16 Nuala Ni Chonchuir

Nuala Ni Chonchuir is a poet, novelist, short story writer and blogger who lives in East CLOSET COVER JPEG largeGalway with her husband and three children. Besides the general accomplishment of being awesome, she runs the well-known blog Women Rule Writer, has published four collections of poetry, including The Juno Charm (2011), five collections of short stories, with Mother America (2012) as her most recent, and two novels: You (2010) and The Closet of Savage Mementos, which hit the shelves last month. Here she is to discuss it now!

What is your name? What is your quest?

Nuala Ní Chonchúir. Or Nuala O'Connor from next year! (For the North American market, at least.) My quest? To write books good enough that people want to buy and read them.

Okay, tell me about your book.

The Closet of Savage Mementos is a narrative about grief, betrayal by loved ones, motherhood, loss, post-natal depression and the grip of past events. The novel examines how the past influences the present and how secrets cannot be ignored. But ultimately it is a book of hope: Lillis is determined not to become the mother her mother was, so she makes a life-changing decision. It's got sex, Scottish scenery and paperweights.

What was the most difficult bit to write?

Probably the bits about Postnatal Depression (PND) because I've never had it. I did a lot of reading around PND – women's testimonies etc. I think most women feel a bit anchorless after childbirth, so I drew on my own experiences and feelings too to explore Lillis's angst.

What surprised you about writing it?

How fond I felt of all the characters, even though most of them are flawed and horrible in their own way. I was bereft when I finished the novel, I had a total slump. I finished the book in the beautiful surroundings of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan. I went there specifically to finish it. But, when I came home, I was grumpy, crabby, empty and ill at ease. I missed my characters and their lives; I missed the glued-to-the-deskness that writing a novel involves. I don't remember feeling like that after my first novel but I probably did and it's just so long ago that I can't remember.

First line:

'In the church on Ardmair Street, the Blessed Virgin has a Western European face – she is chubby and big jawed.'

What's the next project?

I am currently on my second round of edits for novel three, Miss Emily, which appears next summer (2015) from Penguin USA and Penguin Canada. I am at the plucking-out-the-dross stage. It's fun but scary – this is it, the end is nigh!

Your three main characters are trapped in a barn during the zombie apocalypse. What's the outcome?

Lillis's mother Verity flirts outrageously with Struan, Lillis's older boyfriend. Lillis gets mad and she and Verity end up in such a prolonged screaming, crying match the zombies get pissed off and leave. Struan stays out of it.

Your book's been made into a movie. What's playing over the opening credits?

Music? 'Scotland the Brave' in an up-tempo, banjo-style by the group Shake That Foot. I used it for my book trailer – it's great!

When and where is the book available?

Available now in bookshops in Ireland and Scotland, on Amazon, The Book Depository and direct from the publishers here

My two cents: Sharp, sensual, witty, and quietly devastating, The Closet of Savage Mementos packs a wallop in just over two hundred pages, with characters who seemed so immediate I had the impression I'd met them rather than just read about them. Much of the novel concerns loss and grief, and although this is presented in vivid and achingly real moments, it also doesn't overwhelm the story - Lillis seems mainly concerned with trying to get on with her life, and the characters are more inclined to banter than indulge in dramatics. With not a word wasted, this is a novel well worth reading and rereading. 

Now for that soundtrack. Do we have the book trailer? Yes, I believe we do. Behold!

  

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"...astonishingly good....a juicy coming-of-age story...also an important read." The Globe and Mail

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"...page-turning, top drawer stuff..." BGE Book Club

"...warm, witty, heartfelt and utterly engaging..." The Irish News

"A stunning debut. I loved it." The Irish Examiner