Sunday, 30 March 2014


Mother's Day heart by Finn & card from Juno - I'm still waiting for Cú's contribution!
To all my mother-writer pals, have a lovely day!

My publisher New Island Books interviewed me in honour of the day, in the New Island Gazette. I am copying the full interview to here, but you may like to peruse the gazette's back issues for info on other New Island writers, including Máire T. Robinson who has just signed up with them for her début novel.

Q&A with Nuala Ní Chonchúir 

The author of You, Mother America & the upcoming The Closet of Savage Mementos on writing, reading & motherhood.
Could you describe your writing process?
I have three hours a day to write (when the kids are out) so I get to my desk at 9am and prioritise what is most pressing. Usually that is whatever fiction I am working on (novel or story). I re-read and edit yesterday’s writing then try to move along. I don’t always write novels in a linear way, so I’ll write forward or back in the story. As long as I write something, I’m happy.
Once I have done a bit of actual writing, I let myself do other stuff: reviews, my mentoring (I mentor BA in Writing students), interviews, my literary blog, etc.

What advice would you offer to new writers?
Find your own rhythm (morning or night, pen or laptop). Don’t care about what anyone else is doing. Write as often as you can, even if you don’t feel like it. Learn to edit well. Read like a maniac.

What is the last book you read?
The last novel I finished (I abandon books that are not doing it for me) was Jo Baker’s Longbourn. I loved it – well written, gripping, imaginative.

Any thoughts on #ReadWomen2014?
I love the whole concept. The VIDA statistics clearly show that women are under-represented in terms of review coverage, etc. This is just what we need – a big shiny spotlight on women writers, for a change.

Why do you think fewer people read female authors?
Books are packaged to appeal to certain markets. Women’s books often have women on the covers and that, apparently, puts men off. Unisex/less gendered covers might fix some of the bias. Also, there’s a boy’s club – the men look after the men for reviews, prizes, etc. That’s why I, mostly, promote women on my lit blog – I like supporting other women writers. They need it.

Who are some of your favourite authors?
Valerie Trueblood, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Rachel Trezise, Edith Pearlman, Tania Hershman, Anthony Doerr, Wells Tower, Anne Enright, Mary Morrissy, David Seadaris, Colum McCann, Alessandro Baricco, Alistair MacLeod, Hemingway, Austen, the
 Brontës, Nam Le. A thousand others.

Is there any book that you return to time and time

Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. Silk by Alessandro Baricco. Lyrical language, love and humanity in all three.

You write across a range of genres: novels, short story collections and poetry. What are the different difficulties that arise when writing each?
Oh God, my least favourite question. Because it’s hard to answer. Each genre has a different feel, a different settling-in period, a different emotional hit, for both writer and reader. The novel is comforting because you have somewhere to come back to each day. The story is exciting because you are always starting afresh. Poems are shots in the arm, and they can make a writer very happy when they turn up. I write flash too (very short stories), and they combine the best of poetry and story-making – they’re like little bursts of glory when they turn out right. A good flash will make my day.

And what difficulties come with switching between genres? Which is your favourite?
When I am writing a novel, I don’t have the headspace or time for other stuff, though I often write the odd flash, and that may grow out of the research for the novel. It’s a time issue really. It can be a relief at the end of a novel to get back to stories, to start thinking short again. Fiction is my home – long and short. I love both novels and stories.

You left Ireland the day after your graduation and emigrated to Scotland for a time. What advice would you give to anyone emigrating today?
I didn’t really feel like I was emigrating – it wasn’t all curlews at dawn and weeping parents. I had done four years in Trinity College and I was sick of Dublin. I wanted a change of scene.
Advice to emigrants? Work hard, save a shitload of money and come back to where you belong, if you can manage it. When you have kids, it is nice to be around family. They start to mean more to you than they may have done before.

Motherhood is a theme found throughout many of your books. With Mothers' Day on Sunday (30th March), any thoughts on motherhood to share?
It’s the most stressful role you’ll ever have, but also the most beautiful. All your kids want is your time – give them as much of it as you can. Travel with them to new and exciting places – they will appreciate that when they are older. Read to them. And be kind to your own mother – she loves you in spite of everything, and is probably doing as near to her best as she can manage.

Lastly, where do you write?
I have a desk in my bedroom. It’s not ideal but it’s bright there. I would like to have a study again but we have run out of rooms. (The kids sucked up all the rooms…)
The Closet of Savage Mementos is coming in April!


Donna OShaughnessy said...

Nuala, what a fun interview, loved your honest answers. Also want you to know how much you've inspired THIS 54 year old to go back to school (University of Illinois) for a Masters in Creative Writing. I am also planning a study abroad session next summer in Galway. Thanks for all you do for women writers everywhere!

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

How fab, Donna. Let's meet up when you are here. You can come to me or I can go into Galway city. Cool. Best of luck with the MA. Fiction? Poetry?