Monday, 23 May 2016


Publishers Weekly has announced my new novel so I guess I can too :) Coming, most likely, in 2018.

May 16, 2016 - BECOMING BELLE by Nuala O'Connor
Fiction: General/Other
MISS EMILY author Nuala O'Connor's new historical novel BECOMING BELLE, pitched in the spirit of FROG MUSIC meets VANITY FAIR, which follows the unlikely love affair of Victorian London's premier dancer with a wealthy young aristocrat, and the lengths his family will go to in order to prevent the match, based on the true-life romance between Isabel Bilton and Viscount Dunlo, again to Tara Singh Carlson at Putnam, and to Helen Smith at Penguin Canada, by Grainne Fox at Fletcher & Company.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016


My story from The Long Gaze Back anthology is featured at Guernica magazine in NY. The story was inspired by the Kate and Anna McGarrigle song 'Jacques et Gilles'. Read it here.

Monday, 16 May 2016


The river Arno from Ponte S. Trinita
I got back yesterday from my trip to Florence for the inaugural Publishing Day run by Florence Writers, an English-language writing group based at St Mark's English Church on Via Maggio, one bridge down from the Ponte Vecchio. It was my first time in the city and I felt instantly comfortable there, the way you do in some places. I often think how you settle in a new place is to do with mood and I was relaxed arriving, so was instantly well disposed.

My gorgeous, enormous bedroom
Ponte Vecchio at dusk
I was met off the airport bus from Pisa by Mundy Walsh, an Irish writer, and admin of St Mark's, who organised the event. She brought me to the lovely apartment above the church that I was to share with another panelist for the weekend.

I took my 30 year old copy of A Room With a View with me to read. It's a while since I've read it and probably ten years since I watched the film as I only had it on VHS but, oh, oh, oh, it was as fresh and fabulous as ever. I adore E.M. Forster's work and I enjoy this particular novel's reliance on coincidence and overlap, its swipes at snobbishness, and its glorification of art and love. (It wasn't Forster's fave of his books, he considered it 'thin'.) The book is vivid in my memory, so it was comforting to revisit, but I also found it really crisp and funny, as if I was coming at it for the first time. I started to very deliberately slow down my reading so that I would get to spend longer with Lucy, George, Mr Beebe et al. (I want to embark on a major Forster fest now.)

Botticelli's Birth of Venus
I had all day Friday to myself before Saturday's day-long event, so of course I was out and about first thing. I went to the Uffizi Gallery to see the Botticellis (in my novel Miss Emily, Emily Dickinson compares her beloved sis-in-law Susan to Venus on her scallop).

And I also got to see, for the first time, some brilliant Bronzinos. I particularly loved one of a jolly Medici baby and one of a serious young girl with a book.

Dante outside Santa Croce
Santa Croce
After that I went to Santa Croce (€8 to get in!!) as Lucy and the Emersons go there in A Room With a View, and it is vast, and many-tombed, and impressive. (But we shouldn't have to pay into churches.)

San Lorenzo market
Florence was busy, as you can imagine, and also wet - thunderstorms on and off all day. But I dodged a major one by having lunch in the San Lorenzo food market, and another by stopping for hazelnut gelato and what passes for tea on the continent (Lipton's, of course). All the shop and café workers were friendly and patient with my lack of Italian. Lovely, welcoming people.

The Duomo
I stumbled on the Duomo (glorious!), and spent all day just wandering and marvelling at the endless churches, the noticable lack of tack for sale, the beautiful side streets, the dhal-coloured Arno, the ancient uniformity of all that sandy stone.

That evening another of the Publishing Day panelists, Harper Collins UK editor Martha Ashby, arrived and we, guided by Mundy and Lori Hetherington - another organiser of the day - adjourned to nearby Caffè degli Artigiani for aperitivo - pre-dinner drinks and snacks. I had my first taste of Aperol Spritz, a gorgeous mix of bitter orange liquer, prosecco and soda water.

Sweetie fuel for our day :)
Kimberley, Martha and Lori
Saturday was work and we had three panels one after the other in the morning in a beautiful room above the church. Martha, myself and two US-based literary agents: Kimberley Cameron and Andrea Cirillo. We talked variously about how to sub your work, what the agent-author relationship is, the use of personal experience in writing, using social media, and how writers can earn. Fuelled by sweeties and water we were ably chaired by three separate writers/editors: Jalina Mhyana, Lisa Clifford and Helen Farrell.
Jalina waiting to begin
We then had ten minute one-to-one sessions with the participants and in the afternoon I hosted an Ask the Author event for all the participants. The writers were a very literate, well-read, knowledgable group and we had some fun and frank discussions about what writers can truly expect out in the literary world, in terms of advances, treatment etc. 

The work of Clet Abraham, graffiti artist
Lee Foust, Mundy Walsh and Kelsey Clifton at Santo Spirito
Mundy Walsh of St Mark's and Florence Writers
Mundy et al laid on a lovely buffet lunch of salads, cheese, bread and strawberries, with salami for the meat-eaters. I went for a swift walk around the Santo Spirito district at lunch time, for the air and headspace, stopping at a local gelateria for a tiramisu.

We had further one-to-ones in the afternoon and later The Florence Writers hosted a prosecco reception for us to wind down after a busy day. Back to Caffè degli Artigiani on Piazza della Passera after that for our aperitivo, with Mundy and American writers Lee Foust and Kelsey C. I loved listening to their stories about how they all ended up in Florence, their knowledge of the language, how often they get home, the things they miss, the things they love in Italy etc. I went home to bed at a sensible hour (sensiblish) as I had an early start for Pisa in the morning and my flight. (I saw the leaning tower from the plane!)

It was a brilliant publishing/writing event, very well organised, which I really appreciate. I met so many great writers with wonderful stories to tell and I was in awe of their spirit, living in this place and learning the language and writing through it all. I loved my time in Florence and was wishing I had more of it, of course. But I will, most definitely be going back.

Street performers
More from Clet
Pinocchio's now a boy...

Tuesday, 10 May 2016


Saturday's Book Show, on RTE Radio 1, is online now here. I was on talking with Sinéad Gleeson, in the company of Bert Wright and Michael O'Loughlin, about WordCon, the forthcoming conference, and writers' rights.

Friday, 6 May 2016


Photograph © Josh Holmes
My short story 'Mayo Oh Mayo' is online at Granta now as part of their Irish issue. Here.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Monday, 25 April 2016

CÚIRT 2016

Belinda McKeon signing books at the Town Hall Theatre, Galway
I haven't time to dwell on the usual post-Cúirt deflation as I am on a deadline (Friday!) with novel #4. This is my first round of re-writes for my editor in NY and, oh, it went so well today. I am exhausted after Cúirt but a good night's sleep had me right on track this morning. There is nothing quite like the high when the writing goes well, when the questions posed can be answered (and Tara, my ed, asks good questions). I even forgot about lunch which anyone who knows me will realise is UNBELIEVABLE.

Jennifer Johnston signing books at the Town Hall Theatre, Galway
Cúirt was fantastic, as ever. I had the privilege of interviewing writers Jennifer Johnston and Belinda McKeon together. I hope that at 86 I am still writing, still publishing, as Jennifer is. Her 18th novel, Naming the Stars, appears in June. She read from it, and Belinda read from Tender (that hilarious scene where the young Catherine interviews An Older Irish Male Writer), and both were brilliant.

We talked about yearning, discomfort and language in fiction, as well as autobiography, parents and POV characters (male vs female main protagonists). We spoke about growing up as regards character development and parental hobbling in Jennifer's novel. We talked about the Irish writer's obligation when it comes to The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Both writers had plenty of interesting things to say and, really, an hour was far too short a spell to spend with them. We could've yammered on and on. If I loved both women before, I love them even more now.

Long Gaze panel - pic by Majella O'Dea
I also took part in a panel discussion based around The Long Gaze Back anthology with its editor Sinéad Gleeson, Belinda McKeon and Cúirt director Dani Gill. We covered lots of topics: #ReadWomen, the importance of networking, mentors and champions, the need to keep the gender conversation in literature wide and ongoing, the importance of mutual support for women writers (giving back), the Baileys Prize and more.

Juno with Prospect Hill graffiti - Irish for 'Take courage'
A pretty poor pic of Sinéad Gleeson & Leslie Jamison
In terms of attending events for pleasure, I managed to hear several fantastic writers, including Leslie Jamison, Kirsty Logan, Miriam Toews and Joanna Walsh. There was a wonderful chiming of themes discussed, all things I am super-interested in: grief, memory, mental illness, and 'truth' in fiction. My mind was racing with thoughts and ideas (and admiration) after each reading/discussion. And I bought books, lots of lovely books, from Charlie Byrne's wide selection.

Me, signing and chatting - The Long Gaze Back
On the social side, I had lunch, tea, wine, din-dins and fun with plenty of wondrous people including Sinéad Gleeson, Belinda McKeon, Joanna Walsh, Lisa McInerney (she of the Baileys Prize shortlisting - woot!), super-successful YA writer Louise O'Neill, Tom Morris of the Stinging Fly, Declan Meade of the same parish, New York-based writer Joshua Ferris, my Smokelong pal Chris Allen and his partner. It was all very jolly and exhausting. We even managed a spin out to Salthill and Barna to eat ginormous fruit salads and bagels, and be mesmerised by the sea. As we drove back in by the Claddagh, I was reminded of why I moved to Galway twenty years go - it really is a magical place.