2019 has been an incredible year during which everything happened at the same time. I sold a book, we sold our house, and we have a gorgeous new baby girl!
I set out to write a book I’d enjoy reading myself. The result is my novel You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here. It’s been picked up by Oneworld Publications, a fantastic London publisher. They’ve published recent Booker prize winners such as A History of Seven Killings by Marlon James and The Sellout by Paul Beatty. You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here is scheduled for release in April 2020. Woo!
You can read more about the book in this piece which appeared on The Bookseller website.
I mostly wrote it at home, enveloped in my trusty pink dressing gown, but also wrote in coffee shops, on trains, and on holiday. The more I invested in the characters, scenarios and locations, the more enjoyable and addictive the writing became. I wrote furiously, unhealthily, at stupid hours. I neglected myself. I drank too much coffee, skipped showers and exposure to fresh air and sunlight. But you know what, I had a blast. I found my groove, and got a real kick out of the whole experience. It was a gargantuan challenge but I can’t wait to do it again.
In the book, I was interested to explore the psychological drivers behind intoxicating friendships – partly inspired by the infamous friendship between prolific fantasy novelist Anne Perry (formerly Juliet Hulme) and Pauline Parker leading to the murder of Parker’s mother in 1954. The story is stranger than fiction and is the focus of the Peter Jackson movie Heavenly Creatures (1994).
Katie’s friendship with Evelyn is somewhat driven out of self-interest. Her hopes and dreams are tied up with Evelyn. She feels that she cannot be successful without Evelyn by her side. Evelyn is the source of Katie’s aspiration, facets of her identity, and her vision for the future. She panics when she and Evelyn’s paths begin to diverge. She feels unmoored and uncertain of herself without Evelyn in her life, even though Evelyn makes her feel ‘superior and insignificant all at the same time’.
I was interested to explore the theme of creative rivalry and how we handle a peer’s success in the competitive worlds of art and film. We can imagine Evelyn’s humiliation at being rejected from a prestigious art college while Katie is swept up with university life. Evelyn later goes on to ‘borrow’ Katie’s aesthetic of rural decay and turns it into a film. When Katie returns to her hometown of Glenbruff, she is confronted with Evelyn’s filmmaking success, and this invokes an acute jealousy. But for all of Evelyn’s self-aggrandising, we learn that Katie is the one with more fuel in her tank.
The fictional town of Glenbruff is hugely important to the narrative of You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here. There are several notable locations: the quarry, the abandoned cottage, the burned out nightclub, the handball alley, the expanse of mysterious bogland. These locations provide an atmospheric backdrop to the strange and unsettling events that take place in the novel.
I’m now working on my second book. Will the pink dressing gown last another round? I think it’s held up quite well, and I’m a bit superstitious about having to wear it now. My advice to any budding writer is to get yourself a decent dressing gown. You’re going to need it.
Our first baby, a little girl, was born a month ago. We’re exceedingly pleased to say the least. I had a dream that she would be born with painted toenails but this did not occur.
Over the summer, I had the kind of experience you never expect to happen to you in real life until it does actually happen. I was making my way to a public swimming pool when a woman began walking alongside me on the path. “It’s a little girl,” she said to me.
“It is,” I said, smiling.
“It’s your first,” she said.
“It is,” I said, feeling bemused.
“Your partner is very tall. Isn’t he.”
“He…is. Are you a psychic?”
“Yes,” she said earnestly. “I can look into a person’s eyes and see things in their future. You’ll have a boy next, and then you’ll have a bit of a break, and then you’ll have a surprise. Now, it’s been nice talking to you, but I’ve got to run to an appointment. Goodbye.”
Will the street psychic’s predictions come true? Am I now obliged to have three children? Is this a psychological experiment in suggestibility? Is Derren Brown making a new television programme?
Earlier this year, we moved from an old house in Skerries to a new house in Raheny. We lost a beach, but gained a park. None of the furniture for the old house works for the new house, but we got to donate a nice couch and armchair to Age Action which felt really good.
We are trying to keep things minimal in the new place but with all of the baby accoutrements this will not be an easy task. She’s already got more outfits than I do, and not one but two modes of transport requiring indoor storage.
Thank you, 2019. You’ve been really, really wonderful, and 2020’s got a hard act to follow.
My book You Have To Make Your Own Fun Around Here is on sale in Ireland and the UK. Check it out!
Here’s some nice stuff people are saying.
‘Few writers have articulated the intricacies of female friendship – the dependency, the uncertainty, the fragility, the pecking order – with as much authority. Most female readers (and quite a few male readers, come to think of it) are likely to squirm at the glorious recalling of these adventurous, curious girls and their nascent friendships.’ Irish Independent
‘This atmospheric debut looks like a rural Irish coming-of-age novel, but it’s cleverer, darker, more unreliable.’ Daily Mail
‘From a young age, Katie is in thrall to her spirited, selfish friend, who comes across as a modern-day Baba from The Country Girls.’ Irish Times
Wow! You’ve had a fantastic year! Congratulations on both the book and the baby (and not necessarily in that order). And I hope you love your new house as well!
Thank you very much Ann. It’s been a whirlwind! x
Congratulations Frances. I’m delighted for you, that fulfilment is coming in the very best possible ways. Creation – and love.
Thank you Angela 🙂 A lovely sentiment x