"I Write Short-Short Stories While I Am Writing a Novel" Interview with Nuala NiChonchuir

By Morales, Marisol | Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies, Annual 2014 | Go to article overview

"I Write Short-Short Stories While I Am Writing a Novel" Interview with Nuala NiChonchuir


Morales, Marisol, Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies


Nuala, I will start with a question that has been addressed to you in previous interviews. When I first approached your work it struck me that you have such a wide and diverse literary production. You are prolific, multifaceted and multitalented. You have written poetry, flash fiction, short stories, novels, essays, literary criticism and even a short drama play. Is it easy for you to find a voice in all these literary genres? Do you plan ahead the form that best serves your purposes or does it come to you in a more intuitive and natural manner? Also, which genre is the one you feel most comfortable with?

Fiction is my thing, really, but I suppose that if I were given a choice and told that I could only write in one genre, then, I would pick the short story. I love short fiction because it offers a real challenge and every time you sit down to write you are starting a new story, which is difficult in one way but exciting in another. So you come to a story, which is completely different to the last one you wrote, maybe in tone or in character. Everything is new. As a reader, I love stylistic writing and, as a writer, I aim for that as well. I like the writing of John Banville, for instance, he is very attentive to language. As I was saying in my lecture about Edna O'Brien, she talks about language being sacred to her. I feel the same way. I was brought up bilingual. My schooling was all through Irish and my home life was all through English. So I was living between two languages all the time, and I have just always loved language.

At the moment, I am finishing my third novel. The second one, The Closet of Savage Mementos, is coming out in April 2014. Now that I am writing the third one, I find the length of the novel very comforting because everyday you have somewhere to start again. You come back to your desk and you are moving forward, whereas with the short story, if you write it in a week or two weeks, or a month, you are starting again very quickly. Both things suit me. I find when I am writing a novel that I do not have time for a longer short story. So, I write short-short stories while I am writing a novel. In a way, they present themselves to me but in another way it is a break from the novel. You just divert your attention. The novel I am writing now is historical, set in America in the 19th century, and concerns an Irish person, Emily Dickinson's maid. So it is really fun to write a modern short-short story to get away from that for a while. I have a short attention span and so it suits me, as you were saying, that I am a multi-genre writer. It suits me to write long fiction, short fiction, poetry sometimes not a lot--and then drama. I have written a collaborative play with some other people. That is really my only foray into drama.

I suppose historical novels are difficult to write because you need to know a lot about the context and they involve a lot of research. However, it is a genre that is gaining popularity and that it seems to have been revived in the last years.

I think it is very appealing. With Hilary Mantel winning the Booker twice it is certainly a genre gaining interest. I like reading historical fiction. I had attempted one previous historical novel. I wrote most of it and then it just didn't work, so I abandoned it. Then I came up with the story for Miss Emily.

Could you advance something about your second novel, which will be published in spring 2014? Is it a historical novel as well?

No, it is set in 1991 between Dublin and the Highlands of Scotland. When I finished university I went straight to Scotland to work, just as something to do, and the book is set in the place that I went to, a fishing village in the Highlands. It is enjoyable to write about places that you know and you have lived in. When I finished writing the novel I went back to do some last bits of research, which is something I like to do. In October 2013 I was in Massachusetts to complete research on my third novel while I also did some teaching and gave talks at Bay Path College. …

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