Wexford People

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Mum with gift for writing

WHAT STARTED out as a simple diary chronicling her young children's moments and milestones snowballed and has led Niamh Greene to become a bestselling author.

Stay at home mum Niamh tapped into many women's hidden psyches, their preoccupation with celebrity culture, materialism and their all-important image, to create extraordinary books about otherwise ordinary lives.

Although still a relative newcomer to the world of writing, she has already topped the bestsellers list several times. Her debut novels, 'Secret Diary of a Demented Housewife' and 'Confessions of a Demented Housewife', sold a staggering 300,000 copies alone and her books can be seen on bookshelves across Europe.

Her third novel, telling a hilarious tale of heartache, 'Letters to a Love Rat', has just been launched amid great excitement and enthusiasm by fans.

After travelling around the world and longing for 'the country way of life and small-town living' Niamh settled back in her hometown of New Ross almost three years ago, where she now resides in Mylers Park with her husband Oliver and two adorable children, Caoimhe and Rory.

Born in March 1971 to parents Maura and Michael Greene from the Waterford Road in New Ross, Niamh is the middle child in a family of three, with an older sister Martina and a younger brother Eoghan.

'I had a great childhood. I loved school and a lot of the friends I had in school are still great friends of mine today,' said Niamh.

'I remember doing all the regular activities, being in the Brownies in the YMCA Hall, the girl guides in the Mercy, horse riding in Horetown House. Going to Duncannon and Kennedy Park was a huge thing,' she said. 'All the things I did as a child I do with my own two kids now'.

Having received her primary education in St. Canice's National School and in St. Joseph's National School from third class, Niamh went onto the St. Mary's Secondary School in the Irishtown in New Ross, where one particular teacher really encouraged her natural flair for writing.

'I was a bookworm as a child. All my family are big readers and I always read for my kids until they could read themselves and our house is packed full of books. You are never lonely when you have a book.

'I loved short stories and my school friends used to tease me about my essays as they were always the ones to be read out in class'.

UCD awaited her after school, where she studied for her honours degree in English and French, before working for a Dublin-based tour operator.

Her experience in the publishing world began when Niamh worked for an American publisher in the capital and after her 1997 marriage in Rome, Niamh and her husband Oliver moved to London, where she had 'great fun' working in a public relations department. Just a few years later they moved to sunny San Francisco, where their 'Californian babe' Caoimhe was born. Niamh and her family returned to Dublin a few years later, where Rory was born in 2003, and that is when her writing career really began. 'I was a stay-at-home mum in Dublin. I had always been writing short stories but I never tried to get them published, I just did it for myself,' said Niamh. Keeping a record of her children's golden moments and quirky sayings led to the early beginnings of her writing career. 'You think you will never forget what your kids do or say but unless you write them down you will forget them. Like the other day Rory said after running "Mammy, my feet are out of breath."'

'They say write what you know and I was a stay-at-home mum and housewife and so it spiralled from there and my ideas developed into what I knew could be a book. I really had no ideas to write a book – it was definitely to avoid housework!' she laughed. After reading part of her first book, her husband Oliver insisted she submit it to publishers, despite it only being half finished.

'He kept saying 'give me a read, give me a read' and when he read it he roared laughing and said 'Niamh you should so something with this' but you know the way you have no self belief.

'I sent off a few chapters to a few Irish publishers and a few got back to me and I knew that it was lucky and unusual,' she said.

The day Niamh was offered her first book deal she was bringing her sick son to the doctor with an ear infection.

'I was on my way to the doctor's. The little guy had an ear infection and that is when I got the call from Penguin Ireland as I was getting out of the car as they offered me my first book deal,' recalled Niamh.

The secret to her success lies in allowing her readers have a giggle at reality and identify with her zany characters.

Her books are a hyped-up reflection on what is happening in life – such as the current celebrity craze, materialism, obsession with image and 'wannabism'.

'I based it on my experiences. People think I do base it on my children but I don't but I did have a lot of inspiration at my own front door.

'The characters are all quirky, over the top, an amalgamation of everything in my life. It is very dangerous to use people that you know. You can't – it's cheating!'

Her second book, 'Confessions of a Demented Housewife', led on from the success of 'Secret Diary of a Demented Housewife' as 'Susie', the 'demented housewife' and wannabe yummy mummy, 'had a lot more to say'.

'I felt she wasn't finished. Her character was in my head and a lot of authors talk about how a character can just stick in their head and I knew Susie wasn't done and dusted,' explained Niamh.

However, her third book, 'Letters to a Love Rat', deals with three women who have one thing in common – a good-for-nothing Casanova called Charlie – and choose very different ways to get over him.

Either pour your heart out to him in private letters that he will never see, pretend it's not

happening and carry on, or create a blog and tell the whole world about your problems.

'It has really humorous moments about the journey that all the women take to realise that the man is not for them,' said Niamh.

Her light-hearted, outrageous stories telling of the trials and tribulations of everyday life, coupled with her wicked sense of humour and ability to spin a great yarn, have touched people in ways she never even expected.

'I get a lot of emails from readers. I get emails from mothers who lost children or who have been through trauma and they say that my book made them laugh or that what I wrote had a good and positive effect on somebody,' said Niamh.

Despite her own hectic schedule, Niamh's writing is structured and scheduled. Every morning after the kids are dropped off at school Niamh sits down at her desk, deals with administration and emails, before launching into writing.

'I try to write every morning. I squeeze my writing around the kids' schedule. I do their homework with them and activities and once dinner is done and dusted and the kids are in bed I do my other bits and pieces of writing for magazines and papers and my reviews for the Irish Times.

'There is great escapism in writing books. When the words are flowing really well two hours can go by and you just don't feel it,' she said.

Her success led her to be nominated for two Irish book awards – best newcomer and best commercial fiction.

'I know it is really corny to say I was honoured to be nominated, but I actually was really honoured. I didn't set out to be published so to be nominated was fantastic,' said Niamh.

However, one of Niamh's most prized possessions during her writing career is a complimentary handwritten note by her favourite author Maeve Binchy, thanking her for the wonderful review she gave her latest book, 'Heart and Soul', in the Irish Times.

With her third novel, 'Letters to a Love Rat', just hot on the shelves, Niamh has a fourth book in the pipeline. However, fans will have to wait in suspense as details of the book are remaining tight lipped.

'I thank my lucky stars that I am able to do this because you never get over the thrill of seeing your book on the shelf,' enthused Niamh.