DBF Interviews: Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen

Emer Mclysaght and Sarah Breen photo credit Al Higgins 2Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen are best friends and co-authors of the phenomenally successful Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling and its follow-up, The Importance of Being Aisling – the bestselling fiction titles published in Ireland this century. Emer and Sarah are the creators of the characters and Facebook community that inspired the books, and are currently working with Element Pictures to bring Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling to the silver screen, as well as writing books four and five in the series.

Emer and Sarah will be in conversation with Rick O’Shea on Sunday 17th November. Click here for more details on the event and how to book tickets!

Hi Emer and Sarah. My first question is about your writing process. Do you work together on each chapter or do you each write sections of the book on your own?

We work together to create a rough outline of the entire book and then flip a coin to see who’s going to start. After that, we decide what’s going to happen at the beginning and end of the first few chapters and then go away individually and fill in the blanks. We continue like that, writing alternating chapters, and putting everything into a Google Doc. We usually run into a few continuity problems but other than that it works pretty well! Even our editors admit they can’t tell who wrote what, or even that there are two writers.

It was announced in July that we can expect a total of five books in the series. Did you write the third installment with another two books in mind?

Yes! After the second book, we signed a deal to write three more so we had to ensure the series comes to a satisfying end. We have a very vague arc to work towards but there’s still much of the story up in the air.

After the phenomenal first two books, people’s expectations were high. Did the success of Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling and The Importance of Being an Aisling affect you when you were writing the third book?

Oh absolutely. With every book we write, the anxiety increases. Readers have a real fondness for Aisling and we don’t want to disappoint anyone. 

Because so many people can see parts of themselves in Aisling, and because of the Facebook group, I think many people feel a certain amount of ownership over the characters in the series. Is it difficult to navigate Aisling meaning different things to different people?

Taking Aisling out of the Facebook group and into the novels definitely allowed us to regain a certain ownership of the character. Our Aisling is from the country, because we’re from the country, but we frequently hear from readers who’ve never even been outside of Dublin that they can totally relate to her and we think that’s great.

In Once, Twice, Three Times an Aisling, Aisling has to face growing up and not being where she expected to be in life. How do you see her development so far and can you tell us anything about her further development?

Aisling is coming up to her 30th birthday and she definitely always thought she’d be settled down at this stage in her life. Instead, she’s planning Majella’s hen party and helping with the wedding and the tables being turned certainly leaves her feeling a bit wanting. But that’s life. Nothing is written in stone. Up to this point, things have always worked our fairly well for Aisling so we felt it was time to see her struggle a bit. We find out that she’s not infallible – and that’s okay. 

Tickets to see Sarah and Emer at Dublin Book Festival can be booked here.