When we heard that Sheila O’ Flanagan was going to be enjoying some champagne and cake this week, well we thought would be rude not to join her. After all, this is her Anniversary tour so if you can’t have champagne then, when can you have it? We were rather more attracted to the cake to be honest and when you see it, you’ll know why.
So cake! A woman after our own hearts…
Your latest novel My Mother’s Secret is about a party to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary – a memorable event but for all the wrong reasons. Have you ever attended an event where something unexpected has happened?
I’ve never been at a party where something truly dramatic has happened like with Jenny and Pascal, but I did go to a surprise 50th party for a work colleague’s husband and it wasn’t as smooth as she’d planned. He was supposed to come home directly from the office but there was a big announcement at work that day and everyone went to the pub afterwards. One of his colleagues was in charge of getting him home on time, but kept phoning my friend to say that there were speeches etc going on and that they’d be on the way ‘shortly’. So everyone was hanging around at his house for about three hours (and trying to stay away from the food and drink) before he eventually arrived a bit the worse for wear! After we all the the ‘surprise’ thing he said he was going upstairs to change out of his suit. He never came back down because he fell asleep on the bed. The party went on without him but it was very embarrrassing. Surprise parties have always been my worst nightmare and that only confirmed it for me!
Can you tell us more about the novel’s setting?
The main setting for My Mother’s Secret is a restored house in County Wexford in Ireland. Wexford is on the south east coast and is one of the prettiest places in Ireland. It has both long sandy beaches and beautiful rolling countryside which stretches for miles. Lots of Dublin people have holiday homes there because it’s a little warmer too (though we’re talking about Ireland, so that’s relative!) Jenny and Pascal’s house, Aranbeg, is near a typical country town where everyone knows everyone else, and it’s one of those houses where you feel at home as soon as you walk in the door. Aranbeg means ‘little Aran’ – it’s named after the Aran islands off the west coast of Ireland because the original stone work was like some of the houses on the islands. I could see it very clearly when I was writing about it!
My Mother’s Secret revolves around a large and varied family. What is about this family you found so interesting to write about?
Regular readers of my books will know that I enjoy writing about families. I think it’s that there can be such great dynamics going on within a family unit. When you’re with a group of friends you usually have lots of interests in common. But family members are often very different and the only thing they have in common is being part of the family. Writing about the Sheehans gave me a chance to explore what it is to be part of a family, and why – even when you sometimes feel an outsider – you still remaiin part of the group. I loved the fact that I could write about people who were total opposites but who were still held together by those family ties. Of course Jenny and Pascal have kept a secret from their family for 40 years – I think that’s also one of the intriguing things about families – you might think you know everything about your relatives, but often you don’t!
You’ve taken us to some stunning locations in your novels so far. Where do you intend on taking us next? Where inspires you to write about?
I enjoy travelling, and find that different places can inspire me in different ways. Because I’m Irish, my characters will always have some Irish connection, but I do like to bring them and my readers to other locations. My previous book, If You Were Me, was inspired by a visit to Seville and I hope that lots of that hot Spanish passion vibe comes through! My next book, which I’m currently working on, switches from Ireland to the west coast of France, and specifically the pretty seaside town of Hendaye. I know that part of France quite well and it’s really lovely. So I hope my readers will enjoy the setting!
How do you intend to celebrate your Anniversary of your 20th novel? Will there be cake and champagne involved?
I’ve actually celebrated already as some of the team from my publishers, Headline, came to Dublin last month and we had cocktails followed by dinner in a very posh restaurant. It was lovely to celebrate with them as they’ve been part of my writing journey for such a long time and they’re all such dedicated and lovely people. Because not everyone could come to Dublin, we also had a mini-celebration in the Headline offices in London which did indeed include both champagne and cake. Every book should have a champagne and cake
Never have wiser words been spoken. Sheila we salute you and wish you a very happy anniversary celebration. Here’s to great success with your latest novel My Mother’s Secret and may you always have cake and champagne in your life.
You can chat to Sheila here – (although we can’t promise there will be cake)
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