Writer's Block with Caroline Finnerty - The Gloss Magazine

Writer’s Block with Caroline Finnerty

The wonderful CAROLINE FINNERTY shares her life in a SLEEPY KILDARE VILLAGE, what sparked her love of reading and escaping for hearty fireside lunches in the WEST OF IRELAND

The gift of Caroline Finnerty is one that keeps on giving. In just a few years, the author has made a substantial contribution to the Irish contemporary fiction scene. Caroline’s recent novels, Into The Night Sky and My Sister’s Child (both 2015), have earned glowing reviews from the Irish Independent which said of the former, ‘Finnerty deftly pulls it all together with sensitivity, drawing the reader along with the protagonists as they develop and find redemption. Into The Night Sky is engaging from the get-go and Finnerty keeps up the pace, which along with her considerable storytelling talents, make it impossible to put down.’

Childhood and family are themes very close to Caroline’s heart, and play a core part in her craft. Caroline dreamt up the idea for her debut novel, In A Moment (2012), when she experienced motherhood for the first time. The result was a book deal with Poolbeg Press.

Caroline has also compiled a non-fiction anthology called If I Was a Child Again (2013), featuring some of Ireland’s most prominent authors, journalists and television personalities, with all proceeds going to Barnados.

Caroline Finnerty lives in Kildare with her husband and four children. She has just written her fifth novel.

On home

I live in County Kildare on the banks of the Grand Canal in the small village of Ardclough. It is located between Straffan and Celbridge. Most people have never heard of it. Our house is Edwardian and dates from approximately 1900. It was originally owned by the Shackleton family who owned the Mill at Lyons. I had always admired the house, especially its pretty blue windows so when I saw it was for sale, I couldn’t believe it. I feel quite privileged to live on the canal, when I open my curtains in the morning I see our resident swan family and when we do the school run, the heron and ducks scatter along the towpath in front of us. It’s perfect.

The village itself is small: a church, a school, the GAA club and the local shop called Buggy’s that is the heart of the village. It is much more than a shop. They sell everything. I have looked for things in the huge Tesco Extra’s with no success, only to find Susan has it in stock.

A little further down the canal is the Cliff at Lyons (formerly Village at Lyons) and we usually walk the dog here on the weekends. The café does a fabulous breakfast stand (think afternoon tea but with breakfast). We love where we live and I couldn’t ever see us leaving this area. 

On creating

Virginia Woolf once said a woman must have a room of one’s own if they are to write fiction but unfortunately this isn’t the case for me as with four young children any extra space for a writing room has been eaten up, so the kitchen table has to suffice. Some day I hope to have my own room where I can leave my mass of paper and other odd-bits without worrying that somebody is going to spill juice over them. I can’t wait to be able to display my books, character sheets and little momentos which I find inspiring as I’m working but for now it’s the kitchen table (sorry Virginia).

On bookshops 

Barker & Jones in Naas is a great place to have a browse. I had my first ever launch there and it was perfect. The store is spread over three floors, so it’s quite big but Kate and Jason are always on hand and seem to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the store. They also have a great kids section which my children love. No visit is complete without a trip to the coffee shop upstairs where it’s nice to sit with a slice of cake and to start reading your new purchases.

On treasured literature

I would have to say Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree series. I remember reading these books for the first time as a child and being completely engrossed. They cemented my love of reading. I’ve read them since with my own children and they’re such timeless books that help children experience the magic of reading for themselves.

On trips away 

I love escaping to the West of Ireland. Anywhere along the western coast will do, I don’t mind. We usually try to get away somewhere in this direction in October. I love going at this time of year when winter is starting to creep in and the wind is wild and fresh. Bracing beach walks followed by a hearty pub lunch by an open fire is my idea of bliss.

On key themes

These are the stories that have always interested me – family dynamics and relationships. I’m fascinated by the nature versus nurture question and quite like to explore that in my writing. The more I write about it, the less sure I am of an answer. The idea for my first novel In a Moment was inspired after I had just become a mother for the first time and I was feeling very vulnerable and protective over my first born. I always find having a baby throws up so many emotions that its a fresh bed of creativity for new ideas. I just gave birth to my fourth child at the end of July so hopefully the same thing will happen this time.

On work-life balance

It’s very much a case of grabbing time when I can, especially at the moment with a newborn and three older children. Sometimes I really feel I’m winging it and then I feel guilty that I’m not giving the children 100% or that I’m not giving my writing 100%. There’s always a trade-off. I know it won’t always be like this though, the years fly and the children will grow before I know it, so I’m trying to embrace the chaos for however long it lasts.

On what’s next

I have just delivered my fifth novel The Lies She Told to my agent Sallyanne Sweeney. It is the story of a single father called Aidan who after living abroad for several years, has to step up and take care of his children after his ex-wife passes away suddenly. Just as he finally seems to be getting to grips with his changed reality, he finds a letter belonging to his late wife, which has devastating consequences for everyone.

Into the Night Sky (€9.79) and My Sister’s Child (€10.99) are published by Poolbeg Press and available nationwide.

Image by Eoin Rafferty

Sophie Grenham @SophieGrenham

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