Caitriona Lally is the 2018 winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. Her first novel, Eggshells, was shortlisted for the Newcomer Award at the 2015 Irish Book Awards and the Kate O’Brien Debut Novel Award. She received a Literature Bursary from the Arts Council in 2015. She is trying to finish her second novel before the decade is out.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when writing Eggshells?
I had never had anything published before I started writing Eggshells. I had attempted a few short stories but got nowhere, and so I had no idea how to go about writing a novel or if I could do it. There was something exciting about that too, pushing on into my character’s world without having any idea where the book was going. I knew nothing about the book scene in Ireland too, which was a hindrance in hindsight, I didn’t know anything about publishing or how it worked. When I talk to creative writing students now I’m amazed by how clued in they are about the process. It’s definitely a lot wiser to go into it armed with knowledge.
How would you describe your daily writing routine?
Sporadic. I work very early mornings, and I write after work for a couple of hours three days a week before picking my child up from creche. I try to do some writing in the evenings but combining an early morning job and entertaining a very active child during the day means I’m not fit for much by the evening time, so those three mornings writing are when I get the bulk of my writing work done. Baby number two is on the way so that will rearrange my writing time yet again - fingers crossed the next child will be a sleeper.
What has receiving a bursary award meant to you as a writer/for your writing career?
The money was very useful, it funded a trip to Hamburg to research my second novel, and I received it at a time when royalties from my book were not forthcoming. It also gave me a bit of confidence, to feel recognised as an emerging writer. It’s a great feeling when someone reads your work and decides it has potential and is worth promoting.
What is the best piece of advice you received as an emerging writer?
I was told to never let myself get too high or too low about writing and I’ve tried to stick with that. This writing lark is full of ups and downs – downs in the form of multiple rejections, trying to get royalties out of my first publisher and all the associated problems with choosing the wrong publisher – and highs in the form of getting publishing deals with reputable publishers in the UK and the US, and being shortlisted for or winning prizes.
What book/author has influenced your writing the most?
Probably Joanna Walsh. She plays with language in such a way that it makes you see words and concepts in a different light. I find her work exciting in its experimentalism, you never know what the next sentence is going to say, and I admire her courage in obviously not writing for a market, she clearly writes what interests her.