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Image / Living / Culture

Author’s Bookshelf: Liadán Hynes on early starts, rural love stories, and the importance of place to people


By Sarah Gill
08th Oct 2022

Evan Doherty

Author’s Bookshelf: Liadán Hynes on early starts, rural love stories, and the importance of place to people

Journalist, author and podcast host Liadán Hynes gives us an insight into the woman behind the words.

Earlier this week, we shared an extract from Liadán Hynes’ highly anticipated Courting: Tractor Dates, Macra Babies and Swiping Right in Rural Ireland, which you can read right here if you missed it. Today, we’re sharing a glimpse into the life of the author ranging from her inspirations and motivations to her to-be-read pile and work space.


liadan hynes courting

Did you always want to be a writer/author?

I have always wanted to be a journalist from the time I knew what that was. Charlie Bird came to my primary school in fifth class during Careers Week to give a talk, I really clearly remember him sitting up on one of those tiny desks and talking so enthusiastically about his work. I thought that sounds like the greatest job a person could have.

What inspired you to start writing?

I was incredibly lucky. I was always extremely shy about anyone reading anything I had written; essays being read out in class was a form of torture. I did English and History in college but wasn’t pursuing journalism. Then Anne Harris asked me to write for the Sunday Independent.

Years later, the editor of my first book Ciara Doorley, approached me to see if I would be interested in turning the column I was writing for IMAGE into a book, which became How to Fall Apart. So I’ve been extremely fortunate to be supported by wonderful editors.

Tell us about your writing process.

I can’t say that there’s a process; as a journalist, you’re constantly on deadline so you just get it done. That helps when writing a book, you’re used to just starting, getting down to it. On this book, there were a lot of five o’clock starts to write for a few hours before my daughter was up and the school run began, if that counts as process?

Where did the idea for this book come from?

The feeling that we hear a lot of urban-based stories about how people meet, but not so much about what was happening in rural areas, and that it would be interesting to speak to people about that.

What did you learn when writing this book?

The importance of place to people, and that even if it meant they might be less likely to meet someone, because they had chosen to live in an isolated, or smaller community, the lifestyle it offered them was so important that they would sometimes risk that.

Three words to describe your writing process:

Morning, noon, night (I went freelance to have flexibility with my daughter, so my work day is pretty broken up all over the place at times).

Liadán Hynes’ to-be-read pile

Do you have any quirky habits when writing?

No, although I found when I was doing the extremely early mornings writing on Courting, our cats Mavis and Rose liked to put in the shift with me, and would take turns sitting on the rug beside me, quietly staring up at me. It was an odd mixture of supportive and unsettling. And I became obsessed with eating bag after bag of dried mango.

The first book you remember reading is…

The Hobbit; I remember my mum reading it to me every night at bedtime, and there being such a sense of cliff-hanger every night.

Your favourite Irish author is…

There are so many, but Marian Keyes for overall brilliance.

The book you gift everyone is…

This is a children’s book, but Usborne’s You Choose, I give it to my friends’ children.

Three books everyone should read:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie.

The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

Do you listen to music when you write?

No, I find it distracting, I prefer quiet.

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

Finally a proper desk and chair rather than sitting at the kitchen table.

Liadán Hynes’ writing desk, which features artwork by her daughter that she loves to have in her line of sight while she works, and a card she received from the author Claire Keegan, which is very special.

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

The three mentioned above, they stand up to several rereads.

A quote you love is…

First drafts always feel rubbish; I have been told a version of this by various writers. It’s very reassuring.

The book you always return to is…

The Secret History

Seeing your book in shops is…

Always weirdly surprising, even though obviously you know the end point of all this is for it to be in bookstores. It’s lovely.

How do you use social media as an author?

Very amateurly I would think; I recently asked someone are reels really just videos, and can you put pictures on Twitter, I am a very bad social media person!

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

Definitely not judged but it is really lovely when someone sums up what you feel is the spirit of your book in the cover artwork. For How to Fall Apart, my first book, the design was based around hearts, it really caught the feeling of the book. I was lucky enough with Courting to work with the amazing artist Holly Pereira, it feels incredibly special to have something created by her, and she was really collaborative and tolerant of my suggestions when we were brainstorming.

Do you find it hard not to procrastinate when writing?

No, I’m a self-employed single parent, so procrastination isn’t really an option.

The best advice you’ve ever gotten is:

Just get down to it. Don’t wait until it feels like what you’re writing is fantastic, that is unlikely happen. Begin, rewrite, re draft, expect to get rid of a lot of what you’ve written, that’s all normal and part of it.

Courting: Tractor Dates, Macra Babies and Swiping Right in Rural Ireland’ by Liadán Hynes, published by New Island Books, €16.95, is available now.

Photography by Evan Doherty