June 13, 2008 / 1:14 PM / 10 years ago

Author Keyes takes on domestic violence with humor

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Irish author Marian Keyes has had her fair share of personal suffering — alcoholism, depression, suicidal thoughts, rehab — but decided to take on the pain of domestic violence victims in her latest book.

Keyes, 44, considered by some as one of the pioneers of “chick lit,” says she was wary of writing about domestic violence in “This Charming Man,” her ninth novel, which will be released in the United States on Tuesday.

The novel was published in Britain on April 30 and reached No. 1 on The Sunday Times best-seller list.

“I just felt such a huge sense of responsibility and such a terrible need to do it right and a huge fear that I wouldn’t be able to,” Keyes told Reuters in a recent interview. “I felt it was very important I treat this issue with enormous respect.”

“I actually thought I would never write about domestic violence because I knew so little,” she said. “I felt that I had no right to approach something that wasn’t really mine to write about.”

But after much research, Keyes, who has sold more than 15 million books worldwide in more than 30 countries, wrote her latest novel, which tells the tale of four women and how their love for a debonair Irish politician shaped their lives.

“My aim is always to tell a good story, to entertain and I knew I had to walk a fine line, at no stage could I tip over into ranting,” she said.

“I wanted to write about it in a way that women would find accessible,” Keyes said. “I wanted to dispel a lot of the myths some of them being it only happens to women who live in poverty, and it only happens to women who are badly educated.”

“This Charming Man” received warm reviews in Britain. Wendy Holden of the Daily Mail newspaper wrote that it “isn’t always an easy read, but it’s definitely a good one.”

Anne Marie Scanlon of The Sunday Independent said Keyes’ “attention to detail, which along with her humor and intelligence, marks Marian as an outstanding writer and chronicler of our times. It is also just one of the many many things that make ‘This Charming Man’ such a satisfying read.”

Keyes’ first novel was published nearly 13 years ago after she began writing short stories at the age of 30 at a time when she said she was an alcoholic and “extremely suicidal.”

“I do think everything was shutting down in me and all hope of any change was gone and I do think it was some kind of attempt to save myself,” she said. “It was a response that probably wouldn’t have come if I hadn’t been so desperate.”

“I was working as an accounts clerk. I wasn’t one of these people who had 10 half-finished novels in my knickers drawer. (Writing) was so not part of my life,” she said.

After a successful stint in rehab, Keyes said she continued writing, “using humor as a survival mechanism” in her books, most of which have “something very dark at the heart.”

Editing by Eric Beech

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