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A Literary Q&A

A few weeks ago a short story of mine ‘Mission Improbable’ got reviewed on Mel Ulm’s great blog ‘The Reading Life’. Following that I did a Q&A session on my writing and myself. It was a challenging and interesting set of questions that made me delve into my motivations and influences.

It also made me think about the environment I live in and the great legacy of Irish writers that roam around me, both living and dead. It is a privilege to live amongst such literary wealth and is something I need to appreciate and draw from more. I want to walk in their footsteps so I can find my own.

As Sylvia Plath once said: “Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences.”

You can read the full Q&A here but here are a few of my answers to chew on!

When did you start writing?

I think I have always written. Poems and short stories mainly as a child and could always found with my nose in a book. I worked as a science journalist in London for a number of years and on returning to Ireland found the new role I took on was making me pretty miserable. So I decided to take a year off and take the plunge. That was three years ago and I’m still going albeit with a part-time job now as writing as of yet is not paying the bills!

You probably have more scientific training and experience than the vast majority of writers do-how has or has this impacted your writings.

I have always been fascinated by science, or maybe more so how things work. I studied biology at University and while I loved learning, realised there wasn’t much future for me in it research-wise. I’m not the type to spend hours with pipettes and Bunsen burners!

However a lot of that interest and learning bleeds into my writing. The novel I am currently rewriting is based on transplantation and I tend to view things from a logical point of view. I love reading fantasy but struggle to write it. I just find that my mind just won’t bend that way and so often write stark and ‘real’ perspectives rather than a dream-like or fantastical point of view. My first published short story which you featured on this blog ‘Mission Improbable’ is rooted in science, but I wrote it with an intentional vagueness from the start to ensure there was a twist at the end. I might have been channelling some of Roald Dahl while writing that one!

Why have the Irish produced such a disproportional to their population number of great writers?

Ireland is rooted in art. A huge amount of Irish people are creative and encouraged to be in their homes. Music plays a huge role in our culture which leads to song-writing to poetry to fiction and so on. I have often wondered how such a small population can produce such a great array of writers and am still not sure of the answer. We have a troubled past which may cast a shadow that we cannot or don’t want to shrug off.

In addition Ireland is full of interesting and unique characters in a sweeping landscape unmatched by anywhere else. Perhaps there is also a culture of support for writers here. I have found that when admitting you are writing a book there will be three others that are doing the same thing in a single room.