Sunday 22 January 2017

Hollywood's calling ... but life is not imitating art for creative Caroline

A movie deal is in the pipeline for author Caroline Grace-Cassidy, who, she tells our reporter, is too busy for a midlife crisis

Published 04/07/2016 | 02:30

Author Caroline Grace Cassidy. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Author Caroline Grace Cassidy. Photo: Fergal Phillips

Author Caroline Grace-Cassidy is priming herself for a positive midlife crisis. "Not something overly dramatic," she says confidently, over a latte in the light-filled Atrium in The Westin Hotel where we're discussing her fifth novel, which is all about a woman having a midlife crisis.

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In The Week I Ruined My Life, which has just been published, Ali Devlin is frustrated by her husband Colin's refusal to ­support her in her career in an arts centre, and so is turned off him sexually and onto her workmate Owen. "I think there's a shift," ­Caroline says of women hitting midlife. "I think there's a hormonal change in the brain. I think you're able to put the past behind you. I kind of embrace this stage. I kind of know who I am now, I know what I want. I don't listen to the cliches any more."

Caroline, with her poker-straight blonde hair and whippet-thin frame, is known for her straight-talking as a panellist on TV3's Midday. She has a no-nonsense approach when it comes to talking about life as a working mum in the burbs.

Caroline's conversations with other mums are reflected in her novels, which have dealt with issues such as IVF and 'date night' - "So contrived. Doesn't suit me at all to spend money on babysitters when I can put the kids upstairs and light a candle and get a ­ pizza. 'Do you do date night?' other women ask. No I don't!"

Caroline lives in Knocklyon with her husband Kevin Cassidy who she met in college in Ballyfermot and who owns The Park Studio in Ranelagh, providing training in all aspects of television, and also Park Pictures which makes documentaries and pictures. Their daughters are Grace, 8, and Maggie, 4.

"Kevin hasn't the time for a midlife crisis either," Caroline says cheerfully of her husband. "Seriously, he's too busy making lunches and dropping the children to school. He has my back. I couldn't do all this with kids without his support."

It's fair to say Caroline is too busy for any sort of messy midlife crisis. There's other news in her life besides the publication of her fifth novel, following her landing a new book deal with Black & White Publishing in the UK.

A script she wrote has been picked up by Hollywood. "It's still up in the air but a screenplay I wrote last year with my friend Lisa Carey who lives in LA has been picked up by an American studio," Caroline says, jubilantly. "I can't go into details about it as all contracts are still with actors involved but it's very exciting."

She grew up in a creative household in Knocklyon. "My Dad, Robert Grace, is really outgoing. He started out in Skid Row with Brush Shiels before Phil Lynott joined the band, and is very musical. There were always sing-songs. We had a little bar in the front room. It was a cool Seventies house. My Mum Noeleen nurtured us in a creative way. She had a book for every occasion. So when I moved schools and found a new environment scary, she gave me Malory Towers by Enid Blyton - about this girl who felt the exact same way when she started school."

Caroline's sister, Samantha Doyle, is an equestrian teacher and her brother Keith Grace is a musician who has played in bands, including The Bloody Quills.

Just as she wouldn't waste valuable time on a midlife crisis, Caroline didn't waste time getting off the ground creatively either. "I found the broadcast journalism course in the Senior College in Ballyfermot, I think it was only its second year ever. It was a good trek, two buses out and back, but the minute I sat down, I knew this is what I wanted. There was TV, radio, books, film, newspapers, the lot."

She worked in production companies and as an actress, including a stint on Fair City, before starting writing. "Absolutely it's true writers support each other," Caroline says. "Coming from an acting background where I'd seen the absolute bitchiness of bitchiness, where no woman had another woman's back, I found writing unbelievably refreshing. I don't want that to sound twee, but there was actual sharing of information. With actresses there was no sharing of anything. It was really dog eat dog."

Writing has changed her life. "I was dibbling and dabbling but the word count of a book put me off. I turned on the TV one morning and Martin King and Sybil Mulcahy were running a 'write a bestseller' competition in association with Poolbeg. And it had a deadline. It spurred me on. I was a runner-up and Poolbeg liked me enough to offer me a three-book deal ... I love it and it's perfect for being a mum as it gives me time for my girls. Win, win."

The Week I Ruined My Life, by Caroline Grace-Cassidy, published by Black & White Publishing, price €8.99

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