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Sarah Breen and Emer McLysaght

Sarah Breen and Emer Mclysaght. Photo credit Al Higgins

Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen are the fabulous writing duo behind the hilarious, Irish novel called ‘Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling. The Novel’. A book that all women can relate to, at some stage in their lives.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    Sarah: Emer and I met studying media in Dublin. We hit it off immediately – I thought she was hilarious from day one – and we started hanging out whenever we could and eventually moved in together. Emer went on to work in radio journalism and I got into magazines so our professional lives never really overlapped, although we always dreamed of working together one day. In 2016 an Irish publishing company approached us about writing a book together and we decided to go for it.

    Emer: Having both worked in Irish media, writing for Irish women, we felt like we would be able to have a go at writing a novel. It’s the kind of thing you dream about when you’re growing up and your favourite subject in school is English and you’re devouring a few books a week.

  2. What made you come up with the concept for the ‘Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling’?
    We came up with the character of Aisling one day during a conversation about mascara – we decided whoever keeps the brown mascara industry going is also the person who hangs up signs in the office kitchen begging people to put their mugs in the dishwasher (always typed in comic sans!). She’s that friend who writes “suits you” under pictures of women holding babies on Facebook and knows the Weight Watchers Points in absolutely everything. Our friends soon got into it so Emer made a Facebook page, called Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling, where we could all share our “Aislingisms”. It gained a cult following and now has more than 50,000 members. The novel is based on what happens when Aisling gets sick of waiting for her boyfriend to pop the question.
  3. How do you find it, writing as an duo?
    Sarah: We couldn’t imagine writing any other way! Because we know Aisling so well, and know how she’d react in any situation, it’s easy for me to continue Emer’s thoughts and vice versa. We usually decide what needs to happen in the next few chapters and just go away and fill in the blanks. I’m always HOOTING at Emer’s work.

    Emer: And I’m always in bits at Sarah’s work. I think we compliment each other in our writing. Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling has a mixture of both very funny and very sad moments, and somehow between us we’ve managed to strike the balance just right. It’s like we were always meant to write this book together!

  4. Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling

  5. You have quite a following on your Facebook page, which provides entertainment, solutions and current affairs, how have you found the response to the page?
    We are incredibly proud of the OMGWACA group. It’s crazy to think that what started out as an in-joke about Aisling 10 years ago is now this warm, inclusive community that’s spawned so many real life friendships. It’s really only a matter of time ‘til we have our first OMGWACA wedding!
  6. As pointed out in the book, we all have a bit of an Aisling in ourselves. What defines you as an complete Aisling?
    Sarah: I reckon I’m about 40% Aisling – I religiously collect Boots points, I would never get off the bus without thanking the driver and nothing makes me happier than drying clothes outside on the line (the amount of electricity the dryer uses is shocking!). I think Emer is a bit more Aisling than me – I’ve seen her bring earplugs to a music festival and she will insist on queuing for a flight the minute the gate opens.

    Emer: Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a good night’s sleep at a festival, or an airbed, or a lock for your tent! I would agree that I’m more of an Aisling, maybe 50%. It’s true that I don’t feel at ease until I’m safely in my plane seat and my carry on is safely stowed. I also indicate religiously on roundabouts and would be evangelical about the difference between tea towels and hand towels.

  7. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    Sarah: Anything by Marian Keyes – ‘Rachel’s Holiday’ is a favourite of both mine and Emer. The entire works of Adrian Mole – he was SUCH an Aisling. And some kind of survival manual – I’d need to be able to distil my own gin or else I’d just walk into the sea.

    Emer: I hope that Sarah would let me borrow her ‘Rachel’s Holiday’ and her Adrian Mole. I’d also bring the collected tales of ‘Anne of Green Gables’, it was a real childhood favourite. And while we’re at it, a couple of my old Paula Danziger books. I think that reading funny women like her when I was younger really influenced my writing.

  8. Who’s your favourite literary hero or heroine?
    Sarah: Bridget Jones – I love how funny, real and relatable she is. That Aisling has been compared to her is incredibly flattering.

    Emer: Sarah beat me to it with Bridget. I’d also have to mention Adrian Mole again, he’s just the perfect amount of hero with a dash of ridiculousness.

  9. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    Sarah: “The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.” It’s from ‘Lullaby’ by Leila Slimani. How could you not want to read on?!

    Emer: “We slept in what had once been the gymnasium”, from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. I just feel like it’s so loaded. It already gives away so much.

  10. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    It sounds like a no-brainer, but write the book you’d like to read. If psychological thrillers are your bag, hone your detective skills. Not every book has to be a work of literary genius. Just start writing!
  11. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    Sarah: Food. I like to reward myself after every paragraph.

    Emer: I write at a laptop but always have a good old pen and paper beside me for making notes to come back to. It might just be one scribbled word but it will be enough.

  12. And finally do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    We are currently writing the screenplay for the film adaptation of Oh My God What a Complete Aisling’, which has been such a joy. We are also putting the finishi’ng touches on the sequel, which is due out in September.

You can follow the ladies on Twitter Sarah Breen and Emer McLysaght for updates. And don’t forget to check out the amazing ‘Oh My God What a Complete Aisling’ Facebook page, which started this whole adventure

You can buy Oh My God What a Complete Aisling from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Book News – Skin Deep By Liz Nugent

Skin DeepIrish author, Liz Nugent is returning to our bookshelves with her latest book, chillingly called ‘Skin Deep’.

What the back cover says –

‘I could probably have been an actress.
It is not difficult to pretend to be somebody else.

Isn’t that what I’ve been doing for most of my life?’

Cordelia Russell has been living on the French Riviera for twenty-five years, passing herself off as an English socialite. But her luck, and the kindness of strangers, have run out.

The arrival of a visitor from her distant past shocks Cordelia. She reacts violently to the intrusion and flees her flat to spend a drunken night at a glittering party. As dawn breaks she stumbles home through the back streets. Even before she opens her door she can hear the flies buzzing. She did not expect the corpse inside to start decomposing quite so quickly.

I was fortunate to hear Liz read an extract from the book, during the Crime Noir Ireland Festival in Belfast and I got goosebumps just listening to it!

I loved Liz’s previous books, ‘Unravelling Oliver’ was dark and ‘Lying In Wait’ just chilled me to the bone, so who knows what I’ll think when I read ‘Skin Deep’!

You can pre-order Skin Deep from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 5th April 2018.

Blood Sisters By Jane Corry

Blood Sisters‘Blood Sisters’ is the latest book by Jane Corry.

Kitty lives in a care home. She can’t speak properly, and she has no memory of the accident that put her here. At least that’s the story she’s sticking to.Art teacher Alison looks fine on the surface. But the surface is a lie. When a job in a prison comes up she decides to take it – this is her chance to finally make things right. But someone is watching Kitty and Alison. Someone who wants revenge for what happened that sunny morning in May. And only another life will do…

‘Blood Sisters’ is Jane Corry’s second book and is just as gripping and dark as her debut novel, ‘My Husband’s Wife’, with quite complex and difficult characters, this thriller was easily devoured in one sitting.

In the book, we meet sisters, Alison and Kitty, whose lives change dramatically when an accident happens when they are teenagers. The accident leaves Kitty in a care home with no memory and leaves Alison living with the guilt of the accident and feeling responsible for her Kitty’s disability. Alison tries to stay away from Kitty, as being with her reminds her of the guilt, so she keeps her visits to the care home to an absolute minimum, much to the despair of her mother. Alison loves art and finds a comfort and solace in creating, so when the unusual opportunity comes about to become an art teacher in a prison, she grabs it with both hands looking to make a difference to other people’s lives. But, it’s whilst she’s in prison, that she finds herself in danger not only within the confines of the prison walls but on the outside world.

The thing that makes this book so interesting is the mix of the characters, there’s the quiet, soothing presence of Alison with her tragic past and then there’s Kitty. Kitty is quite the wildcard, she’s boisterous, outspoken and is frustrated by her disability. She gets fed up when people don’t understand her. As the story is seen through the narrative of both sisters, I found Kitty fascinating. In my mind, everything makes sense but to others, she speaks nonsense, and this angers her making her lash out. With her disability, Kitty is a great character, she’s wild, witty, with a sense of humour and says what she thinks, unconcerned of the outcomes.

The story flows between the past and present tense leading up to the accident and gives us an insight into the type of person Kitty was before the accident and I found these scenes to be the most fascinating of the story. She was quite unlikable, spoilt and seemed to revel in making Alison’s life a misery.

Atmospheric from the very first page, the story is cleverly written with hidden twists and turns throughout that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Chilling, suspenseful with the addition of unexpected humour, ‘Blood Sisters’ is a gripping psychological tale of sibling rivalry and dark secrets.

You can buy Blood Sisters from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Drowning Lesson By Jane Shemilt

The Drowning Lesson‘The Drowning Lesson’ is the latest book by Jane Shemilt’

The Jordan family thought they would return from their gap year abroad enriched, better people, a closer family.
Not minus one child. A year on, Emma remains haunted by the image of that empty cot, thousands of miles away, the chasm between her and the rest of the family growing with each day that Sam remains missing. Is her son still out there? Will the mystery about what happened that night ever be unravelled?

When it comes to books by Jane Shemilt, I have a bit of complicated relationship with them, as I initially find them difficult to get into and then when once I get into them, I find them impossible to put down and when I eventually put them down, the difficulty resumes to get back into them. It’s a frustrating cycle.

In her latest book we meet Emma, a woman who decides to give up her career and life in England to move to Africa to support her husband in his career with their three children. It’s during this time away, that their baby Sam is stolen away and they are left to wonder if their defenceless baby is dead or alive.

The story is seen solely through Emma’s narrative and the chapters alternate between the past and present, to the time leading up to Sam’s disappearance.

I found Emma to be a difficult and manipulative character, as she secretly planned her third pregnancy. She’s quite cold in parts and isn’t the most of a maternal parent towards her daughters, which is quite apparent in their relationship. But, as the story progresses, she begins to thaw as she deals with losing her baby.

The story is quite atmospheric and Jane is very vivid with her descriptions, describing the African towns, the poverty and the witchcraft that the townsfolk whisper about, which does make for eerie reading.

The story is primarily about the disappearance of child and how a woman deals with the idea of losing a child, but there is a smaller sub story about Emma and her father. It’s inclusion wasn’t completely clear to me, but it still made for interesting reading as it shaped Emma into the woman that she has become.

With despair and suspense dripping from every page and where everyone is a suspect, ‘The Drowning Lesson’ is a dark and well written story, that is worth the initial struggle of getting into.

You can buy The Drowning Lesson from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Break By Marian Keyes

The Break‘The Break’ is the delicious new book by Marian Keyes.

Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her. He still loves her, he’s just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in south-east Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it. Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet. However, for Amy it’s enough to send her – along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers – teetering over the edge. For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns if he returns, will he be the same man she married? Will Amy be the same woman? Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then isn’t she?

Marian Keyes is back with another fabulous book, a book that made me lose track of time as well as let numerous cups of go to waste and go cold.

In her latest book, we meet Amy, a deliciously kind and outspoken woman who works in PR, mother to three daughters, her life is rarely a routine and when her husband Hugh announces that he wants to take a six month break to travel the world to help him through his grieving process after losing his father. Amy’s reaction and mine was WTF?

As Hugh travels the world, Amy is left with the worry that he’ll cheat on her, leave her for a younger model, never return and this will be the end of their marriage.

But whilst Hugh is discovering himself, Amy is also finding a new appetite for life. She’s refusing to accept pity from her neighbours and give up on her marriage, even though her heart is breaking.

Amy is also on her own path of self discovery, embarking on new affairs, tackling with being a single parent and being the mother of a successful video blogger with an attitude.

I absolutely adored this book. The book is filled with Marian’s charm and wit as well her warmth. The characters are similar to the Walsh family, their dysfunctional, outspoken and there is never a dull moment, with their larger than life mother and a father who battles Alzheimers. In her light hearted tale, Marian delivers a story that has serious issues, Alzheimer’s and the effect it can have on a family, the pressure and stress. Teenage pregnancy and the legality of abortion in Ireland plus the surge of video blogging and how anyone can do it, no matter the age.

Amy is a fabulous character and one that I could never tire of reading. As the story progresses, Amy becomes a stronger and more confident woman and this is a joy to witness. Hugh was a different story altogether, I wholeheartedly hated him and the rage he invoked in me was astounding. His selfishness to find himself whilst Amy was left to look after the family and deal with the sympathy and the gossip that he left behind, it enraged me!

The characters are engaging and all have their own quirks that made for such enjoyable reading plus all the chapters are short, so one chapter can rapidly become seven or ten.

Deliciously fun and warmhearted, this book is an enchanting story that was impossible to put down, filled with charm, drama and plenty of Irish wit, ‘The Break’ is most certainly Marian Keyes at her very best. I dare you not to enjoy it!

You can pre-order The Break from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 7th September.