Five Minute Interview with Louise Kennedy

By Wasafiri Editor on December 20, 2016 in Articles

Louise Kennedy grew up in Holywood Co. Down. She started writing in 2014. In 2015, she won both first place and runner up in Ambit Fiction Contest, and first place in Wasifiri New Writing Competition (Life Writing). In 2016 she won Listowel Los Gatos Short Story Contest and John O’Connor Short Story Competition. Other recognition includes Colm Toibin Short Story Competition 2016 (highly commended), Cuirt 2016 (short list), and Short Fiction Journal Prize 2016 (runner up). Her work has featured on RTE Radio 1 ‘Arena’, and in Ambit, Wasifiri, The Incubator and Silver Apples. She is a PhD (Creative Writing) candidate at Queens University Belfast and is working on a collection of short stories. Louise lives in Sligo with her husband, son and daughter.

What are you reading right now? 
As I type, there are fourteen books balanced precariously on my bedside locker. Most will remain unread, at least for the next three years, as I will probably have to confine my reading to books related to my PhD research. For now, though, I am indulging myself in the occasional novel. On the top of the pile is a copy of Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen.
Where do you write?
I have a shed in my garden to write in; the previous owner converted a very basic outhouse into a neat little premises with electricity, heat, running water etc. There is a primary school behind our house, and I take breaks when the children do. I sit at a table in the garden and listen to them chanting and squealing and negotiating.
Does travelling inspire your writing?
I haven’t done much travelling since I had my children, but a couple of my stories have been set in Lebanon, where I lived in the nineties. And I am working on a story about two Irish women on a package holiday in Tunisia; it is proving difficult, as I don’t know how to write the pair without them appearing atrocious.
Paper and pen or laptop?
Laptop all the way. I can’t read my own writing.
What was the first book you read that made a difference?
When I was fifteen, my neighbour moved away in a hurry and left me all her books.  The stash included a copy of Joan Didion’s The White Album. I read her account of shopping for ‘the right kind of dress’ for Linda Kasabian, Manson Family member turned State witness, to wear at the trial. It widened the possibilities of reading for me, far beyond the novels I had been content with until then.
What one book would you take to a desert island?
A blank notebook. Hopefully I would quit procrastinating and get some writing done.
Which new author should the world be reading?
Sally Rooney, a writer from Mayo in the west of Ireland. A story of hers, ‘Mr Salary,’ is in the Granta New Irish Writing that came out earlier this year. It’s so good I don’t know why I bother trying. Her first novel, Conversations with Friends is due out next year. There was a mad bid for it between lots of publishers. Oh, and she’s about twenty five.
What books are you looking forward to reading next?
Nothing on Earth, a debut novel by Conor O’Callaghan, set in one of the ‘ghost estates’ that still deface the Irish landscape in the aftermath of the building and property-buying mania we were afflicted with.  Byron and the Beauty by Muharem Bazdulj; it is a fictionalised response to Byron’s journey to Albania in 1809. And Elizabeth Bowen’s Collected Short Stories.
What role does Wasifiri play for international literature?
I am suddenly conscious of how focused on Irish writing my own reading is; when I do read books in translation, their authors have normally won or been shortlisted for a major international literary prize. What of new writers from places far from here, who are trying to find an audience for their work? In most literary journals in Britain and Ireland, the same names crop up over and over. Wasifiri gives a platform to emerging writers from around the world who otherwise must find it difficult to place their work. I can’t think of another publication that brings us these wonderful new voices.