Writing my first novel was a case of risking my arm
Former schoolteacher-turned-popular-fiction writer Roisin Meaney may be a purveyor of romantic stories — though she also deals in dark themes — but when it comes to her personal life, she’s certainly not in love or looking. looking for romance.
Currently staying at her vacation home in Miltown Malbay in County Clare, Meaney, whose latest novel, Life Before Us is her twentieth, doesn’t really believe in the notion of a kindred spirit waiting to be met.
“That’s the eternal question for people looking for The One. I think it has a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time and meeting someone you’re compatible with.
“I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but I think that’s the way it is and there are no bells and whistles. I’ve never known bells and whistles. .”
In his early 60s, Meaney, who lives in Limerick most of the year, hasn’t been in a relationship “for years”.
“I’ve accepted at this point that it won’t happen. I’m totally reconciled to that. I’m enjoying my freedom, I have to say.”
Her responsibilities include looking after her elderly parents and caring for her two cats.
She didn’t start writing until she was 40.
“I thought about it for 10 years and really didn’t do anything about it. I was teaching so I just let the vague idea go. Eventually I realized it wasn’t going away. idea was still sitting in my head. I felt like I had better do something about it.
Meaney took a year off from her career and moved to San Francisco where her brother lived. She stayed with him for a year and she wrote her first book.
It didn’t come easily to him. Meaney admits she didn’t really know what she was doing. She had taken a weekend writing course in Killaloe before leaving for America. But that was it.
Writing her first novel was a case of “risking my arm.” Every day I sat down to write, I felt like I was inventing as I went.”
I didn’t even really know how long the first draft of a novel had to be.
But instinctively Meaney had to know how to write a novel because that first effort, The Daisy Picker, won a Write a Bestseller competition in 2001 and was published in 2004.
Meaney decided to share his work, to give him more time to write. The prize for winning the competition was a two-book contract published by Tivoli. However, by the time Meaney had written his third novel (which Tivoli had promised to review for possible publication), the company had gone bankrupt.
“I didn’t have an editor. My agent who I had acquired along the way told me she would shop for it, but no one wanted it.
“That’s when I got my rejections and this book never saw the light of day.”
In a dilemma, Meaney considered returning to teaching full-time. But she decided to give writing another shot and Hodder Headline (now Hachette Ireland) hired her. She’s been with them ever since.
Her latest novel is about 31-year-old Alice who discovers her boyfriend is married with three children. Devastated, she leaves Dublin to return to her hometown. She has no job, nowhere to live – but she still holds out for love.
The kindred spirit waiting to be met is George, the father of 11-year-old Suzi, who broke up with the girl’s mother. Single, a bit passive, he has never tried online dating. But there is a first time for everything.
Eventually there will be bells and whistles.
“Maybe Life Before Us is more of a love story than my other novels. I’ve written books on themes like child abuse, miscarriages, and drunk driving. I weave a lot of themes in my stories.
As a full-time writer, Meaney says she has no real regrets about giving up her secure, pensionable job.
“Fortunately, I feel like I have that security now with writing, but what I miss in teaching is the company of children. Because of that, I volunteer in my library once a month, doing a storytelling session for the children.
“I also go to schools through Poetry Ireland, I talk to children about being a writer…mainly in primary schools, but I also talk to first year and transitional pupils. I do this with great trepidation, but usually it works.
Invariably, schoolchildren ask Meaney if she makes a lot of money writing. She says she is not rich and does not have a lavish lifestyle. But she is good with money and able to save.
“My publishers are very satisfied with my sales. I have a lot of translated books so I also have money that comes from that.
For anyone aspiring to a full-time writing career, it seems Meaney is living the dream. But Meaney is afraid to agree: “In case it brings me bad luck.”
“I find writing to be a chore. There’s no magic way to write a book. It’s a matter of sitting down and writing every day. I try to do it every days when I’m on the first draft, I’m aiming to write 20,000 words in a month for the first draft, or about 5,000 words a week, which is totally doable.
Meaney writes three drafts for a book, “and usually that’s it except checking for corrections and proofreading.”
But she says there’s a lot of “pulling my hair out” trying to nail the plot and plan her fiction. It is an intense process.
“I’m good for nothing after that.”
Before becoming a teacher, Meaney spent nearly three years as a copywriter at an advertising agency in London. It was good training to write in a strikingly concise way.
“I loved the challenge of trying to come up with a good headline, beautiful, striking copy. I mostly did radio and print ads.
For a campaign, she imagined the range of Berol pens according to which “every Berol tells a story”.
“It went very well there. It was used a lot. I was writing texts for Stag cider and we had big clients like Mars.
“You had to make the words work. You can imagine if you’re writing a 10-second radio commercial, every word has to do a job. It was great to focus the mind.
“But I wasn’t angry about the short deadlines. I found it quite stressful, but it was a really good practice.”
Besides writing, Meaney has another string to her bow. Along with a friend, Sheila Qualey, she runs a Facebook page called Random Acts of Kindness Limerick.
“We are the channel for people to tell others about their experiences of having someone who has been kind to them.
“We have about 15,000 subscribers. It’s just something we both care about. We love the idea of being nice to someone without a second thought, just to brighten someone’s day. .
“I believe that if everyone tried to do a random act of kindness, even once a week, it could change everyone’s way of thinking and make us more in tune with each other.”
No doubt Meaney’s ultimately “feel good” novels brighten the lives of her readers with their relatable characters and thoughtful plots.