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Jen's Jewels
Get the lowdown on your favorite authors with Jennifer Vido.

Interview with Cecelia Ahern

With the joy of the holiday season comes an endless list of must-do preparations. From baking cookies to sending out Christmas cards, it seems like there are just not enough hours in the day to possibly get everything done. Have you ever imagined what it would be like if you could be in two different places at the same time? Think about it…you'd have a lot less stress and much more holiday cheer!

This month's Jen's Jewels Cecelia Ahern touches upon this very idea in her festive holiday release THE GIFT. It's the poignant story of one over-worked businessman named Lou Suffern who wishes he could be in two places at once. A contemporary spin on a traditional holiday tale, it's a delightful book to share with family and friends.

As part of this interview, William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, has generously donated five copies for you, my favorite readers, to try to win. So, don't forget to look for the trivia question at the end. And, as always, thanks for making Jen's Jewels a part of your holiday reading list.

Jen: An international best-selling author well-known for the sensational hit P.S. I Love You, your holiday release THE GIFT is in stores now. So that my readers may catch a glimpse into the life of the fascinating woman behind the words, please share with us your educational and professional background.

Ahern Cecelia: I have a degree in Journalism and Media Communications and as soon as I qualified I wrote my first novel PS I Love You which I was very fortunate to have published when I was twenty two years old. PS I Love You was adapted into a film starring Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Lisa Kudrow and Kathy Bates. I've written eight novels in total: Rosie Dunne, If You Could See Me Now, A Place Called Here, Thanks for the Memories, THE GIFT, The Book of Tomorrow and my new novel The Time of My Life. I also co-created the ABC comedy Samantha Who? starring Christina Applegate, I had a TV Movie last Christmas on Hallmark Channel and I adapted my novella Mrs. Whippy to a one woman show. I've also written an original screenplay which I'm working on trying to get made! Despite all those projects novels are my passion and I love nothing more than disappearing into my mind to create characters, stories and new worlds.

Jen: Please describe for us your "Aha!" moment when you decided to take the plunge and pursue a career as a writer.

Cecelia: I've been writing ever since I was a child, from the age of seven I wrote diaries, poems and songs. At the age of fourteen I attempted my first novel titled "Beans on Toast (And a Bottle of Beer)" but it was really only when I sat down to write PS I Love You when I was twenty-one years old that I felt it was my best work and a story which I needed to share with other people. My mother was reading it chapter by chapter, she could see how much heart and soul I was pouring into it, I was laughing and crying as I wrote it, and she encouraged me to find an agent and send my work out in the hope of getting some advice. PS I Love You was the moment and what a moment!

Jen: In terms of nuts and bolts, approximately how long does it take for you to write a novel? And, do you plot first, or simply just allow the novel to take on a life of its own?

Cecelia: I used to write during the night but since I had a baby my routine had to change, or more like, I had to find a routine. After taking a year out, I began my latest novel "The Time of My Life" in January. I wrote 9- 5pm Monday to Friday until June. Then I edited it in July and August, it was published in September and I've spent three months promoting it. I'm going to take December to allow my new novel idea to grow and then I start writing again in January so it's a very tight schedule! I work very quickly; I'm focused and get lost in my own little world. I always come up with the plot first and then I try to figure out what kind of a person could and should find themselves in that situation. For example with THE GIFT, I first thought of the idea of having the ability to be in two places at once and as soon as I had that concept I asked who would find themselves in this position? I created Lou Suffern, a man who is super busy and is always in two places at once, someone who really needs to learn the value of time, of where and with whom he should be spending it with, a man who while listening to one conversation is elsewhere in his head, who isn't the most loyal to his wife, who would always rather be somewhere else in any situation. The plot decided his personality and character, which is how I work each time. Lou Suffern's name is taken from the character of Lucifer, Gabe is based on Gabriel and Lou's wife is Ruth and when he is without her he is "Ruthless" – the names helped guide the story too. I have many points in the novel that I know in advance but the best pages are the ones I haven't plotted and which just flow naturally.

Jen: Just in time for the holiday season is THE GIFT, a powerful story of one man's journey to find what truly matters in life. How did you arrive at the premise?

Cecelia: I actually came up with the idea in New York. More specifically I was in the Bear and Bull Bar in the Waldorf Astoria and I was doing an interview with CNN. I was promoting the PS I Love You movie, the book had been re-published, I was putting finishing touches to my new novel, which was to be published in the spring, I was working on Samantha Who? and I also had the crazy idea to adapt my novella to a one woman show. It was the busiest year of my life and I felt torn between everyone and everything and felt like I wasn't doing anything properly. I was asked if I could go to an event and I said "If I could figure out how to be in two places at once, I'd be there." I suppose I was so busy that there were so many places I needed to be, which was exciting, but really only one place I wanted to be and that was home. Then Bam! I got the idea. It just flowed into my head instantly and I was so excited to get back to the hotel to jot it down. I started writing that book the following month and it was published nine months later, so even the most stressful times in my life can be inspiring!

Jen: The story is told by a veteran policeman who is in the process of trying to save a wayward fourteen-year-old from heading down the wrong path. Why is he so willing to help this particular teen?

Cecelia: He is so willing because on Christmas morning he experiences something so extraordinary, so utterly magical and life changing, which affects his core, his life, how he perceived life and the value of life. On the morning we meet him, he has been forced to question all that is important to him and the decisions he had made in his life so when he comes across a young boy – "the turkey boy" who throws a frozen turkey through the window of his father's new girlfriend's house - who seems to be throwing his life away, he is determined to share his story.

Jen: Lou Suffern is a highly successful business man who is vying for the most important promotion of his career. In terms of his inner office relationships, how does his disregard for his personal life directly correlate to his desire to surpass his co-workers?

Cecelia: Number one in Lou Suffern's life is Lou Suffern. He tells himself that his desire to climb the ladder of success is simply to help his family, to give them a better life, but really what he is doing is turning his back on them, alienating them and choosing a life without them in order to do what pleases him most. We always hear about how people should follow their dreams but we hear less about the fact that that you can't follow your dreams at the expense of others. He values himself more highly than anybody else; however he is not entirely unlikeable. He is a perfectionist, he pushes himself, he doesn't want to let himself down and he is hard on himself. This inner drive he has inside is what keeps him going but his ambitious streak stops him from having meaningful relationships, friendships or really understanding what are the most important things in life. But he has a turnaround, a cruel lesson which teaches him the value of time.

Jen: One morning on his way into work, Lou befriends a homeless man Gabe who provides him with some valuable insight into his cut-throat working environment. How does Gabe's perception of Lou's not-so-secure position within the firm cause his knee-jerk reaction to hire Gabe?

Cecelia: When Lou sees Gabe sitting on the pavement outside his office building, something happens inside him. Gabe seems familiar to him, as if they have met before. He is suddenly struck by the realization that he and Gabe are very similar, in age, in look, and they are having an enjoyable conversation yet they live such different lives. This strikes a chord with him and he decides to give him a job. While he is doing a good act, he is also hoping that Gabe can provide him with some information on what's going on in the company. I wrote this during an economic boom in Ireland when the pace was so fast people were moving so quickly at such a high speed, I felt there was a rhythm which was almost impossible to keep up. This story is set around the time when it was nearing an end, the bubble hadn't burst but companies were beginning to make changes so Lou is at a vulnerable point in his life, a place that he is not used to and not comfortable with. Gabe has been sitting outside the building for weeks and has seen certain people coming and going, Lou decides to capitalize on this knowledge by hiring him to keep him informed on what's going on inside the office.

Jen: Every office has its "Alfred", the back-stabbing co-worker who wants nothing more than to claw his way to the top. How does Alfred take advantage of Lou's insecurities? And, why is Lou so doubting of his own talent?

Cecelia: Lou begins to doubt himself when Gabe comes into his life. Gabe holds a mirror up to Lou and makes him see who he truly is. When he sees this, he doesn't like what he sees. As soon as Lou's bravado has been broken down, as soon as he realizes he is flawed, that he has cracks, he begins to break down. He relies heavily on these "pills" Gabe is supplying Lou, a pill which allows him to be in two places at once. Alfred recognizes this reliance on a pill, not knowing exactly its power but he knows how to take advantage of the situation.

Jen: Once Gabe becomes a fixture within the company, why does Lou feel threatened by his very presence? In what ways are they alike?

Cecelia: Gabe has the ability to see into Lou's soul. Lou likes to see what he wants to see, he thinks that he is stretching himself to please all those around him but the reality is he is working for himself. Gabe holds a mirror up to Lou's face, showing him who he truly is and Lou feels uncomfortable with this. Gabe is not a yes man and Lou has been surrounded by many people in his working life who tell him what he wants to hear.

Jen: In this age of social media, how may we teach the younger generation the importance of the gift of time?

Cecelia: I think things are moving so quickly these days, communication we have with one another is instant, not necessarily quality time, relationships on social networking seem to be on the surface friendships and nothing particularly deep. Without meaning to be overly sentimental or cheesy, I think we just need to take stock of what we have every now and then, appreciate what we have, and remind each other of what's really important in our lives before we get swept away by the obvious pressures in life. Jen: Let's switch gears now and talk about your promotional plans. Please take us on a tour of your website highlighting points of interest.

Cecelia: My website is separated into Books, Film, TV and Theatre. It provides excerpts, reviews, interviews, news of upcoming events and signings on each of my eight books, novella and short story book. There's info on the PS I Love You Film, news on my TV projects and information on my one woman show Mrs. Whippy. I write a monthly journal about what I'm up to. I also have a Facebook page, which keeps everybody in touch with what's happening with my books and events and I try to get as many photos on there of the wonderful readers who attend my events!

Jen: Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what may you share with us?

Cecelia: I'm currently promoting my new novel THE TIME OF MY LIFE which is about a 30 year old character named Lucy Silchester who has been ignoring her life and focusing on everything else such as her work, her family, friends and her ever needy car. She has told a lie a few years ago which has snowballed and as a result she is living in a bubble, tangled up in her lies. She receives an appointment card in the mail from Life asking her to meet with it face to face. Essentially, Life has manifested itself in the form of a person and she must allow her life to accompany her so that they can assess where she has gone wrong, what decisions she should have made and what she should do in the future. They need to work on their relationship as Life feels let down and ignored. It's a quirky story, it's positive and I had so much fun writing it. It's a love story as Lucy falls out of love with her life and must fall in love with it again.

Jen: During this very busy holiday season, I wish to thank you for taking the time to connect with my readers. Health and much happiness to you in 2012!

Cecelia: Thanks so much for the interview. I hope you have a lovely holiday season!

I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Cecelia Ahern. Please stop by your favorite bookstore or local library branch and pick up a copy THE GIFT today. Better yet, how would you like to win one instead? Okay, be one of five readers to answer the following trivia question correctly and you could win. Good luck!

What is the title of Cecelia's first published book?

As we head into the rush of the holiday season, I would like to thank all of my readers for being such devoted fans of my column each and every month. I wish you a safe and happy holiday season filled with lots of love and joy.

Happy Holidays!

Jennifer Vido




3 comments posted.

Re: Interview with Cecelia Ahern

Beans On Toast And A Bottle Of Beer
(Patricia Kasner 12:56pm December 3, 2011)

Her first novel that was published was P.S. I Love You. The
first novel that she wrote was Beans On Toast (and a Bottle of
(Judith Mor 12:05pm December 5, 2011)

Yes, Answer: PS I Love YOU sounds interesting too. Please
enter me in your great contest. Thank You, CECILIA CECE
(Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez 10:34pm December 11, 2011)

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