Interview: Sarah Breen & Emer McLysaght (“Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling”)

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Who says hangovers are always a bad thing? If it wasn’t for hung over Sunday afternoons we may never have met Aisling!

Sarah Breen and Emer McLysaght met while studying media at Ballyfermot College and went on to become flat mates who spent many a hungover Sunday, “under blankets, eating beige foods, watching reality TV and talking complete nonsense!”

Some of the ‘nonsense’ included very detailed talk about this stereotypical Irish girl they had been noticing around town, a girl they decided to name Aisling.

They called her Aisling “because it’s a very common Irish name” Emer says. “It could have been Emer, Deirdre, Ciara, Madhbh. It was just one of the first ones that came to mind. It wasn’t a particular reason.”

Sarah adds, “What we did like about Aisling is that it’s the kind of name that is spelled wrong a lot, and Aisling loves the fact that it is very Irish. It’s Irish for dream. So when people Anglicise it, and spell it Ashling, she is not very happy.”

So what is an ‘Aisling’? In the girls’ words, Aisling is “the kind of girl who maybe comes from down the country, but she can be from Dublin as well. She never gets into any trouble; she always has trolley tokens and bags for life; any match she could get to in Croke Park, she would get to that and she always brings a change of shoes to work. So she always wears her runners to work, walks really fast, and brings her court shoes/mini high heels in a bag to work with her – always a battered Brown Thomas bag that she bought something in a few months ago”

Emer and Sarah have gone from hangover talk about Aisling to over 40,000 Facebook followers on the fan page,  to now having a successful novel, which has already gone into a second print run, before it has even been officially launched!

“We started the Facebook page just to share little “Aislingisms” with our friends. They would think ones up or they would say “Oh I did something so Aisling today”. Because it was about 10 years ago, there were no whats app group, there wasn’t facebook personal messages. So, it was just with a few friend – 15/20 friends. They then invited a few friends, then they told more friends and everyone got it. So as they got it it grew. But it took 10 years to go from me and Sarah, to 40,000. And then sometimes someone well known, or someone on the radio would mention it and we would see an influx, and it just sort of grew legs.” Emer says

Sarah adds, “The publisher came to us last summer. They had been observing the page and they knew the character of Aisling had such potential. We did as well. We had a TV show in development a few years ago. Nothing happened but we knew we could do something with her.”

“So they approached us and said, ‘would you like to put something down on paper’. We jumped at the chance. They gave us free reign to do what we wanted.”

“The easiest thing to do would have been to do a kind if compendium of “Aislingisms” – the kind of thing you panic buy on Christmas Eve and end up in charity shops in January. That would have been the easiest thing to do, but we’re so fond of Aisling and we relate to her so closely that we didn’t want to cheapen it. We wanted to do a full novel that we knew the people in the Facebook group would love, but also would be accessible to everyone outside of the Facebook. We think even people who have never heard of Aisling could still pick it up and enjoy it. And they do, they’ve all gotten it.”

It’s hard enough to write a novel when you’re on your own, but how do two people successfully write a novel? Did they have to sit down and write it together?

“No, that would have taken a hundred years! We tried that a few times and it just didn’t work. It took too long and it was to frustrating” laughs Sarah.

Emer says, “We never really butted heads. What we would do was meet once to twice a week and we would discuss what was going to happen in the next couple of chapters and then we would go away and say you write that chapter and I’ll write that one and we would come back together next week and see what we would have. So we would know the basics of what was going to happen. But then Sarah would give me her chapter and I would go – I like what you did there, or I like this character and then we would run with it, and that’s how we did it.”

Sarah admits, “There were also problems with that method because there were continuity issues. If Asiling was going on holidays, I would write a whole chapter about the hotel and then Emer would have her in an apartment building, because that would be just one detail that we hadn’t ironed out.”

“Oh My God What A Complete Aisling – The Novel” has been getting rave reviews from all who have read it, including some very popular, chart topping, authors. Which reaction has had the girls pinching themselves?

Both Sarah and Emer screech in unison. “It has to be Marian Keyes. She is one of our heroes. When we were students we would have read all of her books. We would have lent them to each other. She has tweeted and done a little vlog about the book and how much she loves it and how it’s made her cry. She has also been in touch with us privately. She’s so supportive.”

But it hasn’t only been Marian Keyes who has been raving about the book, Ross O’Carroll Kelly’s Paul Howard, and Louise O’Neil have also been telling everyone how much they love the book.

Louise tweeted, “that her father kept sending her out of the room (when she was reading the book) because she kept snorting with laughter. But then she also said she cried”

Sarah says, “We’ve had a lot of criers. I think that’s a sign of a good book. I know I enjoy a book that makes me laugh and cry.”

What would Aisling make of all of this success?

The girls both agree that “She would be delighted! The thing about Aisling is that she is that friend who’s always just so happy for everyone. We see more of that in the book as well. I think people feel that we are just slagging off Aisling but that is really not the case. In the book we really get to know her and her motivations. She’s that friend on a night out who is minding the handbags, who gives you your glass of water the next morning, so she’d be delighted.”

What’s next for Aisling?

Sarah admits that they’re not quite sure yet. “ The fact that it is a book has blown our minds. We’ve had interest from a TV production company. It’s actually one in the UK. But we are very protective of it.”

“We’ve had a chance to do things in the past which we’ve declined, and if we’re going to do something on the screen, small or big, because we have a meeting with a film production company as well, we would want it to be the best that it could be. We wouldn’t just sign up to do something just for the sake of it. We want this to be good!”

No doubt, whatever comes next  is going to be better than good.

While we wait for Aisling’s next incarnation, you can read all about her adventures as, “Oh My God What A Complete Aisling – the novel”, is in book stores now!

About The Bellissimo Files

Hi, I’m Sarina Bellissimo and this is the place I come to indulge in my love of all things entertainment. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by all things Hollywood/showbiz. I blame my parents! As a child my mum used to force me to watch old Elvis Presley films with her, and both my mum & dad would take my brothers and I to the Drive-In to watch the latest films (this is where my love for ROCKY began!). When not watching movies, I was trying to figure out ways to pull the back off the TV so I could somehow get into it and be a part of all the action on the screen! This blog isn’t a place that revels in gossip and negativity. It’s a place where entertainment is celebrated. That said, this is a place you can turn to for honesty. Honesty and criticism don’t always mean attacks. I choose to criticise the piece of work but not the person and I acknowledge that just because I don’t like something, it doesn’t mean someone else won’t. Here you’ll find interviews with some of the biggest names in the world of Entertainment, reviews, breaking news and my very own musings. Away from The Bellissimo Files, you can find me on Spin 1038 on Saturdays, between 1pm and 3pm,presenting Plan B. There’s celebrity interviews, entertainment news, the low down on the must see movies and music releases of the week, the ultimate guide to what’s on where in the city, as well as masterclasses with experts on standby to answer listeners’ questions. I also appear on TV3’s “Elaine” panel, talk movies on “Ireland AM” and you can sometimes hear me filling in on Moncrieff’s “Movies and Booze “(Newstalk) The Bellissimo Files is constantly evolving. Files (topics) will be added or deleted as time goes on. Feel free to read, watch, comment, share, and make suggestions for what you would like to see on the site. Sarina
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