Author of 10 bestselling novels, with the 11th published in March, Roisin Meaney describes how it all started:
In the autumn of 1991 I took a career break from my primary teaching job, feeling the need for a change. I passed on my red pens and boxes of chalk and waved goodbye to my colleagues and wondered what to do next. Teaching was all I knew – how could I earn a living with no other qualification?
‘You could look for a job in advertising,’ a cousin said. ‘You could be a copywriter: look at all the stuff you’ve won.’ I’d never heard of a copywriter, but from the age of eighteen I’d been entering the kind of competitions where you have to finish a sentence in 10 words or less, saying why you’d like to win a blah blah, and I’d won, among other things, a car, two holidays, air miles, a mountain bike, a watch and a sweater. I decided to give advertising a go.
The same cousin bought me a copy of The Craft of Copywriting by Alastair Crompton – presumably so I wouldn’t make a complete fool of myself if I did manage to get someone to give me a job. To make a long story short I ended up doing a bit of freelance copywriting in Ireland before packing my bags and blagging a permanent job in an agency in London, where I stayed for the guts of three years.
For the first two years or so I loved it. I loved having a grown-up job where I could read the paper or make a cup of coffee at quiet times. I loved the panic when deadlines were approaching. I loved client meetings where we were briefed on a job and had to look as if we were already hatching brilliantly creative ideas in our heads. I loved it all but eventually it palled, and at the end of my third career break year I’d had enough of the glossy and sometimes heartless world of advertising, and I took myself back to the classroom for seven more years of teaching.
The seed had been sown though. ‘I can write,’ I thought. ‘I can string sentences together in a compelling way. I can move people with my words, I can affect them.’ And yes, most of what I’d produced had had a tiny word count – usually no more than 500 or 600 words in an average ad or leaflet – but if I could write 500 words, why not 5,000, or 50,000? Why not a whole book?
For seven years the notion stayed stuck in my head. Every now and again I’d take it out and look at it – and then life would intervene and I’d shove it back again. It didn’t go away though, it just sat there. Somewhere along the line I persuaded my union, the INTO, to take me on as a regular columnist in their members’ magazine, which was distributed to every primary teacher in Ireland, and each month I produced around 1,000 words that detailed the joys and otherwise of teaching young children.
And then in 2001 I decided it was time for another career break – and this time I thought I might give the book-writing lark a go. A few months before I left teaching I attended a weekend writing course that explained the nuts and bolts of novel-writing: how to lay out your page, how to construct a plot, how to find an agent – and armed with this, and a plot that had come into being during the course, I flew to San Francisco and moved in with my younger brother. Over the course of about 6 months I wrote The Daisy Picker, and when I had finished it I heard about a competition that a new publisher was running in Ireland to launch itself. They were looking for a completed first novel, and the prize was a two book deal.
You can guess the rest. Don’t hate me.
With four books under my belt in 2008 I gave up teaching and went fulltime with the writing. My eleventh novel, Two Fridays in April, will be published in early March, and I’m currently working on the twelfth.
Every day I give thanks that I’ve ended up where I am. It’s not easy, it’s far from easy, but it’s where I want to be.
The Blurb for 'Two Fridays in April'
It's Friday, April 2. Daphne Darling knows that she should be celebrating her stepdaughter Una's 17th birthday, but it's hard, because the date also marks the one-year anniversary of her husband's death and she and Una just can't seem to connect anymore. Daphne can't turn to her own mother Isabel for advice as their relationship is distant, to say the least, and Mo, Finn's elderly mother, is still grief-stricken at the death of her only son, so she is of little help. But by the end of that day in April, marking the occasion with a slice of cake and a glass of wine will be the last thing on anyone's mind...
Before that Friday, Daphne, Mo and Isabel were all stuck in the past, with their grief and their loss. And then Una takes matters into her own hands, and even though she makes a terrible mistake, she teaches Daphne, Mo and Isabel something about life: that it is to be lived and that, in spite of everything they've been through, happiness can still be a part of it.
Two Fridays in April will be published on 5th March 2015 by Hachette Ireland.