With the movie version of Cecelia Ahern's beautiful book ‘Ps I Love You' due to hit our screens on December 26th I think this would be a great time to repost the interview I conducted with Cecelia a year or so ago just after the news had been broken that PS I Love you was going to be made into a film. Keep reading after the jump to find out more about Cecelia, the upcoming PS I Love You Movie starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler plus more juicy gossip! …
Here is My interview with Cecelia Ahern as originally printed on our sister site Enchanted Entertainment, I would Just like to thank Cecelia for taking time out of her very busy schedule to answer my questions, it is very much apreciated.
Review, retransmission, disclosure, copying, modification or other use of this interview is strictly forbidden without written Consent from Rebecca Bowden & Cecelia Ahern.
For those who don't already know, could you please tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
I'm an author, I live in Dublin Ireland and I've written four books. The first is PS, I Love You, the second is Where Rainbows End/ Love, Rosie and the third is If You Could See Me Now. I just finished writing my third last week. That’s me, in a nutshell.
Could you tell us a bit about your writing process, and roughly how long it takes from start to finish for each of your books?
Each of my books have taken different lengths of times. PS I Love You only took me three months to write which was very fast but I literally didn’t stop writing that book. It was my first and I had no expectations of what was going to happen; I just sat down and began writing a story that was so alive in my head. I had no intentions to write a book or to have one published but I felt compelled to put pen to paper. It flowed very quickly from pen to paper. I wrote from ten pm till 6am and I would sleep all day. Then at 3pm I typed into the computer what I had written by longhand the previous day. My second book took five months, my third book took nine months…The more successful the books are the more promotional trips, interviews and meetings I have to do. This means that it takes away from writing time so that the process is getting longer. But the process of writing my books has more or less remained the same, I write longhand, mostly throughout the night.
Your first book, “Ps I love You” seems to have touched the lives of so many people, with it's main character Holly dealing with the grief of losing a loved one and somehow finding the strength to carry on with her life with the help of letters left by Gerry her deceased husband. Did you get many people contact you after having read the book and been through the same sort of grief as Holly?
Yes I did receive so many letters from people telling me of similar stories and I appreciate everyone who did send them to me. The idea for PS I Love You came to me due to a number of reasons but none of those reasons were because I had heard familiar stories or due to personal experience. I just created an idea that I thought would be a really wonderful way of being able to maintain contact with someone despite the fact that they have left us. As soon as the book was published people wrote to me explaining how their husbands or wives had done similar things like left letters, arranged for flowers to be sent on birthdays prior to their deaths, left presents in the attic to be found the following Christmas. There were many very touching stories and people found that they could identify with Holly’s character and her situation. Even while I was doing book readings all around the world, people of all ages came to the events to share their stories with me. A few people even told me their counsellors had recommended the book. That’s an amazing thing for me to learn but the book’s message is one of hope, it’s about turning a devastating situation that we all have to deal with in life, into something more heartwarming and uplifting.
Was Ps I Love You based on any personal experiences?
The main concept of the book ie, Holly’s husband dying and leaving a package of letters for her, is not due to personal experience but there are many things in the book which are, such as all the emotions Holly experiences. My books are emotion-driven and so in order to write about situations I haven’t experienced, I go to all those feelings that are similar It was mainly driven by my own fear of losing my loved ones. That fear drove me to imagine a more positive way of saying goodbye, and that came in the form of PS I Love You.
“Where Rainbows End” had a very different writing style, being in the form of emails and letters exchanged by Rosie & Alex, was it hard to make this transition to a totally different writing style and did you draw inspiration for the book from anywhere in particular?
I saved all of my emails leading up to my getting my first publishing deal. I have the email I sent off of my first few chapters of PS I Love You to my now agent, I have the emails of correspondence between us for those few months, I have the email from my editor when I got my first book deal. When I had finished writing PS I read back over my collection of print-outs and realised that these emails were telling the story all by themselves. So much of our communication these days is done through email, we introduce ourselves and form friendships with people we can’t put a face to. I have a love of written words, I think they’re so precious as they can be kept forever and never taken back and so I have kept letters and postcards sent to me ever since I was a child and every once in a while I go through the shoebox of memories and read the story of my life, the people that were in it at the time, the places I had been, the situations I was going through. Bank statements, college results, valentine cards all told the story of my life without needing a narrator and so I decided to write the book in the format whereby letters, emails, postcards, and birthday cards tell the story of someone’s life. It was a challenging way to write the book but it was hugely enjoyable and readers really feel like they’re reading private letters and hearing private thoughts that they wouldn’t usually be privy to. The readers get to be the fly on the wall throughout the entire story and it’s a different experience, not just for me writing it, but for the readers too.
Your most recent book, which I have just finished reading seems to play more on the idea's touched upon in Ps I Love You in which Elizabeth is given a helping hand (much like Holly) from an unlikely place, you seem to have taken it one step further however creating the brilliantly loveable character of Ivan! What did the book mean to you, and was it a fun writing experience?
It was a very enjoyable experience. Ivan is one of my favourite characters that I’ve created. He has a wonderful philosophy on life, he’s very positive and fun-loving and he brought me out of my bed during the day to write which was unusual for my writing process. It was about taking a character, Elizabeth, who was deeply cynical, who didn’t believe in anything, who found it difficult to step outside the circle of routine in her life and trying to make her believe. She found it difficult to play with her nephew, Luke, of who she was a reluctant mother to. She didn’t understand childish ways, couldn’t bring herself to his level in order. I love the attitude that children have towards life; that anything is possible, that they can be whoever and do whatever they want to do. They believe in imaginary friends and magic and nothing we say can change their minds. Yet when children grow up they leave these thoughts behind, becoming more cynical and following what we perceive to be the rules of life. “If You Could See Me Now,” takes away the rules. It takes away the rules of what it means to be a person, of what it means to be an adult or child, of what it means to live. Sometimes it just means throwing away the rule book and letting your hair down and Ivan shares this way of thinking with Elizabeth and Luke.
We have read on your website that Walt Disney are making “If you could see me now” into a film? Also that “Ps I Love You” is being made into one by Warner Bros?? Could you fill us in on all the info about this please?!
Yes this is true! Wendy Finerman (of Wendy Finerman productions) is going to produce the movie and they are currently in the process of hiring a director and cast. It’s very exciting and it’s a process I’m very much looking forward to being involved with. Walt Disney have bought the rights to If You Could See Me Now with Hugh Jackman set to play the role of Ivan, which is hugely exciting. They plan to make it into a musical/ movie with the same makers of Chicago behind it.
What sort of research did you have to do for each of your books?
A lot of reading up on whatever subject matter I’m writing about. For PS I Love You I learned about brain tumours, what were the symptoms, treatments, operations. I had to find out what the final stages would have been like for Gerry and what Holly would have been through. For Where Rainbows End/ Love Rosie, As it spanned entire lifetimes I read up on Alex’s career as a heart surgeon, how many years of studying etc and for Rosie, as a single mother, what was she entitled to. With If You Could See Me Now I read up on child psychology. Why is it that they have imaginary friends, how long do they have them for and what were the expert opinions on it.
How has your life changed since becoming a hugely successful author?
Well whether I had become an author or not, my life was going through big changes anyway. I had just finished college, was living at home, was trying to decide what to do with the rest of my life. At the same time I wrote PS I Love You, got a publishing deal, a career, travelled the world, moved out of home…it changed a lot. But the most important and amazing thing that happened was that I found a career, a successful career that I absolutely adore and one that people seem to appreciate too!
What advice would you give to any of our members looking for a career in writing and do you have any tips on getting published etc?
It’s difficult to give tips on writing as so many people have very different styles, routines and processes. I think that finding your own style is the most important. There is so much paperwork and legal ties involved in publishing that you would be wise to find an agent, someone who is working for you and looking out for your best interests. If you find an agent that connects with your work well then they will know where to take you and what the important next step is. But most importantly I think people should write because they are passionate about it, because they feel compelled to do it and not for any other reason. It’s important to find your own voice, write what you want to write, not what you think people want to read and you’re already unique. In writing you get many knock-backs but keep trying, it’s amazing how one person can think your book is the best they’ve ever read and another can’t even get passed the first chapter. Keep going because there are people out there who will connect with your work.
Are you writing anything new at the moment? If so, can you give us any hints as to what to expect?
No hints allowed! I just finished writing my fourth book at the moment and I’ll begin the editing process shortly. But I do have a novella out at the moment titled “Mrs. Whippy.” It’s for the Open Door Series, a series of books written for an adult literacy programme and proceeds go to CARI charity.
Many Thanks to Cecelia for this great interview.
PS I LOVE YOU is Available to rent and buy on DVD on 12 May 2008 courtesy of Momentum Pictures, this must-own DVD is an irresistibly charming romantic comedy about the enduring power of love, when sometimes the only thing left to say is PS I love you. A tear jerker that will, in equal measure, have you laughing out loud, you'd better start stocking up now on the tissues as your heart strings are tugged for all they're worth. As the director states, “This is a love story, but it’s also a journey of self-discovery. It’s a story about friendship and family and about how love can be so strong that it stretches across life and death.”