Beginner's Pluck: Neil Hegarty

In 1998, leaving university, Neil worked as an editor for a dot com travel company.

Then, turning 30, he started sketching out a novel. And though the idea for his debut came some 10 years ago, he has written five non-fiction books during that time. There were two books about Dublin; then, for BBC Books, The Story of Ireland and the Secret History of London.

“Then I ghost-wrote a book for Jeremy Paxman on the Koreans. Then the authorised biography of David Frost.

“The week I finished Frost, I gave Inch Levels to my agent. It was picked up almost immediately.”

Inch Levels started life as a second world war story.

“I wrote the full-length novel, and put it aside. Then I realised that story was just a layer in the novel I actually wanted to write. I completely reworked it.”

Inch Levels has been shortlisted for the Kerry Group Novel of the Year Award.

Who is Neil Hegarty?

Date/place of birth: March 20, 1970/ Derry.
Education: St Columb’s College in Derry. Trinity College Dublin: BA then PhD in English.
Home: Dublin.
Family: Partner, John Lovett; parents, sister and brothers, and lots of nephews and nieces.
The Day Job: Full-time writer. “And I’ve always worked as an editor and journalist on the side.”
In Another Life: A gardener or a horticulturist.
Favourite Writers: Alice Munro; Charles Baxter; Margaret Attwood; Penelope Fitzgerald; John Banville; Colm Toibin. Alan McMonagle; Danielle McLaughlin.
Second Novel: I’m working on it. It’s less sad and there’s more humour. Set in Dublin and abroad.
Top Tip: Let your subconscious run free; trust it to do the heavy lifting.
Twitter: @nphegarty

The Debut

Inch Levels; Head of Zeus, €9.45/ Kindle, €4.81

Patrick lies in a hospital bed in Derry. A teacher in his 30s, he has terminal cancer. He’s a terrible grouch, and has few visitors. He’s cool towards his mother, Sarah, and sister Margaret, and makes it clear that he doesn’t want to see his brother in law, Robert ever again. Why it in this way?

The Verdict: I adored this debut. It’s a perfectly judged account of the devastation that can occur when secrets rule our lives.

  • Neil Hegarty will appear at the West Cork Literary Festival

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