Q&A with Patricia O’Reilly – Short Fiction 2-Day Workshop Director


Patricia O'Reilly
Patricia O’Reilly

Patricia O’Reilly has worked as a freelance feature writer for newspapers and magazines and is a creator of radio documentaries, plays and scores of Sunday Miscellany pieces.

Her latest novel The Interview received rave reviews and tells the story of Irish designer Eileen Gray’s meeting with rising star of Fleet Street Bruce Chatwin.  A Type of Beauty was longlisted for the Historical Novel Society Award 2013. Other novels include Time & Destiny and Once Upon A Summer. Patricia also writes short stories which are published in various magazines and anthologies. Her non-fiction titles are Writing for Success; Working Mothers; Earning Your Living from Home; Writing for the Market and Dying with Love.

We are delighted that Patricia will be directing our 2-Day Short Fiction Workshop on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st May 2015 during Listowel Writers’ Week.


Q. Your most recent novel The Interview imagines what happens one afternoon when journalist Bruce Chatwin interviews the designer and architect Eileen Gray. Why did you want to tell this story?

A. Some years ago over lunch, the conversation came around to Eileen Gray. Someone remarked that she’d been interviewed by Bruce Chatwin. Bells began ringing in my head and so began the process of research for The Interview.

Q. When and why did your interest with Eileen Gray begin?

A. I became interested in her about 15 years ago when I was commissioned by Image magazine to write a piece on the Irish diaspora in Paris, Eileen Gray specifically. As I researched her life I became more and more fascinated by this design perfectionist who was punctilious about recording every aspect of her many projects but who destroyed most of her private papers, letters and photographs. I ended up writing a radio play on her, broadcasting several Sunday Miscellany pieces, a book titled Time & Destiny and giving talks in places as diverse as Princess Grace Library, Monaco, her home town of Enniscorthy and Dublin’s RDS.

Q. Were you interested in writing at a young age?

A. Yes, for as long as I can remember I dreamed of having a book with my name on its cover for sale in a bookshop.

Q. What book or writer influenced you most?

A. I don’t think I’m ‘influenced’, or ever have been, by either books or writers. Hugely because of the writing courses I run in UCD, I am interested in contemporary fiction, particularly works that are nominated for or win awards. Currently I’m reading Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North.  Before that it was The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and Liz Nugent’s debut novel Unravelling Oliver was a great read.

Q. Who are your favourite contemporary writers?

A. The list is huge, I devour books and am particularly interested in debut novels: William Boyd, Anne Enright, John Greene, Emma Healey, Christine Dwyer Hickey, Ian McEwan, Hilary Mantel, Edna O’Brien, Donna Tart – I finished The Goldfinch.

Q. Do you have a daily writing schedule?

A. Yes, when I’m writing the first draft either 1000 words or two hours at the desk – whichever comes first. When I’m researching it’s as long as it takes and when I’m editing prior to submission, it’s 24 hours a day on the job.

Q. Who is your favourite fictional character?

A. I don’t have a favourite fictional character, I am more of an ‘of the now person’ in that I am consumed by what I’m currently reading and right now that’s Dorrigo Evans in The Narrow Road to the Deep North. He’s courageous, yet vulnerable; tough and honourable, also capable of loving deeply. It helps that the book is exquisitely written with references to Haiku.

Q. You write both fiction and non-fiction. When writing fiction, do you tend to work on it exclusively or do you manage to work on non-fiction projects simultaneously?

A. I started by writing non-fiction books – it was a natural progression from writing newsprint features and making radio documentaries. My last three books have been historical fiction. As I do periphery things associated with writing – such as courses in UCD, online mentoring, editing, etc., I only work on one major book project at a time.

Q. Where do you see the future of publishing going over the next few years?

A. It’s hard to know. But probably a further marrying of the traditional print book with digital downloads. When travelling it’s handy to have downloads on Kindle/iPad but nothing beats the tactility of a print book. I remember the nuances, details and fine writing of print-read stories better than screen-read.

Q. Briefly, what will you be covering in the Short Fiction Workshop.

A. (i) How to write short fiction to appeal to today’s market; (ii) How to structure gripping storylines; (iii) How to create page-turning characters;  (iv) How to build evocative locations; (v) How to improve style and technique.

Q. What are the highlights of Listowel Writers’ Week for you?

A.  The coming together in one place of a diversity of writers from all over the world; the chat, discussions and debates on writing and books; the way creativity seems to stalk the streets; the programme of events. I could go on and on…..

Thank you Patricia. We look forward to welcoming you back to Listowel in May.

For more information or to book Patricia’s 2-Day Short Fiction Workshop please click here


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