In 2004, a young Cecelia Ahern saw her debut novel break-out. P.S. I Love You became a global phenomenon, the story of one young widow’s life after tragedy capturing hearts around the world. It dominated bestseller lists, then came the movie which (with Butler’s accent aside) is an enjoyable watch. That was over ten years ago, and Ahern (who we love here at IMAGE) has remained at the top of her game ever since. Her books touch upon the rawest human emotions – familial relationships, death, depression, unexpected pregnancy, missed opportunities, striking a cord with her devoted readers every time. She averages about one book a year and has gone from strength to strength since her first book landed on the shelf. The author has just published her first YA novel Flawed, and in a new interview with the Sunday Independent, she spoke about her now illustrious career, and how her dealings with what she describes as “crippling anxiety” and panic attacks led her down the path of writing.
She revealed that before she went on to study journalism, she attended an MA in Film Production at just 21 before dropping out.
“I dropped out because it was kind of an intense time in my life,” she said.”I just wasn’t able. I was a bit nervy at the time.”
She explained that she suffered bad panic attacks and found it increasingly difficult to leave her parents’ home where she still lived in her early twenties.
“It was just a kind of inner meltdown of confidence. I found it really hard to get out,” she said. “I was with David [ her now husband David Keoghan] at the time, so I wasn’t completely alone. I did have somebody.”
She revealed that she tried a number of therapies and treatments, including hypnotherapy, before finding solace in her writing. And it was in writing that she found the strength to overcome her fears, despite the fact that she was still suffering panic attacks when P.S I Love You exploded. Those who remember the always sweet and charming writer in her early interviews will likely remember spotting her nervous demeanor – does anyone else remember the episode of The Late Late Show, where Pat Kenny stopped the show and held Ahern’s hand as he led her to her seat? – however, she credits her career with forcing her to overcome her anxiety.
“It was all about pushing myself to the limit. Suddenly I had a career. I had to get on planes. I had to go to book signings.”
Watch our interview with Cecelia below as she offers her advice to aspiring writers: