A classic that inspires my work is Alice in Wonderland; its central themes inform much of my novels and I return to them repeatedly. It spoke to me particularly for my new book, In a Thousand Different Ways, and I called my heroine Alice as a nod to my love for that novel.
My characters are often childlike, lost and vulnerable after becoming upended by a challenging life event, and, much like Carroll’s Alice, they have to navigate this new wonderland where normal rules do not apply.
“What is essential to me is that my characters be fundamentally grounded and real; their experiences are ones that readers can connect with and identify with.”Cecelia Ahern
I’m drawn to whimsy and the surreal; I have always found that magic and metaphor can shine a brighter light on human behaviour and the human experience than more linear storytelling. At my best behaved, this produces novels like the romantic and emotional self-development journey that is PS, I Love You, when I fully indulge, it produces my mind-bending, empowering short story collection ROAR.
The absurd has always felt straightforward to me; the distorted visual perception, character alterations, nonsensical language, imposed rules, curious appetites and identity crises, are at the heart of my novels. Tales that play with logic are my translation of life in words.
While I’m drawn to the surreal, I also write with heart and use it to bridge imagination with reality. What is essential to me is that my characters be fundamentally grounded and real; their experiences are ones that readers can connect with and identify with. You cannot be taken down a rabbit hole if you are not invested in the twists and turns of the character’s tumbling, if you do not care how they land or whether they find their way back out again. The next bit of magic is in hoping what the author feels, is absorbed into the page for the reader to feel.
Hope is an integral part of my stories and my Alice’s hope in In a Thousand Different Ways is that she will find a way to navigate her own particular challenges in seeing the world. With each novel I am repeatedly recreating the childhood world, making my adults vulnerable, lost and searching, tumbling into a world that’s nonsensical but which they must navigate and grow in strength as a result of. The happy ending is not to always escape the maze, but to feel hopeful that they can.