Writer's Block with Ferdia Lennon - The Gloss Magazine

Writer’s Block with Ferdia Lennon

Ferdia Lennon was born in Dublin. He has a BA in History and Classics from University College Dublin and an MA in Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia. His short stories have appeared in publications such as The Irish Times and the Stinging Fly. His first novel, Glorious Exploits, set in 412BC, the story of how a group of captured Athenian soldiers go about staging one of Euripides’ greatest tragedies, was published earlier this year. After spending many years in Paris, Lennon now lives in Norwich, England, with his wife and son.

ON HOME I think Norwich has the highest proportion of Tudor buildings of any English city. It’s really pretty, with lots of bookshops, coffee shops and green spaces. Because of the writer’s programme at the University of East Anglia, there’s a really strong writing community and the cost of living is relatively low so many writers move here for the course and stay on.

ON FAMILY My wife Emma is from Limerick and we met in our final year of university so we’ve been together a long time. We graduated in the midst of the crash and left Ireland in search of work and adventure. My son was born over a year ago.

ON ROOTS I grew up in Tallaght with two older brothers. My father is from Libya; my mam is from Roscommon and moved to Dublin in the 1960s. My parents split up when I was very young. I did one of those DNA tests and I’m from Libya, Ireland, the Arab peninsula, Sudan and the odd bit of Turkey from the 18th-century Ottoman empire, which makes sense. I’m 51 per cent Irish but I feel 100 per cent Irish – my whole cultural background is Irish – but when I lived in Paris, where there is a really strong North African community, I would have people come up and speak Arabic to me.

ON MY DESK I have a computer, books to do with my next novel, and my coins, including an ancient Athenian tetradrachm that is 2,500 years old. It’s really heavy. There probably wouldn’t be many degrees of separation between this (coin)and Euripides or Socrates, which I just love. I always wanted one. They’re not as expensive as you might think because a lot were minted to fund the Peloponnesian war and to build the Parthenon.

ON WRITING Glorious Exploits was written on a laptop in a small studio apartment in Paris, beside a beautiful park called Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, which was actually a disused limestone quarry, and I was writing this book set in a limestone quarry. I’d go for my one kilometre walk around this park. In some ways, the pandemic conditions in which I wrote Glorious Exploits were not ideal but the headspace and the discipline were right and I feel those circumstances are important. I work best in the mornings. I don’t look at emails. When I’m working on a novel, it’s helpful to work on it every day so that you never lose contact with the world (of the book).

ON SUCCESS I had been trying to write a book for so long that when I wrote it I thought okay, whether or not this gets published, I’ve written the book I wanted to write. I really hoped it would be published but regardless of what happened, I felt it wasn’t in vain.

ON BOOKSHOPS In Norwich, my favourite bookshop is The Book Hive. In Dublin, Hodges Figgis was where I went as a kid so it was very meaningful to have my book launch there. In London, I really like the London Review bookshop and in Paris, Shakespeare & Co. There were periods in my life where I didn’t have money to buy a hardback so I remember libraries too. Tallaght Library was important as a kid. I remember working my way through Tolkien there. @edelcoffey

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