Writer’s Block With Sinéad Moriarty

SOPHIE GRENHAM talks to the prolific SINÉAD MORIARTY about growing up by the sea, living in Paris and the books on her nightstand now …

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Eoin Rafferty

These days, visitors rarely pass through a bookshop door without clocking a Sinéad Moriarty novel. For over a decade, Sinéad has warmed the souls of readers with her highly relatable stories, starting with The Baby Trail in 2004. The tireless author has since become one of Irish popular fiction’s household names, with twelve books published so far. Sinéad has sold over 700,000 copies in the UK and Ireland with twenty-five language translations available.

In 2015, after making the short-list eight times, Sinéad was recognised with Popular Fiction Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards for The Way We Were.

Originally a journalist, Sinéad lived and worked in London and Paris for many years before moving back home to Dublin. She currently writes a weekly column for the Irish Independent.

Sinéad’s latest novel, The Good Mother, has received an avalanche of praise in its short time on the shelves, addressing an issue that few dare to touch. Indeed, the ground-breaking work explores the controversial topic of child euthanasia; of motherly love grappling with an ultimatum. RTÉ’s Eileen Dunne has said, ‘I’m an emotional wreck after reading this novel… I just could not put it down’.   

Sinéad Moriarty lives in Dublin with her husband and three children. She is now penning her thirteenth novel.

The Good Mother (€15.99) is published by Penguin and available from bookshops nationwide.

On home

I currently live between Cabinteely and Loughlinstown. We live in a house that is flooded with light. Our previous house was very dark and I think when you live in a country that has long dark winters, light is very important. This house is very sunny and bright and it really does make a difference, especially when you work from home and you’re in the house all the time.

I spend a lot of time (and money!) in Select Stores in Dalkey. Since being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis a year ago, I’m really focused on being as healthy as I can to try to counteract all of the drugs I have to take. So I go there to buy the gorgeous healthy food they sell. They do the most fantastic juices that somehow make broccoli, spinach and kale taste delicious – a feat that I can never match at home. My homemade efforts always end up tasting like grass. They also make sugar free flapjacks that I love.

On roots 

I grew up in Booterstown, in Dublin. My Grandad, who we lived with, went swimming every day of the year in the sea at the bottom of the road. He’d head off, rain, hail or shine dressed in this three piece suit with his togs and a towel under his arm for his daily swim. After university I lived away for nine years and I found myself really missing the sea. Whenever I came home I’d always go for a big walk along the seafront. It was only when I lived abroad that I appreciated how special it is to live in a city by the sea.

On working abroad

I lived in Paris for two years and London for seven. Paris is my favourite city in the world. I moved there straight after college and shared a tiny apartment with two Irish friends. The amazing thing about Paris is that you can live well on very little money because food and wine is cheap. Every day on my way to work I walked by Notre Dame Cathedral to get to the metro stop. I was awed by its splendour every single day. I’ve always thought I’d like to go back and write a book in Paris… maybe I will someday.

London was different, but I enjoyed it equally. It’s so full of optimism and opportunity. There are always new restaurants and bars to try out or new plays and shows to see. I worked on a magazine over there and met a huge variety of people from all creeds and cultures. It’s such a wonderful melting pot of people and there is always such a buzz in London. I go back a bit for work now and I always love visiting. It feels like a home away from home.

On creating

My ‘office’ is really a box room in the corner of the house with a desk and a large bookcase in it. At the moment, I’m surrounded by boxes of my new book. I really need to do a clear out. The room looks completely chaotic but I like to say it’s ‘organised chaos’; I know where everything is. I have a cork board above my desk with photos of my children, some inspirational quotes and my treasured possession – a letter Maeve Binchy wrote to me several years ago. I was so thrilled to receive a note from her as I was a huge fan.

On bookshops

I love The Village Bookshop in Greystones. The owner and staff are extremely knowledgeable about books and are all big readers, so you get great recommendations when you go there. It’s really well laid out too; you can browse happily for ages. They also have a lovely kids section which keeps the children happy while you browse, always a big bonus.

On her nightstand

One of the lovely perks of being a writer is that you get sent advance copies of books from your publishers. I have a very big pile beside my bed at the moment. Top of the list, and the one I’m dying to read, is the new Elizabeth Strout – Anything is Possible. It’s a series of short stories that link up to Lucy Barton’s home town and the characters in it. My Name Is Lucy Barton was my favourite novel last year and Strout’s other book of short stories, Olive Kitteridge, is also a firm favourite. I also have The Little Green Spoon cookbook by Indy Power which I’m planning to try some recipes from, they look gorgeous and really healthy too.

On escapes

I go for walks on Killiney Hill to de-compress. I find the spectacular views of the sea really soothing and uplifting. As I’ve got older I appreciate nature more. I’ve always hated gyms; I much prefer to be out in the fresh air, even if it’s raining. Nature can be very soothing especially as you watch the seasons change and now is a lovely time, as spring is in the air. I find walking very helpful when I’m stuck on a plot issue or have a character that needs to be fleshed out. Getting away from your desk and walking can often unblock a problem or bring about a solution to a plot issue.

On memories

A few years ago I was asked to do a talk and book signing in a town about a two hour drive from Dublin. The lovely librarian said the library had a very enthusiastic membership and they’d advertise my talk and make sure to get a big group in. ‘Besides,’ she said, ‘we’re having wine and food. They’ll definitely come out for that.’ I felt relieved. This was at the height of the recession when people would have killed their own grannies for free food and drink. On the day, I drove the two hours feeling optimistic. I reminded myself of the lure of the free grub and booze and was reassured that I wouldn’t end up talking to myself.

As I got closer to the town the heavens opened. Not Irish rain, more Indian monsoon type rain. ‘It’s not looking too good,’ I said. ‘The rain will put people off.’ ‘Not a bit of it,’ the librarian assured me. ‘We’ve crates of wine and a banquet table full of food. They’ll be here.’ I glanced at the clock. 19:40 – the talk was due to start at 20:00. No sign of anyone yet. Tick-tock. 19.50 and no-one had arrived. My stomach began doing flips. Even the librarian checked her watch. I ate a small bun. Best to have something before all the food disappeared. 19.58 and not one soul had darkened the door. The librarian disappeared and dragged a few people in off the street to listen to the poor eejit who’d driven from Dublin to give a talk.

As I drove home later than night I hoped that my lovely rent-a-crowd had locked the library doors, drunk all the wine, feasted on cream buns and muffins and partied till dawn.

What’s next on the horizon?

I’m currently working on book thirteen at the moment and looking forward to disappearing into the new plot and characters when the buzz of The Good Mother dies down. But for now, I’m thoroughly enjoying and appreciating the wonderful reaction to The Good Mother.

SOPHIE GRENHAM @SophieGrenham

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