I am delighted to welcome Nuala Ní Chonchúir to my humble blog. She is dropping by to answer some questions as part of her tour promoting “Nude” her third collection of short stories. Nuala is an Irish fiction writer and poet. Her short fiction collections The Wind Across the Grass (2004) and To the World of Men, Welcome (2005) were published by Arlen House. Her poetry collections Tattoo:Tatú (2007) and Molly’s Daughter (2003) appeared from the same publisher. She has won many literary prizes, including RTÉ Radio’s Francis MacManus Award and the Cecil Day-Lewis Award. Nuala lives in Galway with her partner and children.
Hi Sara and thanks for having me here at A Salted.
Right, questions coming atcha!
1) I was struck throughout by your wonderfully strong opening lines:
“The outflow on the bath is like a keyhole; you stopper it with your toe and let the water lap in your ears, to block out the house.” (Unmothered)
“The air slung like a noose around my nose and mouth, then slipped down to settle on my neck.” (To drift and to lift)
“She has a doughy face and bulging, raisin eyes; her belly-folds flop one over another in a fleshy heap.” (Ekphrasis)
“You died today.” (Mademoisele O’Murphy)
(I could quote from any one of them but chose a few of my favourites.)
How do you choose your first lines? Do you write them first or do you figure out the best opening when the story is complete?
A lot of my stories actually start from the fact that I have an opening line. So, I’m pottering or walking or whatever, and some words occur to me and, if I like them, I write them down. Those words might collide with something that’s been stewing – a character, maybe. My stories rarely spring from one thing (say, a situation or idea); it’s more like a meeting of a vague sense of a character in a situation, then a first line comes, and I’m off.
2) Early, Lamb, Grace, Cowboy and Nelly are just some of the names you use. Glorious names that fit the characters perfectly. How do you choose them? Where do they come from?
I love naming; it’s one of the most joyous parts of writing. Annie Proulx is a favourite writer of mine and she has a lot of fun with names too.
I pick up names everywhere: from spam, death notices, graveyards, magazine articles. I always split the first name from the surname before using it.
Early is a surname in Ireland and I made it a first name in the story ‘Amazing Grace’. Names became integral in that story in the end.
Lamb I nicked from Lamb Gaede, one half of twin racist pop outfit Prussian Blue. (Her twin sis is called Lynx).
Cowboy and Nelly are the doggy parents of my friend Marcella’s dog, Rosa. I thought the names sounded great together – like a real couple – so I stole them for two characters.
3) Do you have a favourite character that you have created? Why?
I like some characters for different reasons. I quite fancy Loveday, a character from my second collection. In Nude I like Magda Bolding (name found in spam!) because she’s in two of the stories and you see her develop from tentative young artist/model, to strong, successful woman artist in her own right.
4) You are a poet and short story writer. The inevitable question therefore is: are you planning on writing a novel? (Oh, and what makes an idea a poem instead of a story and vice versa?)
I have written a novel and, here’s an exclusive, Sara, I’ve just had it accepted by a wonderful Irish publisher, New Island. http://www.newisland.ie/ The novel is called You, it’s set in Dublin in 1980 and will be published in April 2010. I’m thrilled!
As for poem vs short story, my themes/passions can be similar in both: women’s lives, sex, love breaking down, art. My poems tend to be more personal, my fiction is more…fictional.
5) You refer throughout to works of art. How important is it that your reader is familiar with the art in question?
I don’t think they have to be familiar with them – some of the paintings in Nude are not real anyway. I guess readers could google the images if they felt the need.
6) I loved Smash Hits irreverent style of questioning when younger so to finish up I thought we’d have some fun!
Yay, I loved Smash Hits too!
What’s your favourite biscuit?
Tesco’s Finest dark chocolate gingers. Drooooolll.
Who is your favourite Sesame Street character?
Grover. I love sweet, sensitive guys.
Cheese or chocolate?
Cheese – I’m a sucker for Emmenthal.
Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
Literary-wise: Richard Ford. Star-wise: Rufus Wainwright.
Whose poster did you have on your teenaged bedroom wall?
Paul Young. I was going to marry him until that Stacey got her claws in…
Best milkshake flavour?
Sara, I LOVED your questions, thanks a mill for having me here! As a former bookseller I always enjoy your posts about bookshop life.
Next Tuesday my virtual tour takes me back across the Irish Sea to wonder woman writer Barbara Smyth’s blog:BARBARA’S BLEEUUGH! in Dundalk.
Thanks you so much Nuala, and wow, what fabulous news about your novel. Congratulations!
It’s a lovely collection with stories full of art, sensuous women, disappointment, yearning, travel and hopes. Go get it!