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'Being a writer can be solitary, but usually you are solitary of your own volition. When it's not by choice, it's different' - Siobhán MacDonald

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Siobhan MacDonald

Siobhan MacDonald

Siobhan MacDonald

Siobhán MacDonald on user manuals, solitary confinement and Daphne du Maurier...

Where and when do you write?

Usually in my study, but I now share it with my husband because he is working from home. I sometimes follow the light around the house. I have no prescribed routine. But I don't like to write after 9pm. If I write too late, I keep thinking about this character and that character, and about the plot. My head would be buzzing.

How have you coped in the pandemic, and is there a chance that it will it enter one of your stories?

Being a writer can be solitary, but usually you are solitary of your own volition. When it's not by choice, it's different. I'm a sociable person and I like to meet friends for a cup of coffee or sit round a table with a few people. I have had an idea for another novel in my head, and I wondered whether I will work in a Covid-19 theme. I think it will give me a solution to a plot dilemma.

When did you start writing?

I am from a generation where we wrote letters all the time. They could be thank-you letters to a granny or an aunt. Then I would write letters home when I was staying with my granny. I went to a school where we learnt everything through Irish, including Latin. I used to write scripts in Irish for duologues at school. I studied engineering at university and became a technical writer, writing things like user manuals. It taught me how to write project plans and I use some of the techniques when I am planning a novel. I had writer friends and I told them I wanted to write a novel. One of them said to me: "Just do it!"

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers, apart from "Just do it"?

You have to have a lot of patience, because everything moves so slowly in publishing. Don't send your work out to a publisher too early. Try to get as much feedback as you can before you send it out. Don't be disheartened. If you get criticism back, that may be a good thing, because someone has taken time to critique your work and send it back. I would not take any umbrage at that.

Which books would you take to a desert island?

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One of my all-time favourites is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, because there are so many twists and turns. The character of Mrs Danvers is so chilling. It creates a sense of menace and a sense of foreboding. When I used to go on holiday growing up in West Cork for six weeks, I had to bring something big and chunky. Papillon by Henri Charrière was one of those books that kept me going and it is set on an island.

If you weren't a writer what would you be?

It would have to be something creative. I would have liked to have been a painter.

Siobhán MacDonald's new novel 'Guilty' is published by Constable.


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