Author Features

MEET: Beth O’Leary

Beth writes her books in the English countryside with a very badly behaved golden retriever.

Last Updated on May 20, 2022 by BiblioLifestyle

Beth O'Leary
The No-Show by Beth O'Leary

What was the last book that you read that you’d now recommend?

I recently finished Bolu Babalola’s Honey & Spice, and it’s fantastic – beautifully written, funny and just so romantic.  There is sizzling chemistry between the two leads.


Have you read any classics lately that you were reading for the first time?

Actually, the most recent book I’ve read that is probably considered a classic of its genre is Your Baby, Week by Week! (I’m a new mum.) I haven’t picked up classic literature in a long time – I always have a huge pile of ARCs to read, and now that I have a baby, my reading time seems to have evaporated.


Do you re-read books? And if yes, what was your last re-read?

Absolutely, I am a serial re-reader. There’s something so comforting about returning to a book I know I love. Pride and Prejudice is a favorite, but I also love to re-read novels I was captivated by as a kid: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullmanthe Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce.


What are your go-to genres?

Romance, definitely. I am a romance writer and a romance reader! But I do sometimes get in a reading rut and at those times I often reach for different genres: a clever, character-driven thriller, or perhaps a historical novel.


What is your favorite childhood book?

As a very young child, I loved the Brambley Hedge books by Jill Barklem. They’re these cute little books about mice living inside a tree, with one volume for each season. What drew me to them was the illustrations – they are incredibly intricate and detailed, and I used to stare at them and invent my own stories for the characters, imagining what might be happening in those drawings.


What books are on your bedside table right now?

On my bedside table right now is Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes. I was nervous to start this one as Rachel’s Holiday is one of my favorite books, and it’s a sequel to that, but I’m about one hundred pages in right now and I already know it won’t disappoint me. She’s such a brilliant writer.


Do you bookmark or dogear your page in a book?

I sometimes fold down the corners of pages (very neatly!) if there are particularly beautiful or funny lines that I loved. But otherwise, I’m a bookmark person. My husband doesn’t use a bookmark at all, he just remembers which page he’s on – I find this totally bizarre!


What is your ideal reading setting?

My ideal reading spot is lying under a blanket on the sofa with a large cup of tea. When I settle into this position my dog always comes trotting over to sit beside the sofa so I can scratch her ears while I read.


Tell us about your favorite indie bookstore?

Pritchards Bookshop in Liverpool, England, is probably my all-time favorite indie bookshop. It’s the friendliest, warmest place you can imagine. I first visited it as a debut author traveling around the UK to tell booksellers about The Flatshare – I had such imposter syndrome, and I’ll always remember how the team there sat me down with a cup of tea and made me feel completely at home.

Pritchards Bookshop in Liverpool, England

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

One of my earliest and most meaningful book-related memories is the times my dad got home from work just in time to read me a story. I can see it like a snapshot in my mind: his feet in socks and sandals, crossed at the ankles as he settled down beside me with the book between us. Reading was something we shared – a way to connect.


What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I’ve never traveled anywhere specifically to follow in the footsteps of a character or writer, but there are so many places that feel like particular books for me. Standing on a moorland, I’ll always think of the Brontes; pacing through the narrow streets of the city of London never fails to take my mind to Dickens.


Where do you get most of your writing and editing done?

At my desk, which is a clean, simple white space looking out at the trees that surround our cottage. I am naturally quite untidy, but my desk is always pristine – perhaps when my book is feeling chaotic, I need the space around it to be organized.


Does writing energize or exhaust you?

When writing is going well, it is a total rush. There’s nothing quite like it. I feel as though my mind is flying, that I’m falling in love with every character, that I’m not writing but discovering something. At those times, writing it absolutely energizing. But then there are the days when the book isn’t working, and it’s like falling out with your best friend. Plugging away at a first draft when you know you’ve gone wrong somewhere is definitely exhausting, but sometimes it’s the only way to figure things out.


How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I honestly couldn’t tell you – there are so many. I finished five novels before The Flatshare (my debut published book), and there are maybe… fifty unfinished stories on my hard drive somewhere, from the last fifteen years? Even now that writing is my job, I still start stories and then abandon them. I just can’t always tell whether an idea is the one without diving in.


Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I try not to read my reviews, because even the amazing ones will get in my head (oh, they enjoyed that about it – well, they won’t like my next book, because that doesn’t have anything like that in it…). But when a bad one sneaks through, if it upsets me, I usually call a writer friend to talk it out. Other writers always get what it feels like!

My favourite kinds of reviews are messages from readers who want to tell me what the book meant to them, that it kept them up all night, that it whisked them away from a difficult week. Those messages remind me what a joyful thing it is to share stories with people.


If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Write the way you read: for pleasure, for escapism, for joy. And don’t feel embarrassed that you write novels. One day, people will think that’s really cool.


When you’re not reading or writing, what are you doing?

Cuddling my son, walking my dog, baking something completely unnecessarily elaborate with too many kinds of buttercream.


What are your three favorite things right now?

My morning coffee, vintage clothes, and the Tomy hide-and-squeak eggs (they keep my baby entertained for hours on end).


Your favorite travel destination and why?

Provence, France. We used to go there every year with my family, so it holds a special place in my heart.


What’s your favorite meal and go-to drink order?

A non-alcoholic beer and macaroni cheese.

author feature Beth O'Leary

What six people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner a party?

My granny, Helena, who loved a party; Jane Austen, who I just know I’d get on well with; my friend Nupur, who lives across the other side of the world now, and who I miss enormously; Gillian McAllister, my work-wife, who I don’t get to see enough; Marian Keyes, because I want to pick her brains; and my sister Ellen, because she knows me inside out, and if I need to slip away for some introvert time, she’ll cover for me.


If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be, who would play you?

It would be a rom-com, I hope, because otherwise I’m unlikely to watch it. As for who would play me… Emma Watson would be a dream.


What’s the last TV show or movie you watched that was really good?

Bridgerton season 2, but you all already knew that was great.


You have to sing karaoke; what song do you pick?

I actually sang Dolly Parton’s Jolene at karaoke through floods of tears after getting my first US book deal! So that song will always be my karaoke song now.


If you were being taken to a deserted island and could only bring one book, what would it be?

I am going to cheat and bring the complete works of Jane Austen. If it’s all in one volume, it counts as one book, right?

The No-Show by Beth O'Leary

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