Entertainment Books

Tuesday 22 October 2019

WriteSide with Eleanor O'Reilly

Eleanor O'Reilly. Photo by Garrett Byrne
Eleanor O'Reilly. Photo by Garrett Byrne
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

Did you write much as a child? When I was growing up, I was more of an artist. I was a Blue Peter child. I was always making things with straws, pipe cleaners and double-sided sticky tape. I could perform miracles with washing-up liquid bottles. In a former life, I was a painter for years and my work was in a good few galleries.

So why did you switch from painting to writing?

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It was when I had a baby six years ago. I found that painting was no longer feasible. I couldn't go into the studio for a couple of hours and forget about the baby. I knew that if I didn't do something creative, I would implode. So, I started writing almost as a hobby. I swapped one kind of creativity for another.

When did you start your first novel M for Mammy?

It started as a short story, Stoppin' the Silence, and it won the Francis MacManus award in 2015. That story is half of the first chapter. The novel is about a family falling apart and coming together again. Hachette bought the novel in 2017. I think you have to be patient as a novelist, and the book benefits from that. My publishers let it grow organically and I was still editing it up until last summer.

So where and when do you write?

I have a study, which used to be my studio when I was a painter. It overlooks the garden and I have a Newfoundland hound. He can look in the window at me and I can look at him. Or he squeezes in between the chair and the desk. I am a full-time teacher at Gorey Community School. I do my writing after 8.30pm. I teach English in school. So, I have always had an eye on literature and the nuts and bolts of writing.

Which books would you take to a desert island?

The Gathering by Anne Enright, The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields and The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe.

⬤ 'M for Mammy' is published by Two Roads

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