Sunday 18 February 2018

Write side... with Derry author Sean O'Reilly

 

Sean O'Reilly
Sean O'Reilly
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

Sean O'Reilly on his whale of a debut, growing up in Derry during the Troubles, and writing naked.

What was it like being born in Derry right at the start of the Troubles?

As kids we ran wild, and we were hardly allowed in the house. It seemed normal. Then you noticed things were not normal. You could be walking up the town with your ma and she would be strip-searched by the army. Often the army was inciting violence.

Tell us about your first work of fiction

At primary school, we were asked to write about our weekend. I made up a story about me and my da going to see a stranded whale. It was a lie. I was terrified that I would be found out, but people loved it.

Who encouraged you to write?

There were no books in my house. My uncle Pat, a schoolteacher, gave me some books. But a lot of working-class people feel that they have no right to write.

You lived abroad a lot. What drew you to Dublin?

When I had a daughter, I asked myself what I was doing, and I saw a newspaper ad for a creative writing course in Trinity College. So I came over.

How did you find the posh world of Trinity?

I was never too fond of Trinity and found it very pretentious. We spent a lot of time in Kennedy's pub. But I took to Dublin immediately.

You give writing classes yourself now. Have you any tips?

Try every possible way to get round yourself - avoid self-censorship. A little magical key is to write under a different name. Try anything different like writing naked or in a dress.

Which book would you take to a desert island?

A Disaffection by James Kelman. It's about a teacher working in a school in Glasgow.

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

A painter.

Sean O'Reilly's Levitation is published by Stinging Fly

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