Behind the Sentences with… Louise Kennedy
Louise Kennedy is shortlisted for her story, Sparing the Heather
Where do you work? Describe your space, what it looks and feels like, and what you like about it, and why it’s a conducive place to write...
I write in a shed in my garden. The previous owner was one of those people who click your back in when you put it out. She used it as a clinic. We kept surf boards and garden tools in there and cleared it out when I started writing. A couple of weeks into lockdown, my daughter made the mistake of saying she was bored, so I scored a tin of grey paint and put her up a ladder. It looks cute now. Inside, it is painted white, with a recycled paper floor from Ikea and a desk with bookshelves apparatus my sister was getting rid of. The window overlooks the compost heap and two wheelie bins, which is probably just as well; a prettier view would distract me. I work in it all year, but sometimes, in winter, mice get in and I retreat to the kitchen.
What is your writing routine? Are you a morning or evening person, do you have any rituals associated with your writing? What happens if your routine isn’t adhered to?
When I was going out to work, I wrote early in the morning, at five or six, before the others were up. I am still most productive in the mornings, but start later, at eight or nine. I am a poor sleeper and tend to be exhausted by dinner time, so would have to be under tremendous pressure to attempt to work in the evening. Writing doesn’t make me feel good, but not writing makes me feel terrible, so I try to write every day. Otherwise the guilt is unbearable.
Do you have any writer “habits” – bad or otherwise? Any common words that you notice you used in every paragraph, or typos you make, specific pens or notebooks?
My short story collection is at the copy edit stage. It means there will soon be a book in the world with my name on it. It also means another human being will find out that I don’t know how to use commas, I type ‘form’ when I mean ‘from’, my favourite words are ‘pale’, ‘thin’, and ‘flittered’ and my characters spend a ludicrous amount of time standing in doorways.
If you could develop one amazing habit (a kind of writer super-power) what would it be?
If I could develop a superpower it would be to get my inner critic to feck off between the hours of 8am and 2pm.
What happens when you stop writing? Away from the page, what do you do to relax; or what happens if you have writers’ block? Do you have any tricks to escape it? How do you reward yourself or celebrate after the completion of a story or manuscript, or on publication day?
I started writing in 2014 and haven’t really stopped. A couple of years ago, we rented a house in Donegal for a week. It looked nice on the booking site, but its carpets were worn to the weft and there was no dishwasher. When I came home I wrote three stories about disappointment, so it seems that when I’m not working I am.
I don’t have exciting interests, just cooking, reading and walking. I try not to watch TV because I’m a binger.
I have never been afflicted with block but am prone to bouts of anxiety about what I’m doing that can be crippling. Recently, I got over such an episode by stepping away from my main project to write a piece about my family. No one will ever read it, but working on it somehow restored my faith in the process.
When I finish a story I open a new document and write the first paragraph of the next thing. Then I open a bottle.