Most people, once the money started getting bigger, thought we would buy a millionaire's house looking out at the sea - but what would two middle-aged people do that for? We were sensible enough when we got it.
I once got a huge, expensive flower arrangement from a person I didn't like, who sent it out of pure guilt. It had a hideous bird-of-paradise in the middle, and I thought it would never fade and die. I hated it.
My family life reads a bit like 'Little House on the Prairie.' I was big sister to Joan, Renee, and brother William, and we grew up in Dalkey, a little town 10 miles outside of Dublin. It was a secure, safe and happy childhood, which was meant to be a disadvantage when it comes to writing stories about family dramas.
I suppose, to be fair, I don't miss the energy of youth very much - because I was never fit. So it doesn't matter not being able to walk miles, striding the countryside, taking deep breaths and enjoying the scenery. That was never on my agenda.
I never wanted to write. I just wrote letters home from a kibbutz in Israel to reassure my parents that I was still alive and well fed and having a great time. They thought these letters were brilliant and sent them to a newspaper. So I became a writer by accident.
In my books, there is no 'ugly duckling turning into a beautiful swan' syndrome because if you look at the Hansel and Gretel syndrome, it was a mistake. It wasn't a duckling, it was a cygnet, and that's why it turned into a swan. The duckling should with any luck turn into a nice clucking duck and get on with its life. Cluck! Cluck! Cluck!
My mother hoped I would meet a nice doctor or barrister or accountant who would marry me and take me to live in what is now called Fashionable Dublin Four. But she felt that this was a vain hope. I was a bit loud to make a nice professional wife, and anyway, I was too keen on spending my holidays in far flung places to meet any of these people.
Nobody ever wins by the cavalry coming to rescue you. It isn't a question of you're happy if you get married, or you get thin, or you get rich, because I've known lots of thin, rich, married people who are absolutely miserable.
I was the big, bossy older sister, full of enthusiasms, mad fantasies, desperate urges to be famous, and anxious to be a saint - a settled sort of saint, not one who might have to suffer or die for her faith.
When I was teaching Latin in girls' schools before I became a writer, I didn't much like it if parents would come in and say, 'We'll have less of the Ovid and Virgil and more of the grammar, please.' After all, I was the one in charge. That's how I feel about doctors. You should trust them to do their job properly.
If I had my life to live all over again, I really think I would have been a fit person. Looking around me, I realise that the men and women who walked and ran and swam and played sport look better and feel better than the rest of us.
My father went to work by train every day. It was half an hour's journey each way, and he would read a paperback in four journeys. After supper, we all sat down to read - it was long before TV, remember!
An English journalist called Michael Viney told me when I was 25, that I would write well if I cared a lot what I was writing about. That worked. I went home that day and wrote about parents not understanding their children as well as we teachers did, and it was published the very next week.
I have been blessed with friends who do things rather than buy things: friends who will change books at the library, take a bag of your old clothes to a thrift store, bring you cuttings and plant them in a window box, fill the bird feeder in your garden when you can't get out.
I have been luckier than anyone I know or even heard of. I had a very happy childhood, a good education, I enjoyed working as a teacher, journalist and author. I have loved a wonderful man for over 33 years, and I believe he loves me, too.
I didn't get excited by weight loss, and since I was already happy being fat, I couldn't see the point of it all. I'm 6 ft. and weigh about 18 st. or 19 st., but weighing myself is not something I do with much pleasure.
Success is not like a cake that needs to be divided. It's more like a heap of stones - a cairn. If someone is successful, they add a stone to the cairn. It gets very high and can be seen from all over the world. That's how I see it.