Sunday, August 3, 2014

Interview with Nuala Ní Chonchuír

Unlike with the majority of the interviews I do I was able to meet Nuala and chat in person. Any errors of fact or otherwise are entirely mine. 

Who are the biggest influences on your writing? 

Edna O'Brien, Flannery O'Connor and Anne Enright, they all write about women's experiences in an honest and brave way and they are not afraid of the colloquial. 

Have you always wanted to write?
I wrote poetry as a child and came second in a national competition at the age of nine for a poem I wrote at school.  

Your five favourite novels?
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Silk by Alessandro Baricco, The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien and Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor

Favourite Book/Author as a teenager?
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, The Classics; Somerset Maugham, DH Lawrence, 

Your writing advice to new writers?
Read alot, write alot, don't worry about what others are doing, take your time, find your own voice, remember to take time out for yourself and your family. Walk, think and just do it, don't put it off. Forget about money.  You'll learn more by finishing one story than by starting ten. 

Any strange writing rituals?
No rituals but as I get older I need more quiet. 

Do you think all Irish writers are haunted by our past or is that beginning to change?
Yes there is a generational difference I think writers over forty are still dealing with issues of guilt, the church, rebellion but the younger writers now focus on different things; emmigration, drugs, urban life. 

Can creative writing be taught? Is there any need for Creative Writing MAs?
An MA will give you discipline and good teachers who will guide your writing and help you make connections and I think that's very important for example meeting agents and publishers, that's harder to do if you are outside those circles. However I  think more experimental writers eschew the MA route. 

Do you think the future is bright for Irish publishing?
I think there are a number of dedicated, small literary publishers who will publish the best work they find but there is very little money in it.

What next? Tell me about the next book about Emily Dickinson's maid and the new book deal (if you can?)
I read about Emily Dickinson and have been interested in her for a long time. I knew that she loved to bake and that she had an Irish maid and there was a gap in the records that are available and I created a fictional Irish maid and fitted her in there. It will be published by Penguin USA in 2015. 

What is the one essential writing guide you would recommend?
Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King 

Thanks Nuala for being such a charming and interesting interviewee. Nuala's newest book is The Closet of Savage Mementoes which I reviewed earlier this year. 

Here is my Review originally published on June 1st this year.

I love to read new Irish fiction especially from women writers. I had been aware of Nuala for a while, had read interviews with her but hadn't read any of her work so I was intrigued when I learned this novel (her second) was on the way. The premise sounded very interesting a young Dublin woman Lillis escapes her grief at the death of her boyfriend and the difficult relationship with her alcoholic mother by taking a job as a waitress in the Scottish highlands. She falls for her much older boss and feels that her future is secure until a terrible betrayal brings her to crisis and she has to make a momentous decision. I was intrigued too to learn that this story was based on Nuala's personal experiences. To say that I loved this book would be a huge understatement. I felt the characters breathe out of the page, the writing is stark, sensual and intense, Nuala is a force to be reckoned with, her writing is poetic, sharp, spare and utterly beautiful. The character of Lillis is a brave and raw portrait of womanhood in all its states; daughter, wife, mother and lover and the portrait of her relationship with her mother Verity is a study in claustrophobia. In just under 200 pages I discovered a story and a group of characters so real and haunting I would not be surprised to meet them in the street. This book is so good I wish I had written it myself. 

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