Louise O’Neill

Louise O'NeillLouise O’Neill is from Clonakilty, west Cork. Having spent a year in New York working for ELLE magazine, she returned home to Ireland to write her first novel, ‘Only Ever Yours’ which was recently awarded ‘The Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year’ at the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2014.

  1. Can you describe what your debut ‘Only Ever Yours’ is about
    My debut novel “Only Ever Yours” is a feminist dystopian novel and has been described as “The Handmaid’s Tale” meets “Mean Girls”. Set in a world in which women are no longer to bear daughters naturally, the decision is made to set up Schools where female babies are bred for their beauty and then trained to be subservient to men. The story centres on freida, a sixteen girl in her final year at the School, and fight to secure her future.
  2. To the readers of the website, tell us about yourself and how you got into writing.
    After graduating from Trinity College Dublin with a BA in English Studies, I completed a post-graduate in fashion buying at DIT. I then moved to New York to work for the senior style director of ELLE magazine, Kate Lanphear. I returned to Ireland in September 2011 to begin work on my debut novel which was published in July 2014. I had wanted to write for quite some time but I could never seem to find enough time or energy, I always found something to distract me. There was an element of ‘now or never’ this time though. I became almost obsessive about it sequestering myself alone in my room for months on end until I had a first draft that I felt happy with.
  3. In ‘Only Ever Yours’ the girls have to undertake one of three roles. A companion, who is a wife, a concubine who is essentially a prostitute and a chasity who is a teacher. What made you decide to come up these three jobs and if you were frieda, what would you choose?
    The three categories that the girls are sorted in to was a play on the Madonna/Whore complex, that we are either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ girls. I feel that women are so often placed in to these prescribed boxes, we are not given enough space to be fully formed human beings.

    That is the first time anyone has asked me that question. I definitely wouldn’t want to be a companion anyway, and as much as I love teenage girls, I don’t know if I could cope with living with chastity-ruth for more than five minutes . I’ll go with a concubine. I like the idea of living in a harem because I enjoy the company of other women.

  4. How would you describe your writing?
    John McGahern is one of my favourite authors and I would love to be able to write in the same pared back style that he does. I try to keep my own writing fairly clean, I feel that it becomes more powerful that way. My editor, Niamh Mulvey, has similar taste which helps.
  5. What authors do you admire?
    Besides McGahern, I love Emma Forrest, Donna Tartt, Sylvia Plath, Curtis Sittenfeld, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Margaret Atwood.
  6. What’s been the highlight of your writing experience?
    I have met some really interesting people through Twitter and at literary festivals and conferences. The Irish literary world, and the YA fiction community both here and in the UK, have been so welcoming and supportive.
  7. What was your favourite book of 2014?
    I’m a little bit in love with ‘Young Skins’ by Colin Barrett.
  8. Who is your favourite literary hero/heroine?
    Susan Pevensie. C.S Lewis really fucked her over, in my opinion.
  9. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Immerse yourself in art of all kind, from the theatre and literature to art galleries and independent movies. It fills up the well of your creativity, to use an incredibly cliched analogy.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which 3 books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    This is a difficult question as I rarely re-read books. “Skippy Dies” by Paul Murray, “The Bell Jar”, by Sylvia Plath, “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt.
  11. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    A cup of lemon and ginger tea.
  12. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon that you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    My second novel ‘Asking For It’ is due to be published by Quercus in August/September. It’s about an eighteen year old girl, Emma, living in a small town in west Cork. It deals with issues of rape culture, victim blaming, and consent.

Follow Louise O’Neill on Twitter Louise O’Neill for updates or check out her website at Louise O’Neill

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