“There are two types of holidays with friends for me, the relaxing and the inspiring, and I have to confess that the most inspiring ones are rarely relaxing. This is because they tend to be holidays with bigger groups, and I’m fascinated by the shifting allegiances among people who wouldn’t normally spend more than 24 hours together. I’m also fascinated by the micro battles between the organiser, the objector, the live-wire, the introvert, the live-and-let-live, the worrier, the sightseer and the beach babe that raise the stakes in what will determine a good time away from home. The trick, I’ve found, is to know what you yourself want from the holiday, decide in advance where your red lines are and refuse to stress over your choice not to visit an Irish bar instead of a local taverna, even if it is St Patrick’s Day.
“My most successful holidays with friends, in terms of personal enjoyment, have been ones where we’ve gone our separate ways on some occasions while socialising as a group on others. The least successful have been those where I’ve been persuaded that “this time” I’ll enjoy something like a couple of hours in a karaoke bar when I know it’s my idea of hell on earth.
“However, the least successful in terms of personal relaxation have always been the most successful when it comes to inspiration for my novels. Holidays where people have shown hitherto unknown sides to their characters, confessed to events in their past that have jolted me into realising I never really knew them, and made decisions that ultimately change the course of their lives, have all provided plenty of material for books.
“In recent years, though, I’ve generally opted for tranquillity over inspiration. I holiday with friends I can disagree with and never fall out with. But I continue to shatter the tranquillity of a beautiful holiday location with a life-changing crisis for my fictional characters. I might have figured out how to holiday well. They never will.”
Three Weddings and a Proposal, by Sheila O’Flanagan (Headline Review) is out now.
Main featured image by Imen McDonnell
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