WriteSide with Eleanor O'Reilly
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