Tuesday 19 June 2018

Life lessons with Sinéad Moriarty

Sinead Moriarty who is now on her 11th book. Photo: Damien Eagers
Sinead Moriarty who is now on her 11th book. Photo: Damien Eagers
Catherine Fulvio, Sinead Moriarty, Sean Og o hAilpin and Claudia carroll at the 2013 Irish book awards

Sinéad Moriarty (45) first came to prominence as the author of The Baby Trail, and is now on her 11th book. She grew up in Dublin as the youngest of three, and her mum Mary was a writer of children's books on Irish historical figures. Sinéad is married to Troy Lavin, whom she met while studying French and Spanish at Trinity College. They have three children, Hugo (10), Geordy (9), and Amy (6).

I've realised how important it is to stop and smell the roses. We always say that, but life is so busy. I have three kids, I'm writing and always running around, but my dad, Aidan, passed away this summer, which has made me realise how important it is to actually do it.

My dad was incredibly optimistic and kind, and there was never a glass that wasn't half-full or overflowing. I hope that I have inherited some of that because it's a great way to be.

When I was a teenager, I was quite shy with boys, and then I realised that humour is a great disarmer. Everyone likes funny people and boys are no exception, and while I'm not saying I was hilarious, I've always thought it's important to laugh in life.

I am very conscientious and like routine and structure. When I was writing for monthly magazines, I always delivered a week early.

I believe that women need to reinvent themselves every decade. I started writing when I was 30, but my first book wasn't published until I was 34. What I do is very solitary, so I'm trying to do things that are a little more collaborative over the next few years.

When I started writing, I wrote two books that I was convinced were brilliant, but agents and publishers all over the world said no to them. At the time I was devastated, but I now consider those books my apprenticeship. Looking back, they absolutely weren't good enough, so thank God they were turned down.

It hit me as I was sitting in the fertility section of the hospital trying to get pregnant and failing, that I should write about it and make it funny. I wrote The Baby Trail, which was picked up straight away so I knew that I was finally on to something. Nobody had really dealt with infertility in fiction before and done it in a funny way, and the topic was something I was passionate about.

Writing The Baby Trail was a magical time in my life because I got a lot of angst out. I think the mental affects the physical, because I got pregnant after that and was in a very happy place when I was promoting the book. I don't think you could have a better result than that.

Bill Cullen and Jackie Lavin are my mother- and father-in-law, and they're incredible people. They are so resilient and positive, despite the difficult time they're going through. They're amazing in-laws to have, and I have been very lucky with them.

I was surprised by how difficult I found all those years spent trying to get pregnant. The hardest thing was the disappointment month after month. I feel a bit awkward saying that because I got a happy ending. Looking back and knowing how happy I am now, I guess I'm not sorry that it happened that way, because I appreciate my kids so much and the experience made me more sympathetic as a person and a human being.

If the children hadn't come along, I would have adopted. I would have become a mother one way or another because I strongly wanted to have children. I've always been maternal, and I'm not saying I don't shout at them occasionally, but they're great and having struggled makes them more precious to me.

I now desperately want to reach old age. I'm 45 now and don't worry about ageing. I think happiness and fulfilment are the most important things in life, and when you focus on that, you don't really worry about wrinkles. By the time you hit 45, you know who you are as a person and that's a good thing.

Reading is a safe place to go, and being able to escape into a book takes children away from some of the problems in their lives. I got involved in an amazing group called the Solas project because I'm passionate about books and literacy. I've seen how many disadvantaged kids are right on our doorsteps and the grim situations they're in, but they bring them in, give them a hot meal and do their homework with them.

A lot of writers start with the character whereas I always start with an issue. The first one was infertility and then I covered everything from cancer, eating disorders, mixed-race relationships and adoption. They are very serious and often dark subject matters, but I try and build humour around them.

My current book, The Way We Were, was inspired by John McCarthy and Brian Keenan who were kidnapped in the Lebanon. John's girlfriend Jill campaigned for his release, and everyone expected them to get married when he got out but that didn't happen. My book explores whether you can get back to the way you were if you have a really strong foundation, or has the experience changed you too much to make it work?

'The Way We Were' by Sinéad Moriarty is out now. Interview by Andrea Smith

Irish Independent

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