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Image / Living / Culture

Author’s Bookshelf: Aoife Gallagher on her writing process, book recommendations, and the making of ‘Web of Lies’


By Sarah Gill
03rd Dec 2022
Author’s Bookshelf: Aoife Gallagher on her writing process, book recommendations, and the making of ‘Web of Lies’

Aoife Gallagher shares her journey to becoming an author, the process of exploring the history of conspiratorial thought, and some of her very favourite books.

Earlier this week, we shared an extract from Aoife Gallagher’s newly released Web of Lies, and today we’re catching up with the author to hear all about the what went into creating this fascinating, accessible and entertaining book.

With Web of Lies, Aoife Gallagher provides a fascinating and far-reaching examination of the rising threat of far-right extremist thought in Ireland and internationally, and looks at how these movements utilise the online world to spread disinformation, polarising society in the process.

web of lies

Did you always want to be a writer/author?

Definitely not. Although I always loved writing in school, what I really wanted to be when I was younger was a singer songwriter. I guess I’ve achieved the ‘writer’ part of that dream!

What inspired you to start writing?

The inspiration came from my decision to study journalism after spending a chunk of my twenties travelling and working in hospitality. I needed a change of direction, and knew I wanted a job that would involve constantly learning new things.

Where did the idea for this book come from?

After working as a journalist for a few years, I took a job at a non-profit think tank called the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, where I research online extremism and misinformation with a particular focus on conspiracy theories. It has become apparent in recent years that the ability of the online world to make people believe in things that are categorically untrue is having a terrifying impact on society. This phenomenon affects everyone, so I wanted to write a book that could explain this lurid, complicated world in a simple way, with the hope that those who read it will develop some form of immunity to the forces trying to tempt us with simple answers to the world’s problems.

Tell us about your writing process.

After the research and interview stage, I’ll always try to sketch out a plan of what I’m trying to say, but I often get restless with planning and just start writing (sometimes this works out, other times it most certainly doesn’t!). My general approach is to write to myself. I find if I can explain a topic to myself, chances are most other people will also understand it.

What did you learn when writing this book?

I learned that I could write a book! I also got the chance to explore the history of conspiratorial thought and fascism in Ireland and found it absolutely fascinating. To sum up what I learned in a sentence, Ireland is not immune to these belief systems, and never has been.

Three words to describe your writing process?

Keep it simple.

Aoife Gallagher
Aoife Gallagher’s work space

Do you have any quirky habits when writing?

Does unconsciously plucking hairs out of my chin count?

The first book you remember reading is…

One of the Beatrix Potter classics. Possibly Peter Rabbit.

Your favourite Irish author is…

At the moment, definitely Patrick Freyne. His writing always lifts my mood.

The book you gift everyone is…

Funnily enough, Beatrix Potter classics! I tend to give these to friends/family who have babies.

Three books everyone should read…

In recent years, my bookshelf has become overrun with books about Nazis, conspiracy theories and the internet. If you want to read a book about that subject I (of course) recommend Web of Lies by Aoife Gallagher. Outside of that, I’ve grown to love reading memoirs and diaries, so I recommend This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay and Ok, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea by Patrick Freyne.

You overcome writer’s block by…

Doing some form of exercise that makes me sweat. Boxing is a favourite.

Do you listen to music when you write?

I can only listen to instrumental music when writing, so I have a playlist of Hans Zimmer songs that I often go back to.

The best money you ever spent as a writer was on…

A subscription to Descript, which transcribes audio and video into text and has saved me hours of time.

The three books you’d bring with you to a desert island are…

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (I’ve been meaning to re-read this for a while).

How to Stay Alive by Bear Grylls (seems like it would be handy).

A jumbo book of crosswords (and a pen).

Aoife Gallagher
Aoife Gallagher’s #shelfie

A quote you love is…

Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.

The book you always return to is…

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Age 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend. This was a staple of my teenage years and I recently re-read it. It’s still fantastic.

Seeing your book in shops is…

Surreal.

One book you wish you had written is…

It Came From Something Awful by Dale Beran because it is one of the best books outlining the evolution of insidious online subcultures and the impact they now have in politics and society.

How do you use social media as an author?

Analysing and researching trends on social media is my entire job, so in a professional capacity it’s absolutely essential. Personally, I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with it and use it sparingly.

Should books be judged by their covers? How did you pick yours?

They shouldn’t be, but they are! Jack Smyth, who designed the cover of my book, did an amazing job. I had some ideas on ways to encapsulate the different imagery of conspiracy movements and Jack was able to bring these to life.

Do you find it hard not to procrastinate when writing?

Absolutely. If I’m being honest, I only work well under pressure/when I have a strict deadline.

The best advice you’ve ever gotten is…

Not advice per se, but my parents raised me to be curious and open-minded, which I think is an essential outlook for an ever changing world.

Your favourite literary character of all time is?

Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

‘Web of Lies’ by Aoife Gallagher, €15.99, is on sale now.