There’s a lot of bad words being thrown around right now. Economic downturn, recession, brain drain... none of which are the most inspiring or life-affirming terms. In a motivational meeting they’d probably be about as welcome as Shane McGowan in a Colgate commercial.
Sometimes though the cause can occasionally lead to a positive effect.
In the case of emigration it can lead to marriages, friendships and a welcome broadening of horizons. Job loss can also force a dramatic career change. When God closes a shop door he sometimes opens a window or gets you a book deal.
Olive Collins was working at her own marketing and advertising company when the cold wind of recession blew through her doors, or at least closed them. So instead she set out in January of this year to get her first book published. Within two weeks she had an offer from the Irish publishers Book Republic.
The seeming overnight nature of this success, as always, is somewhat misleading. The deal was the realisation of a dream she’d had since she was a child but also one she’d been working on her whole life.
In the case of her debut novel “Lucinda’s List” which is launched in Barker & Jones Bookshop in Naas on Thursday next June 9 - she had been trying to get it published for nearly two years without success. In fact the recession might have played its part here too, though not in a good way.
“If the downturn hadn’t have kicked in I’d say it would have been published two years ago. The fiction market is down about 30 per cent and they were just terrified to touch any new author.”
A talkative bubbly character in her late thirties, Collins clearly has relish for life which often leads the immersive writer to assume the personalities of the characters she writes about. Kind of like a literary version of Daniel Day-Lewis.
“Sometimes I get too absorbed in it. “Crochet with Kurt Cobain” is a quirky little book I just finished, it’s about a self obsessed 20-year-old student. I was so caught up in it that one day I was walking to the car shaking my head like your one [the main character] thinking I was a fashion model.”
Then there is the other side of the coin. She’s recently been working on bi-polar character.
“Oh my God,” she begins, “it was such a struggle.
“I remember one day having to get out of the chair to collect someone at the train station and I was driving down the road and I felt as if my life was so bleak. A friend of mine from Clane Writer’s Group actually said you’ve got to stop working on this character.” Laughing, she adds, “I probably don’t sound too sane now.
“Lucinda’s List” tells the story of four friends, one of whom has an affair with one of her best friend’s brothers. It is a book principally dealing with the idea of friendship and forgiveness. The Naas native is quick to point out though that it is not purely a chick-lit light read.
“The book starts off with her [the woman who had the affair] writing this suicide note and the first chapter finishes not knowing if she’ll live or die. It’s a very varied book, it’s about real people.”
In fact the book was too grim for some publishers, with one apparently turning it down because of a “subtle dark undertone” which runs throughout the narrative.
Collins has experienced her own dark days particularly in the bleak greyness of January this year when her business ceased trading and it seemed no-one was interested in her book.
Alone with her thoughts she started to believe her dream had been nothing more than that, she would never get published, and as her blog puts it would become “one of those bitter old women sinking pints of larger bellowing insults at anyone else gaining success.”
Suitably for a book based around the merits of friendship it was a close friend who turned things around.
“I have a very good friend, Tom Ryan, who had read the book. He rang me one morning around the end of January and it was freezing cold and said, ‘now Olive we have to get your book out there.’”
They had a long motivational conversation, though the friend didn’t quite understand the power his words had on her.
“I put the phone down that morning and got in contact with all these agents and everybody and about a week after that I sent it to John Mooney from Book Republic. I was gobsmacked when he rang me back.”
Suitably shocked, she set about scrubbing the floors.
The book deal was the end of a journey which had seen her fleet feet take in the banking sector of London, the kibbutzm of Israel - where she lived for nine months - and the islands of Thailand. Her visit there just happened to coincide with the country’s worst natural disaster in its history.
She was staying on one of the islands in a small hut just off the beach around the time the Tsunami wave hit. However a burnt leg from a recent jaunt on a moped meant she cut her trip short and she left the island to return to Bangkok to get her swollen leg checked out a day or so before the disaster struck.
She was in the Khaosan Road when she heard the news. “It was only as the days unfolded that I realised how lucky I’d been.”
The island she’d been on had been one of the many decimated, her small hut no doubt swirling in pieces in the murky wreckage of the waves.
Olive Collins debut novel “Lucinda’s List is launched by Eileen Keane in Barker & Jones, Naas on June 9 at 7pm.