Who are your favorite authors? I think favourite authors depend on where you are in life. At fifteen, Alexandre Dumas and Colette were it. At 20, I was very into feminist literature. By twenty-five, I yearned for Jilly Cooper to write a new book. at thirty-seven, I was glued to any book on how to have a good, healthy pregnancy. Now….I love Scandinavian thrillers, Michael Connolly, Marian Keyes and Maeve Binchy, and am very cross because Malcolm Gladwell hasn’t written a book for ages. Who has had a major influence on your writing? Probably all of the above in some way, but life itself is what influences writers. You learn technique from reading all the time but what comes out of your head is a mix of who you are, what you have experienced and what you’ve learned. Name a book you never finished? Honestly can’t remember. I am a bit book- obsessed. I bring a second suitcase to Australia for all the books I pick up along the way. What word or words do you always have trouble spelling? Meditative. Had to think really hard there. There are more but probably because I can’t spell them, I have sent them to the recesses of my brain, along with the information about where I have hidden my iPod. What three adjectives best describe you? Kind, maternal, unable to say the word ‘no’, worrier. That’s four. Never ask a writer for three words Which of your characters would you want to be and why? I wouldn’t really like to be any of them because they are products of my mind and while I love them, and feel as if I know them, and they are my friends, I don’t want to be them. Which author would you invite to dinner? I have many author friends and love inviting them to dinner, including Marian Keyes, Sheila O’Flanagan, Patricia Scanlan, all of whom were important guests at my wedding. I am not a dinner party person anymore. I know, boring. But I do adore the poet Seamus Heaney and had the pleasure of meeting him when we both performed at a show to celebrate Dublin being the International City of Literature last year. When I read his poetry, I can hear his velvety voice in my head. Where do you write? Usually in an upstairs study. I have a downstairs one too but because I share it with my husband, and I do all my work emails there, it became harder to turn off that switch in my head and turn on the author one. So I have a little den upstairs surrounded by books, my tiny elephant collections, candles, nice rocks I like and photos of the people I love. That’s the best place to write. When do you write? Every morning after I’ve dropped my twin sons to school. What makes you happy? My family – my twin sons, Dylan and Murray and my husband, John. I also get enormous pleasure out of knitting badly with one of my adorable three dogs trying to squash herself onto my lap. What do you most fear? My children or husband being ill or unhappy. What is your favorite vice? Too much sugar in my coffee. I have tried and tried and cannot give it up. My brother says once you give it up, the first ten years are the hardest…aaagh. What is the quality you most like in yourself? My kindness. Even saying that is hard – Irish people are not brought up to say nice things about themselves. It’s against the law. What are the qualities you most like in your friends? Kindness, honesty, the same values I have – which are that nothing matters ( money, prestige, any of that rubbish) as long as your family is happy and healthy. Would you be lying if you said your works were not autobiographical? My books are not autobiographical. For my first three, I tried so hard to make them all a million miles aw ay from me because I wrote while working full time in journalism where the only fiction is the expenses, so I knew everyone would think that each character was a direct copy of someone I knew. When I had a mean, cheating deputy editor in my first book, everyone nudged the deputy editor and roared with laughter. The sports editor (sleazy in the book) was teased endlessly. Telling people that I made this stuff up didn’t work. I genuinely make it all up. What part of your personality do you detest? I am SO self-critical. If they have surgery for that, I want it removed. Yesterday. What is your favorite adjective? I’m on a bit of an adorable kick right now – it’s the dogs. They are so beautiful. What is your favorite book? Simply can’t answer that. Just impossible. It would be a mad guess on a Monday afternoon. What book would you read three times? Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop. To whom would you award the Nobel Prize for Literature and why? Rwandan writer Imaculee Ilibagiza’s harrowing yet redemptive account of trying to escape Rwanda during the genocide: Left to Tell: One Woman’s Story of Surviving the Rwandan Holocaust. I read it before going to Rwanda with UNICEF Ireland (I am a UNICEF Ireland ambassador) and Imaculee’s story of being hidden in a bathroom with a huge group of other women for weeks while outside, men and women with machetes butchered their families, is incredible. She is not bitter, she’s the voice of the new Rwanda where there is a future. It’s an amazing country to visit, so full of hope and yet there are so many graves of people and children brutally butchered. Please nominate three “must reads” for Members of TheReadingRoom.com Very hard! I am enjoying Joanna Trollope’s The Soldier’s Wife, as well as Irish travel writer, Dervla Murphy’s South From The Limpopo (travels through South Africa) and also beside the bed is Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers, which is the tale of four women living through the siege of Masada in 70AD. Thank You!