Ahern Splash

Cecelia Ahern: Her roar to represent older women in books, film and TV

Bestselling writer Cecelia Ahern, special guest at ieStyle Live From The Couch, on writing life, finding inspiration in the everyday, and why she is passionate about seeing older women represented. 


Denise O’Donoghue

COVER IMAGE- Cecelia Ahern Picture: Matthew Thompson.

A uthor Cecelia Ahern finds inspiration for her writing from unusual places: a throwaway remark sparked the idea for her latest novel, Freckles, while a meeting with a casting agent in LA inspired her collection of short stories, Roar, which focuses on all the ways in which women feel the need to roar in their lives. Roar, she told Sonya Lennon at the ieStyle Live From The Couch event on Friday night, came from a place of frustration.

“I was in LA talking to a casting agent and we were talking about demographics. We were talking about my books and why they're appealing to TV networks, because they're appealing to advertisers. It was just like the most depressing conversation, it didn't feel creative and as lovely as I wanted it to be,” Cecelia said.


“The particular conversation we had, she was telling me about demographics, she stopped at women at 54. I said, ‘well what about women who are over 54?’ And she said, ‘Oh no, there's no demographic for them.’ I thought that was the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, and then I thought well, not only do women report feeling invisible as they get older, and things have changed so much now because this was over 10 years ago, we never really saw older women on TV, or they were there but they weren't the central character and the story was never about them. I was hearing the reasons why: because the advertisers weren’t interested. They couldn't get money out of older women buying things (which I don't believe either).

“So I wrote this story about the woman who slowly disappears. It was about a woman who was in her 50s, she was experiencing menopause, she was going through menopause and felt like she was just disappearing from the world and nobody could see her. That just inspired the 29 other stories that came.


Every time I got irritated or frustrated by something, I just wrote the short story and immediately felt better. It was kind of like therapy for me

You can't let the guilt eat you alive. You do have to do things for yourself as well, so that whole collection meant the world to me.”

Women's March on Washington

Protesters walk during the Women's March on Washington, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, on January 21, 2017 Picture: Mario Tama/Getty Images


at 40, mum-of-three Cecelia hasn’t yet reached the demographic she wanted to connect with through Roar but she struck a chord that rang out. Roar captured attention globally and has been picked up for television in a deal with streaming service Apple TV+. As Sonya Lennon puts it, Cecelia is one of the world’s lucky few to have Nicole Kidman on speed dial as a result.

The eight-episode female-driven anthology will star Nicole Kidman, Cynthia Erivo, Merritt Wever and Alison Brie and Cecelia says she always pictured Roar as a television series but strangely, she has Donald Trump’s inauguration to thank for it finding its way to the screen.

“My timing wasn't [perfect] because it took me about five years [to write Roar]. I really wanted it to be a TV series. It was so visual at first, a real kind of magic metaphor, which I love because it really shines a light on human truth, often more than regular writing. It wasn't working here, people weren't interested.

“I went to LA to have completely different meetings about something else, and Trump had just been inaugurated and the women's marches were happening that week. It was a very heightened, anxious time, a painful and fearful time, but people were ready to get active and do something.


They said to me: ‘What are you most passionate about now?’ I went straight into the Roar stories and honestly, the atmosphere in the room changed. People were crying, people were sharing stories.That’s how Roar finally found its way to the screen. Timing is everything, we know this, but it took me a long time to get my timing right.

Lisa Kudrow, Cecelia Ahern and Hilary Swank.

Lisa Kudrow, Cecelia Ahern and Hilary Swank. "P.S. I Love You." Picture: Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images


Cecelia rose to fame when her debut novel, PS I Love You, shot to the bestsellers list in 2004 and was later adapted into a hit 2007 film, starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. It was the first of many adaptations and since then Cecelia has been published in nearly 50 countries and has sold over 25 million books. Her second novel Where Rainbows End was also adapted for the screen as Love, Rosie featuring Lily Collins and Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank is set to return in the adaptation of her sequel to her blockbuster P.S. I Love You, Postscript.

Having had her work be adapted for screen and after creating and producing Samantha Who? starring Christina Applegate for ABC, Cecelia says it's time for her to “step it up” and she plans to set up her own production company.

“It's taken me long enough, nearly 20 years writing novels and working in TV and film in various different forms, whether it's creating and producing them or just advising. It's time for me to step it up, and I'm very excited.”

Cecelia awards

Cecelia Ahern At The Galaxy British Book Awards 2009, Grovesnor House Hotel, Park Lane, London. Picture: John Phillips/UK Press via Getty Images

Cecilia has an awards shelf worth envying, including the Irish Book Award for Popular Fiction for The Year I Met You. Her fifth novel, Thanks for the Memories, was nominated for Most Popular Book in the British Book Awards in 2008 and in the same year, Cecelia was voted Author of Year in the UK Glamour Women of the Year Awards.

Bertie Ahern, Cecelia Ahern,

Bertie Ahern, Cecelia Ahern, David Keoghan and Miriam Ahern attend the World Premiere of "Love, Rosie" at Odeon West End on October 6, 2014 in London, England. Picture: Dave Hogan/Getty Images)


the daughter of a prominent politician, it would be too easy to introduce Cecelia as the daughter of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who was in office when her first novel was published. However it is more impressive that Cecelia has since stepped out of her father’s shadow and is a well-known figure in her own right and her successes are seen as independent of his career.

She almost followed a different path, having studied journalism and media communications at Griffith College Dublin. However she withdrew from a master's degree course in film production to become a full-time writer. She married husband David Keoghan in 2010 and they have three children together: Robin (11), Sonny (9), and Blossom, who turns two in November.

Nicky Byrne and Georgina Ahern

Nicky Byrne and Georgina Ahern attend the IFTA Gala Television Awards on May 31, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. Picture: Phillip Massey/WireImage

Her father isn’t the only famous face at family gatherings. In 2003, Cecelia’s sister Georgina married Westlife member Nicky Byrne. In fact, her 17th novel, Freckles, was inspired by a remark made by Nicky five years ago which Cecelia describes as “a very polite way of trying to tell me that I'm morphing into my mother”. Nicky mentioned in a conversation with Cecelia that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so choose wisely.” Cecelia describes it as a lightbulb moment.

“You know when you hear something sometimes. It was a simple phrase but it asked so many questions. It’s a Jim Rohn motivational business quote: if you want to be the best then be around the best, basically. It’s that light bulb moment where the whole story sparked from that one phrase.”

Cecelia large

Cecelia Ahern attends a photocall at Edinburgh International Book Festival at Charlotte Square Gardens on August 25, 2016 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images


while Cecelia initially looked inwards, she soon began to wonder about that phrase in a fictional setting and Allegra’s character was born. The novel follows her path after deciding to ‘curate’ the five people she spends the most time with.

“When she hears when she takes it as a guideline. She actually starts examining the five people in her life, what their characters say about who she is, and then she decides to choose a very specific set of five people so that she can curate her life and shape her own identity.


I liked the idea that you can take control of who you are. If you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with then you choose who you are. I have a small group but my core group is strong, I do kind of screen my five people.

She says the core message is that it’s good to surround yourself with uplifting people but you shouldn’t have to change who you are to be happy.

“My character certainly learns that it's about finding people who lift you up, to make you want to eat better, but also by finding a place where you fit in. You shouldn’t have to change yourself to fit in with the average five, you should be able to find your own tribe and that's her mission and my mission.”

In a similar vein, Cecelia says she notices women in particular could describe themselves as different people at different stages in their own lives.

“We have so many roles with different people in our life. You're the wife, you're the mother, you're the friend, the whatever. I'm sure men would say they have the same position but I do think that women have to be a lot of people to different people and we're all the time changing.”

Cecelia Ahern was the special guest at ieStyle Live From The Couch, which you can watch here.

ielive with cecelia

Sonya Lennon, host, greeting best selling author and special guest Cecelia Ahern on Irish Examiner ieStyleLive 2021 at VE Studio, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

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