Academic journal article Atlantis, revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos

"I Have Always Been a Writer": An Interview with Evelyn Conlon

Academic journal article Atlantis, revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos

"I Have Always Been a Writer": An Interview with Evelyn Conlon

Article excerpt

Irish novelist and short story writer Evelyn Conlon was born in Co. Monaghan and lives in Dublin (1). She is an elected member of Aosdana, the Irish artists' association. Conlon has been writer in residence at University College Dublin and in colleges around the world and has a deep interest in Australia, where she lived in the early 1970s. There she held a variety of jobs and became besotted by the landscapes of rural Australia.

Conlon has published three collections of short stories, My Head is Opening (1987), Taking Scarlet as a Real Colour (1993) and Telling: New and Selected Short Stories (2000), and four novels. The short stories are widely anthologized and translated. Conlon's novels deal with social and political dilemmas. Stars in the Daytime (1989) and A Glassful of Letters (1998) related the lives, loves and hates of women and girls of the Irish diaspora. Skin of Dreams (2003), shortlisted for Irish novel of the year, dealt with the story of Harry Gleeson, who was sentenced to death row for the murder of a woman, a crime he did not commit. Gleeson recently received a posthumous pardon. Conlon is currently working on a new collection of short stories, but her most recent publication was a novel, Not the Same Sky (2013), which focuses on Irish Famine orphans of the 1840s and earned her the title of Australia's newest Irish novelist. The diary-like Not the Same Sky draws on her Australian experience and narrates the moving story of over 4,000 Irish girls aged between fourteen and twenty, victims of the famine, who were shipped to Sydney to work as domestic servants. Conlon's work, whether short story or novel, is suffused with originality and humour and she is brilliant at deploying many of the rhetorical strategies of the satirical apparatus, namely, irony and wit.

The following interview took place on October 13, 2014, at her home in Dublin, during my visit as a Scholar at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway), where I was researching Irish Literature and Culture.

Melania Terrazas: Evelyn, thank you very much for meeting me. I'd like to start with some general questions before I focus on your literary production. I have read that you moved from job to job and place to place between 1972 and 1975 before dedicating yourself to writing full-time. (2) When and how did your writing adventure start? And how have your experiences affected your writing?

Evelyn Conlon: I went to Australia in 1972 by ship and over a period of three years did a lot of travelling around the country. I did all sorts of jobs, learned some things about life. But before I left I had already had a short story published in New Irish Writing, one of the main Irish newspapers. Funny I cannot remember sending it in. Then I had another one published there. It is an interesting question. I have always been a writer. I think that when I was about nine, I decided that that was what I wanted to be. But, of course, I didn't know what it meant. It was a gradual thing from then, a difficult thing, because I certainly didn't come from a background in which there were people who were writers. But then, who does? I do think that there are extra difficulties for writers who are women. After returning from Australia, I took part in a National Writers Workshop in the early eighties with Eavan Boland. She said an interesting thing; that the young man will say, "I want to be a writer, I am going to be a writer," but it often takes the young woman much longer for her to say "that is what I am." And so it was with me. I was a writer before I would say that I wanted to be one. Even when I was doing all sorts of odd jobs, I was really just working to live and longing to get back to writing about what I felt was going on around me, about what I was seeing. After I had those short stories published, before I was twenty, I really wanted to tackle things about women in Ireland. And I felt that I couldn't do it, I didn't have the nerve. …

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