Elly Varrenti

The title of the book is This is Not My Beautiful Life. How does the life you have differ from the life you’d imagined for yourself?

I guess I imagined feeling more grown up and wise somehow. I imagined being an excellent mother and a better daughter. I imagined having a career that made some kind of sense and I imagined being with a man whom I loved and who loved me back. I imagined being a good feminist. Nothing ever works out like we planned.

You write very candidly about your family and your ex-husband (also your shared parenting partner). Was this difficult to do? Did you worry about their reactions?

The real worry about anyone’s reaction has come more recently. The actual writing process was blissfully free of such anxieties, although I am sure I was doing a certain amount of self - censorship along the way. It’s only now that the book is out that I am most concerned with people’s reactions. Mind you, my close mates and editor reckon that even though I am dead honest about everything that I have managed to remain non-judgmental, non-sanctimonious and even loving. Let’s hope they’re right.

You’ve led a diverse and interesting life: an actress, arts administrator, broadcaster, teacher and now a writer. Which of those roles do you enjoy most?

As an actress, I was in a constant state of anxiety and the anxiety usually got in the way of the acting. I love radio broadcasting – the presenting, interviewing, writing. I feel very at home in that medium. I get a lot of satisfaction from teaching as well, always have. Writing, in more recent years, has been a real surprise, a wonderful and absorbing surprise of a life-time. I am not a good arts administrator.

You write affectingly (and amusingly) about life with your young son. How has having a child changed the way you view life?

It’s a cliché and a divisive one at that, but having a child provides both the best and worst of everything. The early days after his father left when our son was five months old were very tough. I was depressed and disorientated a lot of the time. He is nearly six now, and his sense of humour, his brio and his over-energetic enthusiasm for everything – the good and the ill – can break and mend my heart in the same moment. He has made it all, all of it, worthwhile.

It seems that you’ve gotten through many of the most difficult times in your life with the aid of a healthy sense of humour about it all. Is this true, or is this something you gained in retrospect, when looking back on those times in your life?

Our family have always been laughers. Overall, the tendency towards irreverence and amusing self - deprecation has got us all through most of the bad stuff. Most, but not all.

Complete this sentence: ‘The thing in my life that makes me happiest right now is …’

… more than four hours of unbroken sleep.