Author Cecelia Ahern visits Preston and reveals secret to her success

Cecelia Aherne
Cecelia Aherne
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If you have ever wondered what success smells like, here is your answer.

Lime, basil and mandarin, in the shape of a Jo Malone scented candle.

And this is not even an ad, it is a fact, as Cecelia Ahern is the proof in the pudding.

The multi-million book selling author from Dublin was in Preston to talk to her fans about latest work, Perfect, the second in her Young Adult series painting a portrait of a dystopian, exaggerated, critical, world.

Interestingly, considering this YA label, few in the room are aged under 30, with Cecilia herself at age 35 and a married mum-of-two, one of the younger set in the wood-panelled faded grandeur of Lancashire’s County Hall.

But then as she explains, her latest work- out on April 1 - is not intended to be only read by young people.

Instead it was her conviction the story should be told from a 17-year-olds perspective that qualifies it into this category.

The themes, of a judgemental society and self-discovery, are as relevant at any age and echo the cruelties and prejudices through history.

In Flawed people are physically marked for their mistakes in a clear echoes of wartime treatment of Jews.

But it is testament to her success, which began with her breakthrough novel, P.S I love you, written in her early 20s after completing an undergraduate degree in journalism, that she has such a loyal fan base from across the ages.

Revealing to the rapt Preston audience that she writes every day after lighting a scented candle, ideally the aforementioned Jo Malone lime-based classic, it is clear that writing is her life.

Cecelia, daughter of the former Taoiseach of Ireland Bertie Ahern and sister-in-law of Westlife’s Nicky Byrne – married to her sister Georgia, originally wrote P.S I love you as a muddled and directionless 20-something, never realising it would change her life forever.

Within months she had a book deal and withdrew from her Masters in Journalism.

The younger Cecelia wrote by night and slept by day, a pattern she has been forced to alter with the arrival of her family – husband David, daughter Robin and son, Sonny.

Now she takes herself away to her own office from 10 until five, before returning home to what she described as her ‘real life’, a separation essential to prevent the boundaries from becoming blurred.

She told her fascinated Preston audience about the world her first book catapulted her into, from worldwide writing success to the world of Hollywood film sets and premieres – even a cameo in one film until she developed what she described as ‘twitchy face’ meaning her acting efforts in Love, Rosie ended up on the cutting room floor.

But Cecelia’s success was the stuff of dreams when P.S I love you became a Hollywood blockbuster, with a starry cast including Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler.

It led her into opportunities including writing several US TV series, including Samantha Who? Starring Christina Applegate.

Her second book, Where Rainbows End, was also turned into a film (Love, Rosie) starring Lily Collins.

She has more than a dozen novels to her name and has sold more than 25 million copies of these worldwide.

Despite all this massive success it is clear that the friendly and smiling Cecelia is very much down to earth.

After a long day visiting schools across the county including Westholme in Blackburn, and despite a slight cold, she nevertheless chats away and signs books on a rainy Tuesday evening in Preston before hopping on a train to the location for her next event.

The sweet smell of success?

Hard work, with an aroma of lime.