Writing didn’t come onto Mary’s radar until she was 22. “I was a primary school teacher. I was happy, but I went through a period of insomnia. One night I realised what was wrong. I wanted to write.” Mary joined a local creative writing class, and the following year she went to Listowel Writer’s Week. “That opened up a whole new world,” she says. “I discovered the short story, and started reading American writers.”
Her first two stories were published in New Irish Writing. Then she married — it lasted ten years — and the writing waned. “I had a love/hate relationship with writing. I wanted to give it up, but it kept pulling at me.”
Who is Mary Costello?
Date of birth: Born and grew up in County Galway. She’s in her forties.
Education: School in Mountbellew, County Galway. St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. “And I’ve taken Jungian studies.”
The Day Job: On a career break from teaching.
Interests: Books; music; films and animals.
Favourite Writers: Alice Munroe; JM Coetzee; Claire Keegan; James Salter: Ted Hughes.
Second Novel: I’m working on more stories, and on a novel.
Top Writing Tip: Write whatever is most urgent and pressing.
The China Factory. The Stinging Fly Press, €12.99; Kindle, not available.
These exquisite short stories examine the passions of everyday life. They cover love, loss, betrayal and longing. Amazingly insightful, there are uplifting incidents and moments of devastation. The work has been shortlisted for Irish Book Awards and long listed for Guardian First Book Award.
“My 12 stories are about ordinary men and women whose lives are suddenly disturbed by some change or simply by chance,” says Mary. “The protagonists are trying to decipher their lives and recalibrate them after these inner eruptions. They’re trying to clarify reality.”
The Verdict: I was profoundly moved by this wonderful collection. Mary Costello has extraordinary talent.
— Interviewed by Sue Leonard