Tuesday, 27 November 2012


The Highland fishing village where my novel is set, fictionalised as Kinlochbrack
You’ve probably heard of The Next Big Thing – I am inundated with requests to do it lately but had already accepted the request of my friend, the writer/blogger Shauna Gilligan. Basically it’s a network of bloggers reaching out to new readers and discussing their work. I get to introduce you to some writers, and also reveal a bit about my own next big thing.

Problem: I hate talking about what I am currently working on (a novel), so I am cheating a little and talking about something that is complete but unpublished as yet.

As I said, I was recruited by my friend, Shauna. Her début novel Happiness Comes from Nowhere was published this year by Ward Wood in the UK and was positively reviewed in Sunday's Indo. You can read her discussion of her work on her blog about the next big thing here.

Now, on to the questions:

What is the working title of your book?


Where did the idea come from for the book?
I had written ten linked short stories about the main character, Lillis Yourell, but I wanted to write about her in a more linear way so I decided to write a novel. My novels all seem to feature wayward mothers – this one is no different.

What genre does your book fall under?

Literary fiction, but it is HUGELY commercial too and will appeal to so many readers ... (wouldn’t that be fun?!)

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’d need two actresses because Lillis is 21 in Part One of the book and 41 in Part Two. Is Saoirse Ronan 21 yet? Catherine Walker could play the older Lillis. I need actresses with gravitas because Lillis is quite melancholic. As for Struan, her older lover, I would like the fabulous Robert Carlyle to play him.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

One sentence??!! Here are three short ones:
It’s 1991 and Lillis Yourell leaves Dublin for Kinlochbrack in the Scottish Highlands, where she falls in love with an older man and gets pregnant. Lillis wants Struan to love her but she discovers that that may be impossible. What will she do with her baby and, when she returns to Dublin, is she destined to turn into her own mother as she fears?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Just over a year.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Erm, I don’t know, really. If you like Maggie O’Farrell’s books, or Edna O’Brien’s or Elizabeth Baines’s, you might enjoy it. If you like attention to language and books set in Dublin and tiny coastal fishing villages in Scotland...

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I lived in the Highlands of Scotland for a year after finishing my BA in Dublin. Things that happened to me there, and people I met, were life changing. The book explores much of that. I went back last year to do research and the place has barely changed. It was an emotional trip but also wonderful. The landscape up there is powerful – sea lochs, mountains, well-kept villages.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There are paperweights, taxidermy, a gay sibling, the Northern lights and lovely descriptions of the sea. Who could resist?

When and how will it be published?

Well, now. That’s the $6,000,000 question. I’ve been attempting to get an agent for it for over a year now, which has proved frustrating. It’s out with one at the mo and if she doesn’t want it, I give up on that particular quest. Watch this space, I guess...I need to start writing about a one-legged Mongolian with a sixth sense who climbs Kilimanjaro, or something. There is not much interest (from agents) in the so-called ‘quiet’ literary story, it seems. Or at least no interest in ones by those who are not famous. (Do I sound narky? I feel a bit narky...) 

But now, it’s time for me to pass the baton on to my chosen writers whose own blogs about their ‘next big things’ will appear next Wednesday, 5th December:

There’s Niamh Boyce, who will write about a novel with the working title transcripts from an interview with Margot and a poetry collection, the title of which (so far) is Casting Spells on Each Other

Johanna C. Leahy will write about her WIP, her second novel, The Stolen Child. The story is set in two time periods – the 1960s and contemporary Ireland. It's about a young woman forced into a Mother & Baby Home to have her baby who is then taken against her will to be adopted in the US. Forty years later, her son, whom she has kept a secret, turns up on her doorstep. His appearance has far-reaching consequences for the two sisters who didn't know he existed and for their mother who has never recovered from losing him.


Johanna Leahy said...

Great post Nuala! The book sounds fab. I spent five years living in Scotland but doubt I could write a word about it. Fingers and toes crossed that someone will come to their senses and publish it. I'm a big fan of the quiet literary novel :)


Ah, thanks Jo. I'm a fan too (of reading them) but I think you have to be famous to be 'allowed' to publish them. Not naming any names of male Irish writers...

Emily said...

Ahhh, I really want to read it now :-))


Fingers x'd, Emily, it will see light at some point.

deeps said...

you seem to be an accomplished writer...

Helena Duggan said...

Great post, will have to buy the book now!


Thank you, deeps...

Cheers, Helena - I hope you get that opportunity at some point :)

shauna bustogilligan said...

Nuala, this sounds great - I'm piqued! And I thought that's what literary fiction was all about - letting the story and the words sit quietly .... Makes me want to go back to Scotland as well: I could be reading this book as I'm on my way over!


Thanks, Shauna. Who knows, maybe that will happen!!!

Elizabeth Baines said...

Well, I'm dying to read it!

Rachel Fenton said...

If I hadn't got my sneck into NZ, I'd have been up in the Highlands now, hopping over to Skye as and when the sea allowed...ah..so looking forward to reading this when it gets picked up - and it will, because it has to! And will you hurry up and be famous already!


Thanks a millo, ladies.