County Dublin, Ireland. In a cold, old Georgian house, in a family of nine. I had a very happy childhood, spent as a tomboy and hungry reader.
What was it that first got you into writing and when did you start writing?
My writing is an extension of my reading, as it is for many writers. I've been writing poetry since I was a child. I have always written things but didn't know what to do with them. In 1998 I did a fiction writing workshop with the brilliant young writer Mike McCormack. It opened my eyes to the possibilities. I got serious about fiction and poetry after that, and co-founded a women's writing group in Galway city.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
I don't altogether believe in influences – maybe 'inspirations' is a better word. I love the writing of the following, without necessarily wanting to write like them: Zadie Smith, Edna O'Brien, Michéle Roberts, Claire Keegan, Seán O'Reilly, Mike McCormack, Órfhlaith Foyle, Richard Ford, Anne Enright, John Updike, Emma Donoghue, Manuel Munoz, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Tim Winton, Rose Tremain, Eva Bourke, Pat Jourdan, Margaret Atwood, Ernest Hemingway, Kiran Desai etc etc.
What kind of things do you write?
Fiction and poetry that deal with sensual things: love, lust, betrayal. I like women's stories and I try for dark humour. Short stories are my passion, but I've written a novel (with my agent!) and poetry is important to me too.
What are you working on now?
My third fiction collection and my third poetry collection. Also translations of Cathal Ó Searcaigh's beautiful love poetry (to English from Irish Gaelic).
What is your writing day like?
I have two school-going kids, so I have five mornings a week to work. Some of that is used for the business side of things: editing, preparing submissions, filling in bursary applications, preparing for the Fiction Writing class I teach etc. I also write in the afternoon, if it's going well and if the kids leave me in peace. I have a desk in a study, but I'll often write in the sittingroom or kitchen, for the change of scene.
What's the most exciting thing about writing for you?
When the work is going well it makes me happy in a way that nothing else does; it's an internal buzz of contentment. It's also lovely to win a writing competition or place your story or poem in a magazine that you admire. That makes you feel special. I'm not overly fond of book launches, except other people's ones. I often enjoy doing and attending readings and talking to other writers.
What's the most frustrating thing about writing for you?
The glacial pace of the publishing industry; 'maybes' that turn into rejections; being cash poor; filling in bursary applications; when I procrastinate and clean the bathroom, instead of writing.
What's the best piece of feedback that you've had from your audience?
When people said they were moved by my story 'I, Caroline' I was happy. That was constructive in its own way. As for negative feedback, a man once told me my story 'read like an essay'. It didn't, unless essays have characters and are told in the first person by a dead girl…
Do you write for a particular audience, or is your first priority to satisfy your own creativity?
I write because I am compelled to; it gets me through, even when I feel lousy. I love words and I want to keep alive the happiness they bring. I have no reader in mind; people have their own taste and some will like and 'get' my work, and some won't.
Do you have a homepage? Do you have any short stories or poems published online? (If so, please provide the URLs):
'The Queen of All Ireland' http://www.stingingfly.org/issue14/nuala.html
'Anna's Meal' http://www.nthposition.com/100poets0.pdf
'Molly's Daughter' http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=1961
'Our Lady of Dublin' http://www.hiberno-english.com/poems.htm