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'Creating this love story has been my saving grace during the lockdown,' says author Zoë

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Zoë O’Connor at her home in Firies, Co Kerry. Photo: Barry O’Connor

Zoë O’Connor at her home in Firies, Co Kerry. Photo: Barry O’Connor

Zoë O’Connor at her home in Firies, Co Kerry. Photo: Barry O’Connor

Love in the lockdown as Jane Austen and Carrie Bradshaw meet Charles Dickens.

It may sound like a literary long shot but Trinity College student Zoë O'Connor (21) has spent five weeks in isolation in Firies, Co Kerry, writing 'Duplicity', a cautionary tale of modern dating dystopia but with a digital twist.

The third-year English student has followed in the footsteps of Dickens, who published in serialised form.

Ms O'Connor releases a new chapter of her novel every Friday on her blog on the-dots.eu/ and, after giving away a free sample of her first chapter, all 12 chapters can be purchased for €9.99.

Narrated from the perspective of a young woman and her romance with a Prince Charming, it is a coming-of-age story set in Dublin over 12 weeks when fairytale visions of romance are replaced by the cold reality of real-life dating.

"I think in many ways, with Netflix dropping everything all at once, we are so used to getting everything on demand, that there is a much greater appreciation for things when we are made to wait," said Ms O'Connor, who was a busy blogger and YouTuber throughout her teens.

Four years ago, she won a European Commission award for her website.

Excuse

"Being exposed to each instalment in that way, forbidden from reading ahead, the text garnered more power and allowed each of us to pull themes and concepts from the chapter that we would have sped past if we had read the novel in its entirety.

"The idea for 'Duplicity' was something that I had sitting in the back of my brain but with lockdown I no longer had an excuse not to pursue it.

"By releasing a new instalment each week, there's something to look forward to every Friday, which I think is an essential form of escapism in times like these."

From studying English at Trinity, she believes her writing style has definitely been influenced by the classics.

"The language that I use is very romantic and emotive, which I think reflects the aspirations of the narrator quite well, but which also has an air of Jane Austen about it, except I think I will steer clear from her usual endings, you won't see a marriage in the pages of 'Duplicity'."

So how hard is the dating scene for students?

"I would be lying if I said it wasn't difficult - because it's just so complex these days.

"Even though our generation is renowned for being open and free about everything, the rules which govern the dating world are innumerable.

"Back in my granny's time, when she met my granddad, they started 'doing a line' together and that was it.

Minefield

"Now you have to go from sliding into someone's messages, to the dreaded 'talking stage', to seeing each other, to potentially exclusively seeing each other, and then you might have a chat about a relationship.

"It's a minefield, but I refuse to believe that it's hopeless.

"As my first fictional pursuit, I think that there is a lot of myself stored away inside the narrator, more than just her blonde hair. I think that the creation of this story has been my saving grace during these times, having given me a fictional world to explore, and a chance to stroll around my beloved Dublin while I'm stowed away in isolation.

"I never thought that I would ever be able to write a fictional story, but now I have, I don't want to stop. I have a few ideas running riot inside my head for my next venture, hopefully a fully-fledged novel."

Irish Independent