Ireland has always had a strong literary tradition but I think the surge in popularity of Irish writers over the last few decades can be attributed to authors like Maeve Binchy, Roddy Doyle and Marian Keyes. These writers opened a lot of doors for Irish authors because for the first time it was okay to write the way we speak. While there will always be a place for beautiful prose, the warmth and humour with which these authors write, has made literature accessible to everyone.
I also think Irish people have a unique sense of humour, which probably helps too – maybe it’s because of our weather (if you didn’t laugh you’d cry...) There is a phrase here ‘never let the truth stand in the way of a good story’ - it’s perfectly acceptable to embellish stories in everyday life. And whether you’re at the hairdressers or the post office, people are telling you stories. I think it must seep into our pores somehow…
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I was always bookish as a child and have memories of ripping pages out of copybooks, drawing pictures on one side of the paper and writing stories on the other. Then when I was finished I would staple them all together into a book. In school I loved nothing more than mulling over an essay topic that the teacher gave for homework or writing arguments for debates so I suppose my love of writing has always there but I just didn’t recognise it. I always thought writing books was something other people did. It wasn’t until my mid twenties that it occurred to me that I too could write a book so I decided to give it a go.
If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I would probably still be working as a business development manager in the pharmaceutical sector.
Do you have a set daily writing routine?
I have a 3 year old daughter and 1 year old twins so I don’t really get much done during the day. I do most of my work in the evenings when they are in bed and at weekends my husband is great for taking them all off for a few hours so I can get some writing done.
Which of the characters that you’ve created is your favourite?
I love the character of Steve – he is a warm, down-to-earth, solid kind of guy who follows his heart. I loved writing him – and lots of people have said to me since that they loved him too. I think him and Zoe and Dave the dog make a lovely trio. I’d love to come back to their story some day.
Have you ever had writer’s block?
Absolutely but for me the only thing that works is to write through it. So I think about what I’m trying to say and then write it in the most basic of words or else jump ahead to another scene and come back to it later. It always works.
Are there any books by Irish authors that you wish you’d written?
John Boyne’s ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ – I cried a lot reading this book. The ending still upsets me . . .
Which Irish authors, if any, inspired you to become a writer?
When I was a teenager I would devour my mum’s Deirdre Purcell and Maeve Binchy novels. I loved how they pulled you and hours could go by without noticing. I would also be a big fan of Marian Keyes – she is a national treasure.
Also, after I had already started writing, I entered a short-story competition sponsored by Penguin Ireland. I was selected to attend a writing workshop with talks given by the authors Sinead Moriarty, Niamh Greene and Tara Heavey. They all gave great advice and I found the day really inspiring.
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
Deep cleaning my long-neglected house is as glamorous as it gets for me I’m afraid!
Where would be your idyllic Irish location for a writing retreat?
It would be a cottage on the west coast of Ireland on a mid-winter’s day. The air would be heavy with mist and the waves battering the cliffs sending up spray into the inky sky. I would be snuggled inside with the peaty smell of a turf fire and a bottle of red waiting for when the day’s writing is done.
What was the first book by an Irish author that you can recall reading?
I read Marita Conlon McKenna’s – ‘Under the Hawthorne Tree’ when I was about 9 or 10. It’s the story of three children during the Irish famine and is such a beautiful book. It was one of those books you literally breathe with the characters through every page and cry at the adversity they faced. I became obsessed with the famine after reading this. I can’t wait to give it to my children when they are old enough.
Can you tell us a little bit about your current book?
It is called In a Moment and it centres on a couple, Adam and Emma who are being torn apart by their past. They are on the brink of splitting-up and their relationship is only held together by a thread. But what has brought them to this point? And why is Adam having recurring nightmares? Meanwhile Jean McParland is a single mother living in terror in her own home. But in just one moment Adam, Emma and Jean’s lives become inextricably linked and are changed forever…
Go raibh míle maith agat Sharon for inviting me onto your blog!