Monday, June 6, 2022

Q&A with Marian Keyes




Marian Keyes is the author of the new novel Again, Rachel. It's a sequel to Rachel's Holiday, part of her bestselling series about the fictional Walsh family. Keyes lives in Dublin, Ireland.


Q: Why did you decide to return to your character Rachel in your new novel, and how would you say she's changed since Rachel's Holiday?


A: It’s a strange thing, writing a novel and forgive me if I sound very precious, but I don’t “decide” with my logical brain, I respond to an emotional shift in me.


I’d always felt uncomfortable about writing sequels because I’d though that by the end of each of my novels, they were “complete.” But I began thinking about Rachel, wondering how she was. I think I was especially interested in her because so little is written about people in long-term recovery from addiction. Also I SO badly missed the Walsh family and wanted to revisit them.


Then an idea for a storyline popped up out of nowhere, something I hadn’t written about in any other book and I felt it could work.


Q: A review in The Guardian by Hannah Beckerman says, “If there’s a core theme in Again, Rachel, it’s that of forgiveness: forgiveness of oneself for human failings.” What do you think of that assessment?


A: It’s beautiful! But when I’m writing I’m never thinking about “themes” and whatnot, I’m just trying to tell a story. But I suppose I do believe in personal redemption.

Q: What did you see as the right balance between humor and grief as you were writing Again, Rachel?


A: This is a tricky question to answer without doing a massive spoiler. But, with all my books, there’s a serious issue at the heart, which must be treated with the utmost respect; trying to gain laughs at the expense of a painful storyline is unforgiveable.


However, I find it’s also necessary to provide warmth and humour to keep the reader reading (and me writing, to be quite honest.) The balance is something that’s only achieved by a lot of writing, deleting, moving sentences around, etc.  


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I didn’t know! I never know! (I believe writers like me are called “pantsers” as in we write “by the seat of our pants.” As opposed to “plotters” who, well, plot.)


I knew that one big event had happened to Rachel and Luke but there was a follow-on consequence from that, which was huge and which I had had no knowledge of until I was part-way through writing.


In all my novels, I try out storylines, some work, some don’t. It’s a long way to write a book but for me, it feels like I end up with a novel that feels natural, believable, and authentic.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Nothing! I wish I was but I’ve been so busy promoting Again, Rachel that I haven’t had the time or energy.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Well, yes, maaaaaybe… After taking 27 years to write my first sequel, I think my next book will be another sequel! I’ve found that Anna Walsh (from Anybody Out There) is in my head a lot. I so enjoyed being with the Walshes in Again, Rachel that I’d like to stay there for another book. Right now, I’m making notes and hopefully something will come of it.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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