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Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Monica Mcinerney/The Shape I’m In -

AU­THOR Mon­ica McIn­er­ney os­cil­lates be­tween two sizes, de­pend­ing on where she is in the writ­ing cy­cle. “A dress­maker friend says I have a ‘writ­ing’ shape and a ‘pro­mot­ing’ shape. I lock my­self away in my at­tic for months while I write my books, usu­ally over the colder months, not ex­er­cis­ing enough and fat­ten­ing up in the same way a cat adds ex­tra fur over win­ter,” she says.

“Dur­ing the edit­ing process in spring and sum­mer, I be­come very ac­tive again, walk­ing every day, slowly shed­ding the ki­los in time to fit prop­erly into my clothes again for my book tour. I re­ally need to find a happy medium. A tread­mill desk, per­haps.”

The Trip Of a Life­time, by Mon­ica McIn­er­ney, Michael Joseph, €16 What shape are you in? Curvy. What are your health­i­est eat­ing habits? I eat a lot of fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles and drink a lot of wa­ter. I am also a fan of a few tea­spoons of ap­ple cider vine­gar every day, stirred into wa­ter. Ap­par­ently, its health­giv­ing qual­i­ties verge on the mirac­u­lous. I cer­tainly feel vir­tu­ous and brave af­ter drink­ing it. Also, I eat very lit­tle cho­co­late, cakes, bis­cuits etc. Salty things and fresh bread are my down­falls.

What are your guilti­est plea­sures?

A Cam­pari and soda and a packet of Tayto crisps at home on a Fri­day night at the end of the work­ing/writ­ing week.

What would keep you awake at night?

Cof­fee, if I ever let my­self have a cup af­ter 10am. I have enough trou­ble with an overly-busy mind caus­ing in­som­nia as it is. In the early stages of each novel, I wake up every morn­ing be­tween 4.15 am and 4.30am and lie for an hour or so think­ing over the plot. I usu­ally get back to sleep be­fore the alarm goes at 7.30am. I used to worry about it but af­ter 12 nov­els, I’ve learned to let my sub­con­scious en­joy that time. How do you re­lax? I take out my con­tact lenses and don’t put on my glasses, so ev­ery­thing is nicely blurry. Only at home, I prom­ise, never in the wide world. I’m overly cu­ri­ous by na­ture, so lim­it­ing what I can see forces my mind to slow down.

Who would you in­vite to your dream din­ner party?

Guests-wise, my hus­band and my Mum and all my fam­ily from Aus­tralia. Cook­ing-wise, a tag team of Jamie Oliver, Nigella Law­son and Neven Maguire. I would also re­quest they brought all their wait­ing and clean­ing-up staff with them so we had noth­ing to do af­ter­wards but re­lax and chat and eat salty things. I’m from a big fam­ily of salt-lovers. What’s your favourite smell? Din­ner be­ing cooked down­stairs by my hus­band when I’m up­stairs in my at­tic writ­ing. His spe­cial­ity is pasta with a rich, tomato-based sauce with chicken, ba­con, mush­rooms, sun­dried toma­toes and chilli.

What would you like to change about your ap­pear­ance?

At 52, I’m just glad to be healthy and alive, so I will take what­ever comes with the pack­age I am liv­ing in. That said, I wish I could travel back in time to my younger self even briefly and have a firm dis­cus­sion about the im­por­tance of sun­screen. I grew up in the Clare Val­ley of South Aus­tralia, where 40 de­gree sum­mer days were com­mon­place, and we thought it was sen­si­ble to lie out in the sun slowly roast­ing our­selves.

When is the last time you cried?

Very un­ex­pect­edly, while watch­ing the Ir­ish crime­ca­per film Young Of­fend­ers on Net­flix. I ex­pected it to make me laugh — which it did, of­ten — but I also found it sur­pris­ingly mov­ing and tear-in­duc­ing.

What traits do you least like in oth­ers?

In a nut­shell: un­kind­ness.

What traits do you least like about your­self?

I’m in­clined to proof-read my own life too much, to go over and over events and con­ver­sa­tions, judg­ing my be­hav­iour, think­ing of ways I could have done things bet­ter or dif­fer­ent. Therein lies mad­ness… Do you pray? Yes, I find re­peat­ing Hail Marys and Our Fa­thers learnt dur­ing child­hood calms me down and gives me some peace, even though I am not a reg­u­lar church­goer any more. I also have my own ex­pres­sions of grat­i­tude, which are a kind of prayer in them­selves.

What would cheer up your day?

A phonecall from my Mum or one of my three sis­ters in Aus­tralia. Luck­ily, I hear from them, and my three broth­ers, most days, via a fam­ily group chat. Be­cause of the time dif­fer­ence be­tween here and Aus­tralia, I of­ten wake up to find they’ve been talk­ing all day long. Read­ing through their mes­sages can be like read­ing a sit­com script some­times, with ev­ery­one try­ing to make each other laugh.

“Salty things and fresh bread are my down­falls”

SKIN DEEP: Mon­ica McIn­er­ney grew up in South Aus­tralia and wishes she un­der­stood the need for sun­screen when younger.

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