What is your latest book about?
My novel, “The Observations”, is about Bessy Buckley, a 15-year-old Irish girl who, in 1863, runs away from Glasgow to escape her murky past and ends up working for Arabella, a mysterious beautiful woman who lives on a country estate outside Edinburgh. I wanted to write about the experience of being an Irish immigrant in Scotland at that time, as it was a hard life. But the thing about Bessy is she has a great sense of humor and is really optimistic. So despite the dreadful things that have happened to her, she is staunch and funny.
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
I prefer to write in the morning when my brain is freshest. I like peace and quiet — but don’t often seem to get it!
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I wrote the first 15,000 words of this novel 10 years ago then put it in a box in the attic because I didn’t know what direction the story should take. Then I rediscovered it in 2003 and really liked the narrator’s character and voice so gave it another go. So my advice to aspiring writers would be — never give up and never throw anything away.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure?
“The Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger; “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain; “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens.
What book are you currently reading?
“Lady Audley’s Secret” by Mary Elizabeth Braddon — a wonderful 19th century novel.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Loads! I mentioned my favorites above but I’m also great admirer of Ann Tyler, so possibly The Accidental Tourist or Saint Maybe.
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Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.
“The Butcher Boy” by Patrick McCabe.
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
Charles Dickens. Or Salinger.
What book changed your life?
Possibly “Perfume” by Patrick Suskind — it made me want to write a novel.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
I love the Crown Liquor Saloon in Belfast: it’s a beautiful old listed pub with separate nooks where you can sit in privacy.
You’re Irish if . . .
your craic is fierce.