Marian, 55, is the bestselling author of 13 novels and is a guest on The Telegraph’s new My Life in Books podcast. She lives in County Dublin with her husband, Tony Baines
When I was 15, I wrote what I thought was an interesting essay that poked mild fun at the Catholic Church, but I was kept behind after class and shamed so much that I gave up writing. Ireland in the late 1960s and ’70s wasn’t interested in developing children’s creativity or independent thought.
During my law degree at Dublin University, I managed a wobbly balancing act between drinking and studying, then spent weekends in bed reading Mills & Boon. After a week of law textbooks, the ‘throbbing manhoods’ were a stress-reliever.
It never occurred to me that I could be a writer, but one day I sat down and wrote a short story, which won a prize. Four months later, I crashed and burned with alcoholism, ending up in rehab, but afterwards
I had writing waiting for me.
My first novel, Watermelon, was born out of pure panic. I’d told people I was working on a novel (I wasn’t, but wanted to appear serious), so when a publisher asked to see it, I quickly wrote four chapters. Panic can be a great motivator.
Once I had an episode of depression that was so catastrophic I was certain I’d never write again. It lasted four years. On the less bad days, writing was a help – it reminded me that the person I once was might still be inside of me.
My new novel, The Break, was inspired by research that said our extended life expectancy influences our attitudes to long-term relationships. It seemed a timely subject to explore.
Every day I write from 9am to 1pm, although a lot of that time is just me sitting staring at the screen in despair. My lunch break is meant to last an hour, but often I fall down a Twitter hole, or I end up looking at shoes on Net-a-Porter or villas in Greece. I can be distracted by anything. Listen to Marian Keyes talk about her life, loves and favourite books on The Telegraph’s new podcast series My Life in Books, also featuring interviews with Jojo Moyes, Ruth Jones and Louis de Bernières; mylife inbooks.podcast.telegraph.co.uk