by Susanne O'Leary
When Margo misreads a roadmap while travelling by car through France, her husband Alan flies into one of his habitual rages. Tired of his constant bad moods, Margo slips away from him at a motorway café. She hitches a lift with a woman truck driver and escapes into the French countryside. What follows is adventure and romance far beyond her wildest dreams. Will Alan find her before she finds herself?
British spelling and grammar.
British spelling and grammar.
I write contemporary fiction, chick lit, historical fiction and, recently, crime. Several different genres with one common denominator; the theme of escape. This theme is often about the protagonists stepping out of their lives into a whole new environment. The fact that I spent most of my adult life travelling around the world is also strong element in my stories, which are set in foreign places.
I started writing by accident. About twelve years ago, when I was living in Brussels, I was asked to write down some health and exercise tips for the fitness group I was running (I am also a trained fitness teacher) . To my surprise, this eventually resulted in a book. It took me around six month to finish it. 'Look Great, Feel Great for Life', was published in the spring of 1999. By that time, I was already writing my second health book, dealing with healthy aging. 'The Life in Your Years' came out in 2000.
When I had handed in the finished manuscript for 'The Life in Your Years' I felt a sense of achievement that was quickly replaced by a huge loss. I had become hooked on writing and needed to write more. I mentioned this to my editor at Gill&Macmillan and she said: 'why don't you write a fun novel about your life as the wife of a diplomat? I'm sure you have many funny incidents worth telling.' This sparked the first ideas for the novel that was to become 'Diplomatic Incidents', which was published by Blackstaff Press in 2001. After the success of this novel, I was asked to write a second one on the same theme; a tongue in cheek story set behind the scenes of the European Union. The title for this book was easy to find. 'European Affairs' was published in 2003.
With my subsequent novel, I left the world of politics and decided to try a different approach. I used what I now call the 'what if' moment. I happened to be in the Alps on a skiing trip and the very first 'what if' moment popped into my head. What if a group of skiers gets snowed into their chalet during a blizzard? What will they do? Who gets eaten first? This idea was eventually turned into 'Fresh Powder', described in the Irish Independent as 'Agatha Christie meets Mills&Boon on a James Bond set'. It became Eason's book of the month when it came out in March 2006.
A year later, I found myself in a motorway café in the middle of France, having had a bit of a problem with the map, which didn't amuse my spouse. I thought: what if a woman walks out on her husband on the motorway in the middle of France after a row about her map reading skills? And what if that woman keeps walking and takes on a whole new identity? The idea was developed into a novel. 'Finding Margo' was published in May 2007.
The idea for, 'Swedish for Beginners', came from my own feelings of confusion about my roots. Having left my native Sweden at the age of twenty one and traveled the world most of my adult life, I often wonder where I really belong. I do love living in Ireland but the place where you grew up is really where your roots are. I wanted to explore this dilemma which so many people struggle with these days. The feedback from readers has confirmed that I am not alone in experiencing it. Writing this novel was a very emotional journey for me, as many of the people and settings are drawn from my own family and my childhood home in Sweden. It is not all sweetness and light. A reviewer in the Irish Independent said: 'it reminds one a little of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.'
My historical novel, 'A Woman's Place' was inspired by the life stories of my great aunt Julia and her daughter Sonja, who both led fascinating lives, which I found out by reading letters and diaries I found in my grandmother's chest of drawers.
The detective story, 'Virtual Strangers' that I wrote with fellow Swedish author Ola Zaltin, came about after a chance meeting on a writer's website.
My husband and I moved to Tipperary rather by accident. We had bought our house as a holiday home but when my husband left the diplomatic service, we found that Dublin no longer appealed to us. The beauty and peace of the countryside of south Tipperary was irresistible. My husband is a keen gardener and, although we had been admiring the mountains lazily for years, we are now actively climbing them on our regular hill walks.
My writing day is rather undisciplined and drives my husband crazy. I usually start early in the morning and try to fit the housework in between my writing sessions, writing being the more important occupation. When inspiration strikes, the Hoover is often standing neglected in the middle of the living room and my husband is in the door of my office, asking politely if he is going to be fed or should he send out for pizza?
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