Wednesday, 24 March 2010


A little interview for you today. I caught up with Nuala to ask her about her forthcoming novel, You.

Hello, Nuala. Welcome.

Hi, Tom.

You write poetry and short stories - why a novel?

The novel grew out of short story. I was enjoying the voice of the narrator and wanted to continue writing from her POV. As the plot occurred to me it also occurred to me that I was writing a novel. I’m a big novel reader, though short story collections have taken over my reading passions in the last ten years or so. I do love to get lost in a novel from time to time.

How long did it take to write, from first word to final edit?

It took a year. And then five years to find a publisher...

Are you a great planner or do you see where the story takes you?

I never plan. I write as if I am telling a story to myself. I think about whatever I am currently writing a lot (mulling, musing) but I don’t make charts and/or plot diagrams. Plot scares the life out of me really. I recently realised that my writing life is the one area of my existence where I am not a control freak. It pleased me to realise that!

Regular hours or as the inspiration grabs you?

Regular hours used to be it with me. But I have a ten-month-old baby now as well as two bigger kids, so routine is out the window since baby arrived. I grab writing time when the baby is sleeping or in the car when my fiancé is driving. Or late at night in bed.

What’s the greatest asset a writer can have?

An untamed imagination coupled with empathy. (Is that two things?!)

Do you consciously avoid fiction similar to your own when writing?

No. I’d freak out if I wasn’t reading. I read five books or so at the same time. I’m pretty obsessed with reading and I don’t worry about ‘stealing’. Other writers’ fantastic work is there to be learnt from.

Can you tell us any more about the title / story?

The novel is set in Dublin in 1980 and is told in the second person by a ten-year-old girl. She is sensitive, and critical of the adults in her life who all seem to let her down. She turns to the river by her house for comfort and to try to figure things out. When tragedy strikes, the girl takes action. It’s a funny book with sad moments, I guess. I hope people like it, is all.

Sounds intriguing. How about three pieces of advice for someone about to take the plunge…

Write every day – it all adds up eventually.

Keep all your research bits in one big box for ease of access. I have a box for You with a CD of hit music from 1980, books, lists of big events from that year, location pics etc. etc.

Believe in yourself and your book – it took seven years from first word to publication for mine. I had wobbles on the way but I always believed that my book was good so I kept working on its behalf. Be determined!

Indeed. Thanks for your time, Nuala, and good luck with the book.

Thanks very much for having me here, Tom, and for your interesting questions.

Born Dublin 1970, award-winning fiction writer and poet Nuala Ní Chonchúir lives in County Galway. Her third short fiction collection Nude was published by Salt in September 2009. The Irish Times called it ‘a memorable achievement’. She is one of four winners of the 2009 Templar Poetry Pamphlet competition. Her pamphlet Portrait of the Artist with a Red Car was published November 2009; a full collection The Juno Charm is due November 2010. Nuala’s novel You will be published by New Island in 2010. She received an Arts Council Bursary in 2009 and is fiction editor of Horizon Review. You can follow Nuala’s blog here.


Tania Hershman said...

Excellent interview, thank you both, it even made me feel for a moment that even I might be able to tackle something novel-sized! I can't wait to read it, funny with sad bits is my favourite kind of novel. And I echo what you say about the box, I've recently started doing that, it makes you feel like you're working!

TOM J VOWLER said...

Hi, Tania. I like to look at newspaper articles from the year my fiction is set. Not to necessarily reference some real event (which can jar if done badly), but to get a feel for the mood of the day.


That's it exactly, Tom - the mood of the day. 1980 in Dublin was a pretty poor place and small events - parties, picnics etc. - made people happy. People didn't have high expectations. I hope I captured some of the atmosphere of the time in the book by using detail like that.

TOM J VOWLER said...

Cheekily (er-hum) extending the interview here, Nuala, I meant to ask you a little about first showing your work, as in soliciting initial feedback. An editor? Agent? Peers? Friend? It's a tough one, I find. Trust is important here, someone who knows what you're trying to achieve. Unmitigated, effusive praise is of little use.

Tania, who do you, if anyone, initially show your work for appraisal?


The only other person to see it was my agent. I don't workshop fiction at all. It just doesn't suit me to share WIP with people - I don't want 'interference' on something that is still all new to me. I do workshop poetry - I think it lends itself better to that process.
My agent and I parted ways so the next person to read it was the editor at New Island when I sent it to her.
It will be new/a fresh read for everyone: my writing group, my family, friends etc etc. I prefer it that way.

eimearryan said...

Great interview, Tom. I love hearing about different people's approaches. The box of stuff is a great idea, and is a form of planning in a way I guess - more visual/tactile than the notes 'n' diagrams route.

Kar said...

brilliant interview thank you Tom and Nu, I feel you two should continue the chatter on writing and its processes. The writing life is a fasinating one. I want to hear more!

Rachel Fenton said...

Thanks you two! I gobbled this up. I don't have a beta reader for my work at the moment either and I'm very lacking in confidence because of this. I've scrapped most of what I have written over the past four or so months. Will plough on with more self-belief now though!

I do have a box of research though - that made me smile! Plus I've read lots of newspaper articles, too, even the ads. The bizarre thing I'm finding is that I'm barely using any of this stuff in the novel itself but it all makes me feel like I know the period enough to write as if I am there.

Can't wait to read YOU!