I grew up in Gort, Co Galway. I was very bookish. I was brought up by grandparents, my ‘brothers and sisters’ were actually my uncles and aunts, the nearest one was 10 years older than me, so I spent a lot of time reading. Essentially I took a ton of books and sat reading them for years - airport novels, Catherine Cookson - whatever turned up in our house. I was a really good girl. I didn’t cause any trouble. I moved through school quietly, mostly thinking about stories. When I was only 17, I went to UCC and studied English. I had a little too much freedom, all of a sudden. I fell in love with Cork. I had the freedom to be an adult - even walking into town on my own and having to make my own meals was a novelty.
I’m back in Gort now, with my husband John and 13-year-old daughter, for financial reasons, but the plan is to move back to Cork. I met John here in Gort but he’s from Cork and I thats the reason we first spoke. I was serving in a pub and in comes this man with this Cork accent and that was it. I’m the crazy creative one, he’s the rock. He has endless patience and lets me bounce ideas off him and waffle on trying to work out plot points.
I was always writing novels, they just never got published until now. My ideal world is one where you could tell stories without having to write them down.
I try to be disciplined, but it’s an endless battle with laziness. I’m naturally lazy. I have to push myself to work at all. They say that the whole trick to being disciplined is to form a habit. So I treat my writing as if it were a nine to five job, except I don’t start at nine. I go for a run and get any chores out of the way first and then I settle in mid-morning. I can stay there all day, just coming down for dinner and going back up again - until I have written 1,000 words. I tend to edit as I go. I don’t write draft after draft.
I’m terrible at running but I do it three times a week. I’m even a lazy runner, but it gives me time to think and to mull over characters in my head. The idea of running with someone else is alien to me. My biggest fault is that I find it hard to take things seriously. I’m always trying to make people laugh and sometimes that does not go down too well with friends. I’m from a huge family. In order to make yourself heard, you had to be a little bit sharp and maybe that is why it has become my way of connecting.
I’ve had lots of different jobs. I worked in an office in Carrigaline in the construction industry for six years. At first I thought it would just be a little day job to allow me to write at night but I was actually quite good at it and enjoyed it too. Also, I have a hard headedness in me, if I’m going to do something, I am going to be good at it. But I did manage to write a novel at same time. I’m a complete atheist. This is the time to make a difference - while you are here. Living. The trait I most admire is sincerity and honesty. I think that has been replaced by an insincere showiness. I’m not usually confident at all speaking in public, but I am enjoying doing readings and interviews for my novel. At first, I thought it would be very scary but, before the launch, my agent told me not to worry about nerves, pointing out that I shouldn’t worry about forgetting what to say or saying the wrong thing - as nobody is going to be a bigger expert on my work than me.
If I could change one thing in our society I’d repeal the 8th Amendment. I’m pro choice. I can’t conceive of a situation where it would be the right choice for me, but I cannot think for other people. We should provide services for citizens and stop moralising. I was born in the 80s when there was still such a thing as illegitimacy. That’s why my grandparents adopted me, thinking it would give me a better chance in life. It was done out of love. I have a great relationship with my birth mother.
In conversation with Hilary Fennell