Lulu Guinness

Marian Keyes is an award-winning Irish novelist who has published 16 books. Her titles have been translated into 36 different languages and she has achieved global success thanks to her humurous writing style and ability to compassionately address serious issues within her novels.

We chatted to her about writing, ‘ridey’ men, Jack Reacher, and of course, the hallowed handbag.

What are the three essential components you believe a novel has to have?

A likeable lead character that we sympathise and identify with; a ridey man who is believably flawed; a baddie, but not one straight from central casting – in real life, most baddies have some redeeming qualities so I think it’s important to recognise that when creating one in a book.

Do you have a writing ritual and if so, what is it?

I light a candle. I’m not remotely religious or woowoo but I recognise that anything creative comes from the subconscious so it’s not something I can easily control.

By lighting a candle I’m sort of surrendering and admitting my powerlessness and in some nebulous way, asking for the universe or whoever controls these things to give me some inspiration.

If you could live as any literary character for one day who would it be?

Maybe Jack Reacher from the Lee Child’s books – he’s never scared of anyone or anything! No-one beats him in a fight (Mind you, I haven’t read them all, please don’t tell me he gets PTSD in later books. I need to BELIEVE!).

Could you tell us about your next project?

Early next year I’ve got a lovely fat collection of various articles that I’ve written over the past few years for magazines, papers and my website coming. It’s called Making It Up as I Go Along (Confessions From An Eejit Who Was Off Buying Shoes The Day Life’s Instructions Were Given Out).They’re short humorous autobiographical pieces which people can dip in and out of. I’m also working on a new novel called Time Off for Bad Behaviour.

Lulu gets a sense of fulfilment by seeing her designs and creations make people happy, how does your line of work most benefit you?

In very much the same way. I feel it’s a huge honour that people read my books and either escape from reality or get comfort from the story and I love to hear from readers. I pour my heart and soul into every book that I write and when people respond positively, it makes me feel connected to the human race. It makes me feel that I must be doing something right and that’s the greatest reward. I love my job and I feel incredibly grateful that I get to tell my stories.

If you could give two of your characters a Lulu Guinness bag, which bags would you give them and why?

I’d give Claire Walsh from Watermelon and Lola Daly from This Charming Man the shocking pink, hard-sided small spinner travel case because – full disclosure – I have one myself and I ADORE it! The outside is so pretty and

eye-catching and cheery - I love its pinkness and the lips motif – and women are always stopping me at airports to ask where I got it.

Then I love the internal set-up – the chic black-and-white stripes, the side compartments for neat packing and easy access, the various zippy bits so things can be stowed and seen and – best of all – the three black-and-white stripey canvas bags for laundry and the like.The whole package is delightful and charming and user-friendly and perfect.

I’d give Stella Sweeney, the heroine of my latest novel,The Woman Who Stole My Life the black grainy leather medium Tabitha. Mostly because I’d love it myself. I think both Stella and I recognise a classic

when we clap eyes on one. This is the most ‘handbag-y’ handbag I’ve ever seen! It’s so ladylike and the size is perfect and the pouch-like shape is adorable and the leather is exquisite and the long handle makes it lovely and swingy and the lips clasp is super-cute and it’s both retro (a bit Mad Men) and totally current.

Yes, I’d definitely give it to Stella. But then I’d probably steal it off her...

Buy Marian's latest book here:


Image credits: Penguin Random House - Photographer Stefan Sieler – Photographer Rosie Hardy – Paramount Pictures