Crime novelist Andrea Mara spent 17 years working in financial services and started a blog called officemum.ie in 2013 about the juggling of parenthood and work. After being laid off in 2015, she became a full-time freelance writer. She then published her first novel, The Other Side of the Wall, in 2018. Her latest book, Hide and Seek, was shortlisted for Crime Fiction Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. Mara lives in Dublin with her husband Damien and their three children.
You worked in financial services for a long time before turning to writing. Did you have to make financial sacrifices during this career change?
Yes. Mainly because at the time I hadn’t started writing fiction, I had no contract, and no prospect of a stable income. My husband and I did the math over and over and still couldn’t be sure we would get it right, but we decided to give it a try for six months to see how it would turn out. With the cushion of severance pay, which we put towards our mortgage, and no childcare costs, it wasn’t as difficult as we had anticipated.
What have you found most difficult financially – the recession or the Covid-19 crisis?
Recession. My husband and I worked in financial services and were worried about losing our jobs. We cut wherever we could, but our two biggest monthly payments – our mortgage and childcare costs – were unavoidable.
Has your family been affected by the spike in inflation and the energy crisis?
We’re trying to cut down on expense and power consumption – extra jumpers, heaters to plug in when it’s really cold, and giving up my really bad habit of boiling the kettle at least three times before making a cup of tea.
What is the most expensive place you have ever visited?
I went to Copenhagen about 15 years ago and everything I bought – every coffee, every glass of wine – made my stomach clench in terror. It’s such a beautiful city and well worth the visit, but I relied heavily on the instant coffee in the hotel room to sustain me.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about money?
I’m not good at seeking – or listening to – financial advice. But luckily my husband is good at switching providers whenever there’s a better deal. He goes around insurance, energy, broadband, waste disposal, etc., to benefit from new customer offers.
Besides real estate, what is the most expensive thing you have ever bought?
My MacBook Air. I think it was around €1,000. I bought it back when I got laid off from financial services and started what I hoped would become a career in writing. Seven years later, it’s still working fine, and when it needs to be replaced, I’ll go for a Mac again.
What was your biggest financial mistake?
It’s more of a group of errors with a theme – a rice maker, a slow cooker, a waffle maker and a mini chopper. And Eircom shares, of course.
Do you have a pension?
I have a pension that I started at my old job when I was about 28. I no longer contribute. Every once in a while I get emails from the pension company asking if I’d like to make changes to the investment portfolio because I’m “mature” (they have a better way to put it). I’ve got my head in the sand, but one of these days I’ll be answering emails.
What was your best financial kill?
I’m too risk averse to gamble in any way financially, so I’m probably keeping myself from making a kill. I’ll stick to the fictional murder in the books and hope it pays off in the long run.