Say hello to my lockdown book.
It’s That Time of Year was never part of the plan. The plan for my current deal with Hachette was to write two books over two years, one to come out in summer 2020, the next in summer 2021. The first of these, The Restaurant, was published as advertised in June of this year, just when we were all coming out of the first lockdown and allowed back into the bookshops – perfect timing. But a few months before that, the plan had been derailed. Here’s how it happened.
I met my editor in February to talk about the next book, as The Restaurant was pretty much done and dusted by then. This was par for the course, a session to put the old book officially to bed and to begin laying the groundwork for the next. In February, you might remember, we were hearing about a virus that had originated in China and that was now making its way, silently and ominously, across Europe. There were rumblings, there was nervousness, but as yet in Ireland there was no talk of pandemic or lockdown. So there we were, tossing around possible ideas in The Red Cow (I’d bussed up from Limerick) when I mentioned the notion of people all travelling home to Ireland from foreign parts for an occasion. That was as vague as it was then. I had no idea who these people were, or why they were coming back. My editor made the point that it would be a good theme for a Christmas story, since people tended to come home for Christmas. I agreed, but added that I wasn’t writing a Christmas story.
And then we both went quiet.
Reader, this was February. Nearly the end of February, at that. I’d just finished a book, and I was looking forward to a bit of time off, say a month or two, before I’d begin to pull ideas into a plot for the next. The last time I’d had two books out in the same year, 2014, I’d vowed, brain dead and frazzled, never to do it again. And yet, here I was, going quiet. Thinking that maybe I could – and by the look on my editor’s face, she was thinking precisely the same. I promised to consider the possibility, which I did on the bus back to Limerick. By the time we pulled in at my stop in the city centre, I was thoroughly conflicted. I really didn’t want to draw that extra work on myself, but I was also attracted by the notion of another Christmas book, a lovely time to be bringing one out. I decided to let it stew in my head for a bit.
And about a week later, while I was still mulling, Leo Varadkar came on the telly asking us all to please stay at home for the foreseeable future, and my decision was made for me. I called my editor and said I’d give it a go, and then I sat down and concocted a plot – and reader, the book pretty much wrote itself, in record time.
I blame the lockdown – or rather, I credit the lockdown. My day to day schedule was pretty much as it always was when I was writing a book, as in I’d sit down after breakfast and write until I got tired of it, and repeat the following day until the book was done – but the fact that everybody else was also sitting at home, and cars were staying put in driveways, and suddenly you could hear the birds because all the other noises had stopped, all of that seemed somehow to free up more space in my head, and the plot sailed along without the usual glitches and bumps and hiccups. Within three months, I had a passable first draft, and by the beginning of September, after having gone through another draft, and after having cleared the copy editing and proofreading hurdles, it was deemed worthy of publication, and sent to the typesetter. And on October 8 it hit the shelves, a fortnight before we all went into our second lockdown: more fortuitous timing.
The three characters who are returning to Ireland are coming back to celebrate the wedding of Annie, their former foster mother. Not sure where she came from but she’s my age, so there’s probably more than a little bit of me in her. Most of the action takes place over the weekend before Christmas, with flashbacks to Annie’s earlier life, and a final section runs on to Christmas Day of the following year, so readers can see where they’ve all ended up.
I loved writing it. It took the pain out of lockdown. It brought me away from all the anxiety and uncertainty, and threw me into the magic of Christmas, and snow, and lights on holly bushes, even while the sun was beaming in merrily as I typed. I completely avoided any talk of pandemic in the story, thinking it would be the last thing anyone would want to read about while we’re still in the thick of it, so it’s full of hugs and happiness. Of course there are problems to be solved – what would I write about otherwise? – but I ramped up the positive for the times we’re living in. Huge spoiler alert: they all live happily ever after.
Say hello to my lockdown book. I really hope you enjoy it.
(c) Roisin Meaney
About It’s That Time of Year:
It’s the day before the wedding …
Three strangers arrive home to Ireland to the house that gave each of them refuge when they needed it most. They are there to celebrate the winter wedding of their beloved Annie, the woman who fostered them in their childhoods.
Now Julia is a world-famous singer living in luxury in Paris and Eddie is a chef in London, while Steph spends her days on a remote Greek island, running a writers’ retreat with her older lover.
All three have moved on from the past, but as the wedding celebrations get underway, certain truths come to light. It turns out that some hurts last longer than others …
As Annie says ‘I do’, with an unexpected twist for her wedding party, will Julia, Eddie and Steph discover their own happy-ever-afters in time for Christmas Day? It’s That Time of Year is the spellbinding, warm-hearted new novel from one of Ireland’s best-loved writers.
Order your copy online here.