An Interview with Cecelia Ahern, author of our December Book Club Pick

We’re delighted to introduce our December book club pick, Freckles by Cecelia Ahern, by sitting down with the author herself to ask her a few questions about her book. Written by the internationally bestselling author of PS, I Love You, Freckles is a much-anticipated, life-affirming novel about kinship, connection and finding the people through whom you find yourself. We can’t wait for you to discover it!⁠ 

Thank you very much for joining us Cecelia. Let’s start with the biggest question, what gave you the idea for FRECKLES?

I heard the Jim Rohn phrase ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Choose wisely.’ Jim Rohn was a business motivational speaker and so it’s a term for the business world but my brother in law said it to me and it instantly intrigued me. It made me think a little of the five people in my life, but more importantly it sent my creative mind whirling into a fictional story. I generally think less about me and more about fictional characters.

It all came together so quickly, I had the bones of the story within an hour of hearing the phrase, but didn’t begin writing the story until almost five years later because I had other novels to write and it took that amount of time for the story to slowly bubble away before it was time to write.

Image credit: @racheal_reads

What does your writing process look like?

I write from an office in my home and keep office hours as I have a young family. I write long hand with a blue pen and normal refill pad. I write a few chapters then transcribe as I go along. I drink decaf tea or coffee and I light a Jo Malone Lime Basil and Mandarin candle. I met Jo Malone some years ago and I explained how lighting her candles is part of my writing routine to set a calming mood and she explained that as scent is such a trigger, by lighting the same scent each time I’m sending a message to my brain to get into the creative zone. Of course, apart from the pen and paper, I don’t need any of these things to write, but I like them.

How do you invent your characters? Do you sometimes base them on people you’ve met in real life?

I always come up with the premise for the story first and then the character grows from the idea. Yes, I draw inspiration from real life – I don’t necessarily plonk a real life person into a story but elements of people inspire me – a phrase, an expression on their face, the way they move – but the joy for me is in creating my own person that doesn’t exist.

Parking wardens in the area that I live in are pretty tough and there seems to be no room for manoevure or any kind of human error, so that inspired my character Allegra to be so rigid with the rules that in her work life there is no room for humans to be human. She’s so by the book that when she hears the Jim Rohn phrase then she treats is like a new rule or guideline for her to follow. But then every other aspect of Allegra comes from somewhere I don’t even know. That’s the magic of it. I don’t really know where it comes from.

When you were writing FRECKLES, did you already know what the ending would be?

With each novel I always know the tone of the ending, how my character is going to feel. I don’t always know the dialogue or the setting that will enable that to happen. Sometimes I know exactly the last sentence and I’ve written it early on so I don’t forget. With Freckles I knew what the last scene would be, what the words would be. I didn’t know exactly who the players would be, but I had the tone of it all figured out, and I sniffled away, wept, as I wrote it.

If you don’t mind sharing, who would your ‘5 people’ be?

The five people changes at different stages of your life. It’s not the five people who have shaped your entire life, that’s a different question. If you change job, or move to a new area, or change your daily schedule in even the smallest way I find that it changes the regular encounters with people, you slip into a different schedule. At the time of coming up with the idea for Freckles let’s just say my five had changed by the time I wrote it and my five were different when it came to editing it. And when I wrote it my five were different to the five that I have now, because people move on, relationships evolve, and pandemics change things drastically.

It’s a tough question to answer because most of my interactions are with my family but one of the rules of this phrase is that it’s the five people outside of your family. I love people but I keep my circle small, so my five are my friends since school years, my inspiring creative artistic friends, my trainers who make me stronger in my body and mind by not just the training in the gym but the things they do in their lives. I like to be surrounded by kindness, by love, by strength and creativity.

What do you hope people take away from FRECKLES?

I aim to entertain and tell a story first of all, I’m not really into shoving messages down people’s throats, however I suppose the main takeaways of this novel are to shine a light on the fact that you are in control of your five, you are in control of who you are, if you aren’t happy with the five that surround you and feel that you’re not the person you want to be when you’re with them then you have the power to change that.

It also shines a light on the fact that your five may not be who you think they are, it might make you take a magnifying glass to your daily interactions and analyse who it is that is saying and doing things that have a deep effect on the way that you think and the decisions you make. If these interactions are a positive thing, then maybe you can spend more time with that person or delve into that relationship more. There’s that, and the most basic and most important of all is that people are never what you think they are.

You never know what a person is going through, every single person no matter how odd, has something intriguing that makes them tick, and something beautiful about them.

Thank you so much, Cecelia, for answering all our questions. We are so excited to have Freckles as our book club pick!

Want to find out more about our book club? Tap below to head over to our Facebook group where you can find all the details.

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