Following her recent success after scooping up the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliott Prize (2016), author Lisa McInerney took a moment to chat with us about her experience as a writer spanning a range of mediums and influences. Lisa will be joining Dublin Book Festival again as one of several panellists at Beyond the Centre, this year’s opening event.
Q: You’ve worked in very different kinds of writing – from blogging, then one short story, then onto a novel, and now you’re working on a TV script. Is there a form that feels most like home/natural to you?
Very much the novel. I’ve always written longform fiction; the blog was a side-project that taught me how to work to deadline while I got myself together enough to write a coherent novel. And I’m still intimidated by the short story – though perhaps less than I was a couple of years ago. Each medium presents different challenges and different opportunities, but my heart is with the novel – to read as well as to write!
Q: In The Glorious Heresies (John Murray Publishers Ltd), you shine a spotlight on the lives of the poor, marginal people who are often ignored. Do feel a responsibility to speak about their lives? Or do you find their lives to be more dramatic than the typical characters in more middle-class fiction?
I hate the idea that working-class characters are more dramatic than middle-class characters, or that working-class themes are more lively or authentic or entertaining; marginalised, working-class or under-privileged people – however you want to put it – are not carnival side-shows, or there for teaching earthy life lessons to polite society. I write about people from a working-class background because that’s my own background, and so for now, that’s what interests me most. But I do feel a responsibility towards these characters and stories because all writers must feel a sense of responsibility towards whatever facet of life they’re choosing to write about. You should be passionate about getting it right. And I feel quite strongly about people owning their own narratives. Opportunities must be given to writers from all backgrounds, but also, writers from all backgrounds should push to get their stories out there.
That said, no one, no matter what background they’re from, is immune to stupid, self-sabotaging decisions like those made by the cast of Heresies. The difference really is the resources available to you to help you correct those decisions.
Q: What have you read recently that resonated with you?
Han Kang’s Human Acts (Portobello Books Ltd), a multi-narrative account of the Gwangju uprising in 1980 and its consequences. It’s an incredible piece of work, and, for writers, a reminder of what a novel can and should be.