EXCLUSIVE: On Writing and Storytelling with Olivia Kiernan

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There is one thing that’s unshakeable about Irish culture and that’s our desire to tell stories. It’s not too much to say that in Ireland, writer or no, the ability to spin a good yarn is seen as a very favourable quality. And I grew up around some great storytellers. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of sitting on the gate of my uncle’s farm where my aunt would tell us stories around the banshee legends and other ghostly apparitions that she knew of. I can recall those summer evenings vividly, the gradual dialling down of the day, the shuffle of the cattle in the dairy sheds and the slow stiffening of fear through our limbs as we sat enthralled by the stories she told us. Ever since, I’ve not been able to resist a story with a good dose of suspense at its heart.

Like many writers, even though I dabbled in writing on and off from when I was old enough to hold a pencil, it did take me some time to get here. But over the years, I read from my favourite writers, Maeve Binchy, Sebastian Barry, Anne Enright, Seán O’Casey to name a few and every time I closed a book there was the urge to write; to put down on paper the many stories that were in my head, to revel in playing with words, with sentences, language.

Writing continued to be a huge draw, through my years of study, work in science and as a chiropractor but I was unsure about how or if I could make that jump from idea to novel. I tried a few writers’ workshops but eventually embarked on an MA in Creative Writing, completing it in part-time study while I worked. By the time I’d finished my MA, two years later, I’d finished my first novel. It was a big learning curve for me but it proved that I could, at least, produce a piece of work. I think this is the hardest part for would-be authors, getting to the end of a novel. Once you’re there, you realise there is little mystery around it. It is about putting one word after the next until you get to the end.

I wrote Too Close to Breathe, my first crime thriller/police procedural when my daughter was ten months old. I wrote it mostly in the middle of the night, grainy-eyed but possessed with a rare kind of writing fever. It was national novel writing month (a global challenge to try and write 50K words through November) and I decided to give myself permission to write intensely for one month. Now, the second in the series, The Killer In Me, has just been published and I’m so delighted to return to Dublin and to Frankie with more than a little dark storytelling.

The Killer in Me by Olivia Kiernan is published by riverrun in Hardback on 4th April, £18.99 available here.

Read our review of The Killer In Me here.

We also reviewed Too Close To Breathe here.

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