What a treat to do an interview with Susanne O’Leary and to give all of you a chance to get to know her. It was great fun, and very informative. I have known her for several years, and I learned things that I didn’t know.
Susanne O’Leary is the bestselling author of fifteen novels, mainly in the romantic fiction genre. She has also written three crime novels and two in the historical fiction genre. She has been the wife of a diplomat (still is), a fitness teacher and a translator. She now writes full-time from either of two locations, a ramshackle house in County Tipperary, Ireland or a little cottage overlooking the Atlantic in Dingle, County Kerry. When she is not scaling the mountains of said counties (including MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, featured in her recently published crime novel, Full Irish), or keeps fit in the local gym, she keeps writing, producing a book every six months.
What is your favorite morning beverage drink?
Tea in my big blue mug.
What is a typical morning for you?
I get up at around 7.30, turn on my computer and check my e-mails, Facebook messages and sales figures. Then I make tea and take my big, blue mug and a slice of toast and sit down at the computer again and write for a couple of hours. Sometimes I forget the time and don’t come back to reality until 12 or so. Then I get dressed. (I do my best writing in my pj’s.).
How did you become interested in being a writer?
Gosh, that’s a good question. I started my writing career after I had written two health and fitness books. Then a friend suggested I should write a comedy based on my life as a diplomat’s wife, so I had a go at that. It became Diplomatic Incidents (Duty Free as an e-book) and was, to my shock and astonishment, published. By then (that was 15 years ago) I was hooked on writing and couldn’t stop.
How many books have you written?
Seventeen; two non-fiction books, twelve in various genres, like contemporary romance, chick-lit and historical and three co-written detective stories, the latest being Full Irish with Pete Morin.
What is your favorite one?
I think it has to be my latest romantic fiction novel, Selling Dreams.
Many reasons. First, because I set it in an area of the south of France that I love and know so well, after many years of holidaying there. Also, because this time, I created two heroines that became like close friends to me. I decided to make the heroines work in real estate, which I’ve always thought would be fun. Houses and their history fascinate me.
Name a character in your book that is you?
I was going to say they’re all me, which is true in a way. When you’re really in ‘the zone’, you become the main character. But if I have to pick one that is closest to who I am, I’d have to say Margo in Finding Margo.
Many reasons. I think I identified with a woman who had married young and been there for her husband for over ten years. She had been brought up to be polite, nice and considerate always. I think women who marry and have children young, like me, often dream of escaping and peeling off all those labels of being someone’s wife and mother and not having their own identity. Added to that, the role of diplomat’s wife also means you have to forget your own needs and wishes and never show your own persona or express an opinion. That was the theme in Finding Margo. I wanted to create a woman who ran away from all that and started afresh. She learns to stand up for herself and occasionally say ‘no’. In the process and through all her adventures, Margo finally finds herself. I think I finally found myself when I started writing and carved out a career for myself. That was my escape.
What were your childhood dreams?
I wanted to be either an air hostess or a circus artist. I saw myself as one of those girls in a ballerina skirt, standing on the back of a galloping horse. Later, I wanted to be a vet, so I could help sick animals.
So tell us, have you ever tried that “standing on the back of a galloping horse” thing?
Yes, metaphorically speaking. Not in a circus and not actually standing on a horse wearing a ballet skirt. But when I came to live in Ireland, I tried fox-hunting, which is pretty wild and dangerous, galloping across rough countryside and jumping huge fences and banks that can sometimes be over six feet. And I paid for that with a broken leg and a fractured pelvis. (But it was exciting)
What were you like as a child?
Stubborn. Rebellious, adventurous. A bit of a tomboy too.
How would your husband describe you, in one word?
Feminine (I asked him).
How would you describe yourself, in one word?
What would be your best achievement to date?
Writing seventeen books and my self-publishing venture.
Have you ever been banned from a public place?
Oh, eh… Is an Internet forum a public place?
Of course it counts, so spill!
Eh, uh, okay… I wasn’t a troll or anything. But I was a member of this forum and expressed a few opinions and then one day, I found myself banned. The moderator of that forum was a control freak, though and it has since been closed down.
Have you ever danced in the rain?
Did anyone see you?
Yes. It was after a long dry spell in Sweden when I was about twelve. After six weeks of hot weather, there was a thunderstorm in the middle of the night. We all got out and danced in the rain in our pjs.
Are you a TV junkie?
What is the best way to your heart?
To show true empathy- for me and other people. And tolerance and understanding of others (might be the same thing).
What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done for someone?
It must be that time when I offered to look after a friend’s farm and her horses and dogs for a week so she could get a break. I don’t know much about farming, so there a few things that went slightly wrong… (No animals were harmed).
This sounds interesting! Please give us details.
Nothing dramatic happened. I just put a herd of cows in the wrong field, let out the bull to wander in the garden and forgot to lock the gate of the paddock so two horses were found running up the main road. Not on the same day, though. But I had to constantly ring neighboring farms for help to round up some animal or other.
If you could change anything about yourself what would it be?
I’d be ten years younger and have a smaller nose. Character-wise I would say I’d like to be more patient.
Are you proud of yourself?
What’s the most unusual conversation you’ve ever had, besides this one?
Must be a weird radio interview when I was supposed to talk about the ‘empty nest’ feeling. I was actually quite relieved when my sons left home, so I cracked a few jokes, which didn’t go down too well, as it was supposed to be some kind of helpline for mothers who couldn’t cope with their empty house. There was a long silence on air after my little piece. I didn’t know I was supposed to cry rather than laugh. Oops.
What’s been your worst present?
An electric kettle on my 21st birthday (I cried).
Who gave you that, and did you ever forgive them?
It was my husband. We were married nearly a year by then. He thought it would be a brilliant thing to add to our kitchen, all shiny and whistling and everything. Yes, I forgave him after he rushed out to get me roses and champagne and organizing a surprise party a few days later.. We’re still married…
Do you have an accent?
Some say I speak like the Swedish chef. Others say that my accent is ‘Pure Irish’. It depends on how much I’ve had to drink.
What was your favorite birthday?
My eighth, when I got my very first bike. I never forgot going downstairs and the shiny new bike was there, in the living room, with a big red bow tied to the handlebars.
If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
Handle with care. Short fuse!
Thanks so much, Susanne for a great interview. It was a pleasure. Best of luck with your books and the many sales that await you.