Inspired by the experiences of radio presenter Ciara King, Ciara’s Diary is a funny and nostalgic account of a teenager growing up in rural Ireland. Covering the late 90’s and early 2000’s, it documents the universal teenage themes of unrequited love, dealing with parents and a longing to be far, far away. It began as a popular radio segment (Ciara is one half of 2FM's Chris and Ciara) before making its way into book form. It’s brimming with cultural references that will transport you back and have you wondering what ever happened Mark McCabe or are TLC still touring? It’s clever and witty and the chapter titles (e.g. Frigid Jones’ Diary, Lover’s Spliff) are worth the price alone. We asked Ciara about writing the book and whether there may be more to come in the future.
How much of Ciara's Diary is autobiographical?
There are some pieces of the diary that are semi- autobiographical. The chapter where I go to Slane to see Robbie Williams in 1999 was based on my first big music gig. I also was the first altar girl in the parish alongside my cousin, but other than that it is all based on teenage experiences that we have all had like unrequited love, wanting to get out of double Maths, finding your parents really annoying, thinking that you were meant for bigger things than this small town etc. I also think there might be a reference to a pet snail called "Billy the Whizz" in the book, and that's a shout out to my brother as he genuinely did have a pet snail ironically called "Billy the Whizz"!
Following on from that, were you worried about your friends and neighbours thinking that you were referring to them?
Yes, and It's so funny, as people that I went to school with who I haven't seen or talked to in ages are suddenly getting in contact congratulating me on the book and then adding "Are you going to mention me in it?!" My brother was on to me from Chicago asking was he a character in the book and my best friends have all, on the sly, asked is there anything about them in the book! My mother is also getting questions about whether it is real or not! It's not! It's fictional! Everyone I know is safe! Ciara's Diary the book at times can be a little dark, so my dark sense of humour is shining through too! Maybe that's not something people would have known about me either!
How did you find the writing process? Did you go back and listen to any of the radio bits to refresh your memory? Or did you still have a lot of it written down?
This is no word of a lie, but I have been writing Ciara's Diary out BY HAND on refill pads for the past 6 years for the radio segment. So when it came to putting the book together, I had it all there except I had to type everything up from scratch, but I think that was actually a good thing as I didn't miss anything and found it easier to create the book around what I already had. In the end, we had so much material that we had to cut it down to 70,000 words, so trying to figure out what to cut from the book was initially hard, but then I just had to get ruthless, so a lot of "Ciara's Diary" ended up on the cutting room floor, but I'm really glad that everything that is in the book made it into the book for the final edition.
What films stand out for Ciara from that period? Who were her favourite actors?
There are so many movie mentions in the book! Off the top of my head "Fight Club", "Notting Hill", "In The Name of The Father", "Brokedown Palace", "Michael Collins", "The Beach", "The Sixth Sense" etc etc. Daniel Day Lewis is teenage Ciara's favourite actor (and adult Ciara too) and she also totally fancies Leonardo DeCaprio, but that was more about his looks than his acting skills at that stage in her life!
Why do you think people relate to Teenage Ciara so much?
People relate to Ciara's Diary because she is an every girl in a lot of senses. She also goes through what every other teenager of that generation and other generations go through. We all wanted someone to shift us, we all were trying to find our way in life, our friends are our life, everything seems so dramatic, we were all trying to get a hold on our hormones while not really understanding what was going on. No matter what part of the country you grew up in, in Ireland, we all basically had the same upbringing, so people can relate to that too. Who ever liked going to double Maths on a Monday morning either?!
It feels like Teenage Ciara has plenty of stories up her sleeve. Might there be an Early Twenties Ciara? Would you like to write another book?
Ciara's Diary the book finishes up when teenage Ciara is just finished the Leaving Cert around the same time that Roy Keane left Saipan, and she is heading to do Arts in NUI Galway that September. I have written a lot of diary entries that deal with Ciara moving into Galway City attending college for the first time and ending up sharing a flat with Lucy, and Lucy's older brother who is the object of her affection throughout the first book, so I think there could be something there. Who knows! Even I want to know what happens next! I'm dying to know whether teenage Ciara eventually loses her virginity too!
Ciara’s Diary, published by Gill Books, is priced €14.99 and available in all good bookshops.
(Head shot by Ruthless Imagery)