Writer’s Block With Zoë Miller

SOPHIE GRENHAM talks to author ZOË MILLER about her faraway BOOK LOCATIONS, secrets in Ireland and becoming a full-time author …

Photograph by Kevin Morris

Ever since Zoë Miller first charmed audiences with her debut, Guilty Secrets in 2009, the bestselling scribe has impressively produced a staggering nine titles to date. Armed with an admirable knack for concocting exciting plots and believable characters with the right dose of mystery, it’s no wonder that Zoë is onto a winning formula. Her novels have featured some of the world’s most beautiful locations, including Hong Kong, Paris, Rome and Sorrento.

Zoë’s latest offering, A House Full of Secrets, looks set to be her biggest hit yet. When opportunity knocks for Londoner Vikki Gordon to spend the weekend with love interest Niall Blake at his family home, she grabs it with both hands. Zoë is no stranger to cooking up some juicy twists for her readers to feast on and the Blake family’s shady past is no exception.

The Irish Independent has previously called Zoë’s work ‘A high-voltage blend of drama, intrigue and suspense…full of twists and turns.’ Zoë has written all her life, with a career that includes freelance journalism and award-winning short fiction. She has worked in communications, personal development and information security for many years but recently left to become a full-time author.

Zoë lives in Dublin with her husband and has three children. She is currently writing her tenth novel. A House Full of Secrets (€12.74) is published by Hachette Ireland and available in bookshops nationwide.

On home

I live with my husband in Knocklyon, south county Dublin, in a large housing estate, but we’re particularly fortunate to be situated in a quiet cul-de-sac facing a small green, with a beautiful view of the foothills of the Dublin mountains. Our surrounding neighbourhood consists of a small convenience shopping centre and a growing jungle of housing estates. We’re close to the M50, which is either a blessing or a nuisance, depending on the prevailing commuter traffic. My daily life is in transition at the moment, because I have recently given up the day job to concentrate on a full-time writing career and I’m still finding my feet in this new space. Up to now, life has been a tight juggling act, with little time for café or pub trips. I drive to the nearest supermarkets at least twice a week, which are Supervalu and Lidl. We go out occasionally for meals and we tend to go to Rage Restaurant in Blackrock. The owners are friends of ours and we love their chargrilled steaks and relaxed ambience.

On roots

I grew up on Herberton Road, close to the South Circular Road in Dublin 8. I’m the eldest of five children, so the house was always lively and noisy, with school bags and jackets in the hall and myriad aromas of cooking and cleaning. During my childhood my father was a photographer who worked from home and some of my earliest memories are of the dark room upstairs, the scent of the chemicals, and the magic of watching a small spool of negative film being turned into photographs.

On creating

I have always written at home. I need my own quiet place to put the words together. When my daughters moved out I took over their room immediately as my creative space, where I have a desk close to the window – with a lovely view. I’m a terrible hoarder. There are shelves jammed with books, a windowsill strewn with scented candles, sea shells and beach pebbles. Other spaces are taken up with CD’s I listen to while I write, special greeting cards, family photographs, motivational messages, a Degas print that used to hang in the sitting room on Herberton Road, and a piece of wood from my first desk, which my father made me aeons ago. I also have two filing cabinets that are crammed with notes and various files and stationery. The room needs a major tidy and de-clutter, something I haven’t had time for in the last few years. I’ve spent the last few years going straight from the day job to the splendid isolation of the writing room, with little spare time to circulate or engage with my contemporaries in the world of writing. I hope to rectify that over the coming months, thanks to the array of festivals and events that take place in this great country of ours on a regular basis.

On bookshops

I love the Gutter bookshop in Cow’s Lane for its bright, airy, feel-good look, great book displays and amazing stationery. I also have a huge fondness for the newly extended Books Upstairs in D’Olier Street. When browsing around their fantastic array of books I always feel there’s some treasure waiting to be found, and there’s a rather marvellous café on the first floor with beautiful stained glass windows and other original features. It makes me feel good just to sit there with a coffee.

On her nightstand

I have a gargantuan to-be-read pile crying out for attention, but my current priorities are, The Trespasser by Tana French – because I adore her writing and have devoured all her books. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne – because it came highly recommend by several people. The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain – again, on recommendation.

On escapes

I’ve been fortunate to have holidayed in many different countries, and I have loved various aspects of each, between the culture, the landscape, and the exotic vibe. For me, the very experience of getting on a plane and heading away can be a wonderful escape in itself. But nothing beats Ireland for a total chill-out and peaceful relax, with our warm friendly people, great food, and fabulous scenery, all within easy reach. A two-night staycation in a relaxing hotel can work wonders for your flagging spirit.

On book locations

I was in Hong Kong about ten years ago, and my impressions were of a wonderful, crazy, exciting city, full of immense contrasts, buzzing with vibrancy. Hong Kong harbour is amazing; the evening-time symphony of harbour lights are breathtakingly beautiful, the ferry ride across the harbour was ridiculously cheap but a humongous feast for the senses and delight for the soul. Travelling up to The Peak on the tram was another unforgettable experience. Of all the foreign locations I’ve used, I think Hong Kong was my favourite, although Rome comes a close second, for the relaxed warmth of it all and the fabulous sense of being so close to the ancient grandeur it once personified.

On secrets

I think Ireland is such a small country, we’re all just a few steps removed from one another’s third cousin, so secrets and scandals (which are part of the human condition worldwide) have a habit of being found out. Naturally, being so close to each other, we can’t help having a personal interest in all the juicy gossip and word can get around very rapidly. Added to our propensity for story-telling, and ability to embellish a tale and it’s no wonder there is plenty of scandal being aired.

@SophieGrenham

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