1. How would you say the Irish publishing scene has changed over the last
There are a lot more small Irish publishers and journals bringing out really
interesting quality work. For fiction, New Island and Lilliput were around
in the late 1990s, and the Stinging Fly had just been established – but
Tramp, Banshee, Gorse, Crannóg and others weren’t even ideas. With digital
platforms and social media the reach of these publishers is also much wider.
In the early noughties the big international houses set up offices in Dublin
and that strengthened Ireland’s visibility as a site of publishing as well
as writing. On the flipside I think it’s trickier in some ways to sustain a
practice. Back then the big challenge was finding a publisher for the first
book. Once that was published, you were ‘on your way’. Now there are no
guarantees. Lots more books, lots more competing media, and bigger
publishers in particular getting merged and incorporated all the time into
global corporations whose aim is to maximise profit, not necessarily promote
more meaningful writing.
2. How important do you think it is for an author to get a literary agent?
It depends on what the author wants. Agents can open doors, sniff out
opportunities and handle contracts. They can be invaluable sounding boards
creatively and are a necessary buffer if legal, production or financial
issues come up with publishers. Any author who has a product (e.g., a book)
that they want to sell through a mainstream publisher, particularly to an
international audience, probably needs an agent. For authors who want to
publish independently or who are only starting off, there’s no rush.
Remember the agent is working for the writer, not the other way round, so
it’s important to find an agent who is a good fit.
3. To dramatize or to narrate – how do you decide which genre best suits an
I don’t write a lot of plays though I have devised plays (co-created them
from improvisation with other actors and a director). The text of a play
(what’s written) is basically dialogue and stage directions. An interesting
text will offer indications about the unseen – what the character thinks,
feels or remembers. It’s on the writer to have thought these through and
figured them out, but on-stage it is the actor who explores this material
most fully and brings it to life. Essentially it’s the unseen, the past and
subtext that interests me the most as a writer, so I think at heart I’m a
fiction writer. Though lately I’ve been getting more curious about what it
would be like to write for the screen…
Mia is giving our Bray Literary Lecture: Practice, Process, Product on Saturday 28th September @ 11.30 in Bray Town Hall. This is a free event and is sponsored by The Stinging Fly.