Sian O’Gorman talks about her new novel, which explores what happens when you’re just stuck in a rut.
1. Can you tell us more about your new novel, Always And Forever?
Always and Forever is the story of three women, Jo, her mother and her best friend Nicole. Jo’s husband, John, has moved out leaving her and her little boy Harry but something has happened to make the two of them skid to a marital halt. Jo has to start to deal with their past before she can start to move on. She does, however, along the way meet the rather charming and rather hipsterry (is that a word?) Ronan Forest and join an amateur dramatics group and it’s then when she starts to find herself again that things start to look up. Meanwhile her mother, Marietta, is in the throes of a full-on pash with Patrick Realta who was once a major singing star. She is so smitten that she is willing to forgo the fact that his teeth wouldn’t look out of place on a horse and his bouffant may not be real. And there is Nicole, married to Kristof who has fallen for a beguiling and bewitching performance artist, Coco. Nicole is determined to prove that her marriage can withstand this test. Whatever their stage in life, the three embark on a journey to rock bottom and beyond. The only question is will they manage to get to the surface again?
2. If you have to pick one favourite character from the book, who would it be and why?
I have lots of favourite characters. I love Marietta for the way she has been a serious and no-nonsense business woman all her life but has now lost the run of herself and has found a new lease of and zest for life. And I am rather fond of Patrick and his old catchphrase Be Seein’ Ya. But my absolute favourite is Fergal Forest, brother of Ronan, who is in the Am Dram troupe that Jo joins and fancies himself as a Daniel Day Lewis doppelganger. He wears ridiculous scarves and flappy coats and likes to quote poetry but he has a sweet heart and a secret romance. I am rooting for him.
3. How did you come up with the plotline for the book?
There are many weaving plotlines in the book but the main story of Jo is an area I want to explore about how, after sailing through life, sometimes you get stopped in your tracks and you can’t quite get going again, as though your boots are glued to the ground. Cheryl Sandberg of Facebook recently coined it post-traumatic growth and I think, as women, we keep going, absorbing more and more but sometimes we just can’t. And it is that something which makes us examine who we really are and whether we are on the right path. This life-changing event means Jo’s life has to change however scared she is.
4. What was the most difficult part about writing this book? And what was the most fun part?
The most fun when writing is seeing what happens to all the characters and perhaps dishing out a little justice to those who deserve it. I love writing some of the more comedic characters such as Fergal and Patrick and Coco. It is hugely enjoyable to create the scenes that they feature in. The most difficult part is having to edit your work, and face – in black and white – what you have written and working and re-working. But there is very little more enjoyable than writing a book so the fun absolutely out-weighs the difficult parts.
5. What do you do to relax after a long writing day?
I relax by watching the oeuvre of Mary Berry on television and drinking tea as though I was training for the tea Olympics or as though Mary Berry was going to be my specialist subject on Mastermind. She isn’t. It would be the Products and History of McVities Biscuits 1985 to Present Day. Probably.
6. Do you listen to music when writing? And if so, what kind of music inspires you?
I don’t listen to music when I am writing. I prefer total silence but I can work while sitting on the sofa while my daughter watches Horrible Histories and Tracy Beaker. Needs must and all that
7. What is a great book you’ve read recently that you would recommend to others?
My current recommended read is Anne Enright’s The Green Road. Brilliantly funny and real and beautiful. Loved it.
8. Who was your favorite author growing up? Has it changed?
I was a big reader when growing up and loved anything from Judy Blume to Laura Ingalls Wilder to brilliant books such as Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden, all of which made big impressions on me. My sister and I loved anything to do with ballet and horses – we neither rode nor danced – so the Ballet Shoes series and the Jill books by Ruby Ferguson were a favourite. Nowadays, I read as much as I can and am looking forward to my daughter reading all my old classics. I wonder what she’ll make of Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?
9. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Advice for aspiring author? Do it. Don’t let your inner voice stop you. Don’t let anything stop you.
10. Can you tell us a bit about your plans for the future?
I am currently working on my next book. I’ve just finished my first draft and now comes the point where I have to start making it sing, if that doesn’t sound too confusing. I’m in the zone though and loving it but I also have an idea for my next book which I am getting excited by.
How can you find yourself again, when you can’t face what you’ve lost?
Joanna Woulfe is looking to get her life back on track after her husband John leaves their family home. Once a high-flying PR Director, Jo now looks after her son Harry and seeks support only from her mother Marietta and her best friend Nicole. But Nicole’s own marriage is facing its greatest ever crisis, and Marietta, too, is distracted by the reappearance of an old flame, ex-Showband-singer and lothario Patrick Realta.
Soon Jo enrols with a colourful local amateur dramatics group and begins a flirtation with the handsome young Ronan Forest. But is she really ready to move on from her old life – and from her years of marriage to John? And what was it that happened three years ago that sent the couple into free-fall?
Before long Jo will realise that is only by looking back that she will ever truly be able to move forward…
Sian O’Gorman was born in Ireland, is an RTÉ radio producer and lives in the seaside suburb of Dalkey, Dublin with her seven-nearly-eight-year-old daughter, Ruby.