We talked to Lisa McInerney about her debut novel, The Glorious Heresies (John Murray), and her appearance in The Long Gaze Back (New Island Books) anthology. Lisa will be joined by Anne Enright, Sinéad Gleeson, Christine Dwyer Hickey and Madeleine Keane to discuss and read from the anthology.
Q: Earlier this year you published your debut novel, The Glorious Heresies (John Murray), which deals with issues such as family, shame, redemption and sex, especially in relation to Ireland’s twentieth century attitudes to those things – do you feel we’re beginning to move on somewhat from the hangover of those times? In particular, does writing about them in fiction help address those issues on a personal level more satisfactorily than your blog, Arse End of Ireland, did? Or was there any difference?
I definitely feel that those oppressive attitudes are changing, and for the better.There’s a real sense of liberal empathy becoming part of our national identity, especially since the marriage referendum. It’s overdue but worth celebrating. But I don’t think writing about the more intolerant attitudes of our recent history was all that provoking on a personal level; it’s simply that it’d be ridiculous to write a contemporary Irish novel with a cast of characters who would all have been naturally shaped by Ireland’s attitudes to sex and to family without referencing those attitudes. On that basis I think the thematic content of Heresies was very close to that of the old blog: if you’re going to look that closely at Ireland’s psyche, it’ll keep you sane if you’re irreverent about it.
Q: What was your initial reaction on being asked to contribute to The Long Gaze Back?
Absolute delight. And it was very humbling. More so when I saw the finished contributor list. As one of the younger writers there I hope I’ll eventually justify Sinéad’s decision to include my work.
Q: Has the overwhelmingly positive reaction to The Long Gaze Back in any way surprised you? Are you hopeful that there won’t be the necessity for such a collection again in twenty years?
It hasn’t surprised me at all – how could it, with that quality of content? It’s as rich a collection as I could ever have hoped. And I’m optimistic that there won’t be a need for a similar collection in the future – already this year there have been so many conversations about whether women’s voices are adequately promoted across the arts. I think once we’ve started having these conversations, we’ll become more inclined to identify and correct instances in which disproportionate opportunities are given to one group over another.
Q: In terms of your own writing, are you working on anything currently, or do you have an idea for where you’ll go next?
My (long-suffering) editor and I are about to tackle the second draft of the follow-up to Heresies, and I’ve been working on a few short stories for next year, too. I’ve been trying my hand at a bit of screenwriting. The only thing I like better than being busy is complaining about how busy I am.