'Good' latest chapter in young writer's life


For their college graduation, some students get an engraved pen or a leather portfolio. The day after her graduation, 21-year-old Irishwoman Cecelia Ahern got a publishing deal with HarperCollins U.K. for her debut novel, "P.S. I Love You." It was December 2002, just before Christmas. "It was a really nice Christmas present," she says.

"P.S." went on to become an international best-seller and was made into a movie starring Hilary Swank. Fittingly, the film is slated for release Dec. 21, just before Christmas.

And for Ahern's 26th birthday in September, her first TV series, the comedy "Samantha Be Good," is set to premiere on ABC.

Ahern already is a brand, with four published novels, a feature and a TV series. If that isn't enough to make anyone feel jealous, factor in her celebrity status as the daughter of Ireland's prime minister and her cover-girl looks.

Growing up, Ahern loved reading and watching TV. "I either had my nose in a book or pressed up against the TV," she says. And ever since she could hold a pen, she has been writing -- journal, poems, short stories and, at age 14, a novel that she never finished.

"I've always adored writing, but I never thought of it as a career; I loved doing it for myself," she says.

That all changed in 2001. Right after her 21st birthday, a few pesky sentences started running around in her head until she finally wrote them down. "The moment I put the pen down, the others started flowing," she says. In no time, she had the first four chapters of "P.S." completed. She showed them to her mother, who suggested that she try to get the book published.

Although "P.S." was written in three months, Ahern says writing a book is a like a pregnancy and normally takes her six to nine months. "It's my baby. I carry it for that time, deliver it to the world, and then I'm very protective of my child," she says.

It took about the same time for her first TV idea, which she pitched to ABC in September, to become the promising new series "Samantha."

All the characters in Ahern's books go through the journey of finding themselves. She was looking for a way to make that sustainable on a weekly basis when she came up with the concept of a woman waking up from a coma with amnesia. "What better way to do it than have someone who is rediscovering her life, who doesn't know who she is?"

Ahern knew the odds of getting the concept to screen were long, but they improved dramatically when she met writer Don Todd, who "amazingly connected with the idea," developed it with her via phone and e-mail and wrote the script. The project attracted the most sought-after actress by TV casting directors, Christina Applegate, who had turned down dozens of pilots over the past seven years.

While her success had made her a globe-trotter constantly on book tours, her favorite place remains her Dublin house, where she puts on pajamas and writes all night. That's not going to change anytime soon.

"In 10 years, I hope I'm still doing something that makes me happy -- hopefully still writing and being published and perhaps doing more TV and movies."

Ahern is well on her way to doing that: She is halfway through her fifth novel; Gold Circle Films is developing a feature based on her book "If You Could See Me Now"; ABC Studios-based producer Warren Littlefield is working on a drama series based on her most recent novel, "There's No Place Like Here"; and she has written an original screenplay that is being shopped around.