Sian O’Gorman talks about her inspiration for her new book Friends Like Us.
1. Can you tell us a bit more about Friends Like Us?
Friends Like Us is the story of three women who have reached that time in their lives where they have drifted a bit… life isn’t working out quite the way they imagined. And it’s time to re-focus, re-group and make a few changes… some more radical than others. School friends, Eilis, Steph and Melissa, haven’t seen each other in a few years but once they meet they discover the strength of friendship. Melissa’s relationships are messy, she is still having to deal with her mother’s long-term intimacy issues and her career as a journalist doesn’t have quite the same satisfaction levels. Steph is married to Rick who is all Alpha male, aggressive and exhausting… particularly his affair with the (annoyingly vivacious) Miriam next door. And Eilis is starved of sex with her long-term partner. But when she meets Charlie, she begins to think that there may be more to life. It’s time for change for all of them, time to take charge… but taking a different path is rarely simple. It’s a mixture of high–drama with many lighter moments, and lots of romance, with lovely Cormac and sexy Charlie.
2. Where did you find the inspiration for your newest novel?
Everywhere and nowhere! So much of it is based on things that have happened to me and so much more is from my imagination… what if this happened, what would I do if I was in this situation? I have worked in a newspaper office, for example, as Melissa does. I have met people similar to some of my characters but I have never worked in a hospital, like Eilis, and I don’t have a love-rival like Miriam (thankfully). And I don’t own a dog like Rolo (sadly).
3. Is there a specific scene/moment that in the end didn’t make it into the novel?
I had a poison-pen story-line which I knew from the very beginning didn’t work. It was the Miss Marple fan in me coming out but it never seemed real or true and at the very end of my editing process, I took the plunge, and deleted it all. A great relief!
4. Did any of your own experiences find their way into the novel?
A friend of mine was telling me about her friend. Married to a consultant, with the big house and nice car, it all looked, from the outside, to be very lovely indeed. However, he was physically abusive to her and it took years for her to get the confidence to get out. She is now, thankfully, living a much happier and far simpler life with her son. It started me thinking; what secrets we all have behind closed doors. We are all struggling with life and its vagaries. But it is possible to change your life. You may feel trapped but often it’s just trying to find the right way to change things around.
5. When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?
I have written a YA novel before… a time-travelling suffragette, feminist teenage book which, unsurprisingly or not, didn’t see the light of day. However, I had a romance element in the book and I loved writing it… I thought I would give an adult love-story a try.
6. What is the biggest myth about being a writer?
That’s it’s all coffee and cigarettes? It’s tea and Hob-nobs for me.
7. What message do you want readers to take away from your novels?
That life is complicated and challenging but the ride is amazing… to appreciate the ups and the downs and not to be afraid. We gain strength and empowerment by the very fact we are alive. I heard a great phrase the other day: ‘life is tough but so am I.’ We can do this.
8. What is your favourite women’s fiction book of all time and why?
So, so many… everything from Margaret Atwood to Marian Keyes. My favourite heroines include Bridget Jones and Elizabeth Bennet.
9. What’s next for you?
I have finished draft one of my next book… (preliminary) title: Cloudburst. Jo has been left by her husband, as he needs space, she has a three-year-old son, her mother has met a new man and her best friend, Nicole, is dealing with a philandering husband. So, lots of drama, plus the inclusion of a handsome ice-cream seller and an am-dram production of The Importance of Being Earnest. I am loving writing it!
Is it ever too late to take charge and live your life on your terms?
Life for school friends, Melissa, Steph and Eilis, hasn’t quite worked out the way they once imagined it might.
Melissa may be professionally successful but inside she’s a mess of insecurities.
Steph is lonely and lost, balancing the fragile threads of family life and walking on eggshells around her philandering husband and angry teenage daughter.
Finally, Eilis, a hardworking A&E doctor, utterly exhausted by the daily pressures of work and going through the motions with her long-term partner Rob.
It’s crunch time for all the friends…
Sian O’Gorman was born in Ireland, is an RTE radio producer and lives in the seaside suburb of Dalkey, Dublin with her seven nearly-eight-year-old daughter, Ruby.