What was your path to publication?
I have been writing all my life and always nurtured a very secret hope that one day I would be a writer, but at the same time I didn’t really have the guts/delusion to simply declare myself a novelist and retreat to my room to commune with the muse (thank God). So instead I took tentative steps: I studied English in German at Trinity College Dublin, followed by a master’s in Writing at NUI, Galway. Then I became a regional reporter with a local newspaper, before going into sub-editing and eventually editing at a magazine publishing company. Secretly, I was also dabbling in the dark arts of fiction. I finally completed a full manuscript in 2013, which found its way to the amazing Sheila Crowley at Curtis Brown Literary Agency in London. She didn’t think it was strong enough for the market, but did actively encourage me to write something else – which I did, and that novel became Sisters and Lies. Sheila starting pitching it around April of last year, and on 11th May (my 36th birthday) she rang me to say Penguin Ireland wanted to buy it. It was an utterly mesmerizing, overwhelming day. To the rest of the world, it might seem like this is my debut novel, but to me it’s actually the culmination of about thirty years of hoping, wishing, dreaming, and, of course, writing.
What was the inspiration behind Sisters and Lies?
I was driving along one day, and for some reason the idea popped into my head of a girl dating with the boy who had bullied her as a teenager. [I am kind of obsessed by the teenage nerd-turned-cool fantasy, probably because I was a teenager nerd, although I’m pretty sure I never made the ‘cool’ transition!) Later, I was interviewing someone in book publishing as part of my day job, and she asked me about my own writing. I told her about a novel I had just completed but I knew from her face she wasn’t convinced by my theme. Then she asked me if I had any other ideas. I threw out the ‘girl dating her bully’ thing and her eyes lit up. ‘Now that’s a good idea’ she said, and it was from that conversation that Sisters and Lies took shape.
Describe your typical writing day.
Oh I wish there was one! When I was writing the first draft of Sisters and Lies I had just been made redundant, so I was very much able to create a ‘typical day’. I’d get up in the morning and go for a 45-minute walk, then I’d get down to work until lunchtime. (Very much as if I was still working in an office.) Then I’d do another three or four hours in the afternoon. Now though everything is different because I’m working full time, so creative writing is very much a weekend/evening event. I wish I was like Maeve Binchy, who used to get up at half five and write for two hours before work, but I am atrocious that early in the morning. I couldn’t write a shopping list, let alone a novel!
Who are your favourite writers?
Marian Keyes, Tana French, Franz Kafka, Helen Fielding, Philip Roth, Charlotte Roche – basically people whose voices are unique and immediate and who have a strong sense of humour but also a strong sense of darkness.
What can fans of Sisters and Lies look forward to next?
Well, I’m in the very tentative stages of a second novel, which is about a woman suffering from agoraphobia forced to confront the outside world due to circumstances beyond her control. To say it’s at the new-born-foal stage is quite the understatement, but I’m excited to be starting something new. I feel so utterly connected to Sisters and Lies and Evie and Rachel feel like real people to me but at the same time it’s time to move on. I love them, but I want to meet new characters, and find out their stories. I need a new adventure to begin!