When she was a child, Jess wrote plays, and roped her friends into performing them. She started writing it earnest when she attended college.
Dropping out, when she became pregnant with her daughter, Jess worked to support her.
She has had jobs as a support worker, specialising in acquired brain injuries; as PA to a rector, and in admin at a community centre.
“I carried on with my degree through the Open University,” she says. “I took a Masters, and focused on short stories, experimenting with magical realism.”
When she was offered a bursary to take a PhD, she experimented further.
“I was interested in crime mysteries, but wanted to make it very different. My debut started life as three linked short stories. I worked with my agent, Susan Armstrong, to tailor it for publication.”
Shortlisted for a Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award, the debut has sold worldwide.
Who is Jess Kidd?
Date/place of birth: 1973/ London to Irish parents.
Education: Secondary School in West London; St Mary’s University, Strawberry Hill. Open University MA, then PhD.
Home: West London. “I’m trying to relocate to West Cork.”
Family: Daughter Eva, 19. “She’s a songwriter and poet.”
The Day Job: “Since I signed my deal, I’ve been writing full-time.”
Favourite Writers: “My influences are Dylan Thomas; John Millington Synge; Toni Morrison; Angela Carter; Louis de Bernieres. And poets Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.
Second Novel: Hoarder. A contemporary crime novel set in London. “I’ve finished it. And finished my third.”
Top Tip: Listen to conversations, and be aware of everything around you. Keep a journal, as and when it strikes you.
The Debut: Himself; Canongate, €16.99/Kindle, €7.02
When Mahony returns to his birthplace in the Mayo hills, the residents instantly recognise him. He has his mother’s eyes, and nobody could forget Orla Sweeney. Before her disappearance, she caused mayhem in the village, and many inhabitants don’t want her son among them.
His charm ensures that Mahony has allies but his appearance wakes the dead — and long- held secrets start to emerge.
The Verdict: Page turning and memorable, this debut is filled with magic realism. An exuberant rollercoaster of a read, it’s my debut of the year.
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