Shape I'm In: Bestselling author Liz Nugent

Irene Feighan speaks to author Liz Nugent about her recovery following a three-month stay in hospital last year.
Shape I'm In: Bestselling author Liz Nugent

My success is down to a lot of luck, bestselling author Liz Nugent tells Irene Feighan

On the Mend: Author Liz Nugent is continuing to recover following a fall last year which lead to a three-month stay in hospital.
On the Mend: Author Liz Nugent is continuing to recover following a fall last year which lead to a three-month stay in hospital.

Liz Nugent’s latest book Our Little Cruelties went straight to the top of the bestsellers’ list. But of course. She’s known for her fast-paced ‘domestic noir’ stories, featuring complex characters and gasp-inducing plot twists.

The reviews have been uniformly glowing, from Graham Norton’s ‘...part rollercoaster, part maze. Loved it’; to a reader’s ‘Pure shook! Outstanding read 10/10’.

Pre-lockdown, the Dubliner was looking forward to doing the rounds of Irish literary festivals but all have been either deferred or cancelled. “I would go from one to the other. If I was in West Cork, I would stay there for a week and travel around. What I wouldn’t give to be there now.”

What shape are you in?

Not great because I haven’t been able to have physiotherapy for the past six weeks. That’s really important at this stage of recovery. I tripped on a deck outside a friend’s house on a Sunday morning and spent 12 weeks in hospital, November, December and January.

I’ve upped the level of my drugs because I suffer from really bad spasms in my right leg [due to dystonia] and I’m doing everything I can to stop those. I’m trying my hardest to get the medication balance right. I don’t want to be taking painkillers all the time. They are all codeine based and very addictive.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I replace one meal every day with a smoothie — watermelon, grapefruit, banana, fresh root ginger, yogurt and a handful of ice cubes all chucked into a blender. It’s magic and very filling.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

A packet of Super Noodles with grated cheese. Or Bird’s Eye potato waffles. Total comfort food.

What would keep you awake at night?

Pain, occasionally. But I sleep really well. I used to have chronic insomnia because I was in the wrong job [in RTÉ] and I was unhappy there. And as soon as I quit, I slept like a baby.

How do you relax?

I read. I’m in the middle of Donal Ryan’s new book — it’s fantastic. The way he captures these small lives, these small towns is extraordinary.

And watch TV — I just finished Ozark and Unorthodox. I’m not a physical person. I can’t go off and play tennis or sail, or do any of those things.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Marian Keyes, Frank McGuinness, Sinead Moriarty, Claudia Caroll, Sabastian Barry, Bob Johnston of the Gutter Bookshop. Donal Ryan and his wife Anne Marie.

What’s your favourite smell?

Anything cooking with garlic. I made a shepherd’s pie recently and I put garlic and cheese in the potato topping — it was absolutely divine. I’m getting very inventive in my boredom.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I would like to have a leg that walks in a straight line.

What traits do you least like in others?

Stinginess and lack of hygiene. It takes five minutes to have a shower — there is no excuse not to take one every day.

What trait do you least like about yourself?

I have to admit to a little jealousy over other people’s success, which is ridiculous because I’ve been so phenomenally successful myself. A lot of that was down to luck and not talent at all.

I got the right agent, I got the right editor, and I got the right publishers.

Do you pray?

No. I’m an atheist.

What would cheer up your day?

A surprise kiss from my husband, Richard, or an unexpected meal prepared by him. I’m very lucky. He does all those little things that mean so much. And he’s extremely thoughtful.

What quote inspires you the most?

It’s from Goethe: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.’

Where is your favourite place in the world?

It’s Ireland. If plane travel was banned it wouldn’t depress me because we live in the most beautiful country in the world. I would be really annoyed if I had to stay in Dublin for the rest of my life because now that I’m not allowed out I think of all the places I haven’t been.

I have never really explored Donegal, for example, and there is so much of it.

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