a book. A sweeping sense of history. Glamour and nostalgia. Pathos and tragedy. It’s a wonderful book. I’m fiercely jealous of it.

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