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‘I don’t really trust autobiography - I think we’re too complicated and contradictory’ - Alice Lyons talks writing her first novel

Poet and artist Alice Lyons tells Maggie Armstrong why it's taken so long to write her first novel - and her decision to write it without the letter O

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Distinguished: Alice Lyons says many people are intimidated by poetry. Photo by Róisín Loughrey

Distinguished: Alice Lyons says many people are intimidated by poetry. Photo by Róisín Loughrey

Oona by Alice Lyons

Oona by Alice Lyons

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Distinguished: Alice Lyons says many people are intimidated by poetry. Photo by Róisín Loughrey

'I don't believe in plot," says Alice Lyons with cool impunity. "I don't believe in a plan."

We have been talking for an hour on this Friday afternoon in Dublin when the revelation comes, just a couple of weeks before she publishes her debut novel, Oona. Most novels, however unconventional, have some semblance of grand scheme, or at least their authors might pretend they do. Lyons, who trained in painting and worked in the visual arts while producing three collections of poetry, was not bothered by such an expectation. "I didn't want it to be too much like a story," she grins.

Nor is the book a version of her own life in disguise. Like the anti-heroine of Oona, Alice was born in Paterson, New Jersey and later settled down as an artist in Co Sligo, but, she explains: "I don't really trust autobiography. I think we're too complicated and contradictory to put down things factually. Fiction for me is a way of applying imagination to experience."