Described as the best young adult fiction writer alive today by, it’s been quite a year for the Clonakilty novelist, with becoming one of the most talked about books in literature this year and cementing her status as one of the most exciting new novelists of her generation.
The book deals with the experience of teenager Emma O’Donovan who becomes a victim of gang rape by the local football team in a small Irish town.
Reacting to the win, Ms O’Neill said she was “shocked” to have won given the quality of the shortlist.
“It has been a bit of whirlwind this year. It’s been a bit surreal,” she said.
“Everything has happened so quickly that at times you feel like it’s happening to someone else.
“At Christmas I am going to take some time to just absorb everything that’s happened this year because it’s been beyond my wildest expectations.”
After receiving an honours BA in English Studies from Trinity College Dublin, Ms O’Neill went on to complete a postgraduate diploma in Fashion Buying from Dublin Institute of Technology.
She moved to New York City in 2010 and spent a year there interning as an assistant stylist for the senior style director of Elle magazine.
Upon returning to Ireland in 2011, she began writing her first novel,, which was published in 2014.
Ms O’Neill won the inaugural YA Book Prize and the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year at the 2014 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards.
Ms O’Neill said the reaction to her latest novel has been “overwhelming and humbling” and said many survivors of sexual violence had contacted her after reading the book.
She has just signed another two-book deal and is moving back to West Cork from Dublin in January to focus on her next book.
However, Ms O’Neill said there was some pressure involved given she had written the majority of her first two novels before becoming a well-known author.
“There has been such a strong reaction to this novel that there is a little bit more pressure. With my first two I had the luxury of writing in a bit of cocoon. It was just me and a laptop,” she said.
Chief operating officer at Bord Gáis Energy, Dave Kirwan, described Ms O’Neill as a “truly deserving winner” with a novel that struck a chord with readers of all ages.
“Louise is fast making her mark in the literary world, having won Newcomer of the Year last year and now being crowned the title of overall Bord Gáis Energy Book of the Year,” he said. “I wish her every success in future.”