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Introducing our longlisted authors: Louise Kennedy

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Louise Kennedy

Meet the authors longlisted for the 2020 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award

Introducing our longlisted authors: Louise Kennedy

Louise Kennedy grew up in Holywood, Co Down. Her writing has been published in journals including Banshee, The Tangerine, Stinging Fly, in the Irish Times and Belfast Telegraph, and read on BBC Radio 4 and RTE Radio 1. Her short stories have won prizes and in 2019 she was shortlisted for both Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award and Irish Short Story of the Year. She is a PhD student at Queens University Belfast where she’s researching the life and work of the writer Norah Hoult. Bloomsbury will publish her debut short story collection The End of the World is a Cul de Sac in January 2021. She lives in Sligo, in the north west of Ireland, and is working on a novel with the support of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

She is longlisted for the story: Sparing the Heather

An unhappily married woman is having an affair with her English tenant in rural Ireland. When a social event brings them all together for the day, the ensuing tension sees not only the affair come close to being uncovered, but the truth of a darker, long-held secret – and the reason for the woman’s loathing of her husband. Set in the aftermath of The Troubles, this is a tightly-woven story of betrayal and secrets and their impact on family lives.

What inspired you to write the story? Is it drawn from personal experience?

Sparing the Heather is the sister, or maybe the mother, of In Silhouette, which was shortlisted for last year’s award. I began Sparing the Heather first and quickly found myself following another story thread. When I came back to it, many months later, I had a better sense of how to finish it, as though I had to write one to figure out what the other was about. Sparing the Heather is set just south of the border, not so far from where I live, in the aftermath of what Anna Burns beautifully calls ‘the sorrows’.

How does writing short stories differ from writing full-length fiction, and what do you enjoy about writing in the genre?

Short stories are unforgiving wee articles. You have to get the tone right from the first sentence and eke out the narrative to build tension. The most fun is with later drafts, when you’re pulling words out and hoping to god the story doesn’t collapse around you. Kind of like jenga. (I said this last year and still believe it to be true.) As for novels… when I was a child I had a recurring dream that I was in the back seat of a car yet driving it, unable to reach the pedals or the steering wheel. On bad days, that’s what writing a novel feels like. On good days, it’s like French-plaiting my daughter’s hair and realising at the end that there aren’t wispy stray locks sticking out all over the shop.

How do you write? Longhand or typed? Why does your chosen method work for you?

I type. I can’t read my own writing.

Which short story collection by another author would you recommend?

In the Land of Dreamy Dreams by Ellen Gilchrist

What’s your favourite short story of all time? Who would you cast to read it?

Edna O’Brien’s A Scandalous Woman. I’d love to hear Aisling O’Sullivan read it.

Who would you cast to read the story you have entered?

Susan Lynch. Bríd Brennan. I could even be persuaded to give it a lash myself.

What are you reading now?

Betsy Gray or Hearts of Down by Wesley Guard Little, Beneath the Trees of Eden by Tim Binding, The Táin by Thomas Kinsella

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