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Meet the longlist: Gerry McKeague, author of 'Wet Bloody Country'

Between now and the shortlist announcement on Sunday 28th July we will be putting the spotlight on each of 2019's longlisted authors in turn.

Today's author is Gerry McKeague, author of 'Wet Bloody Country' a story about the relationship between a boy and his father.

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

This story came as a result of redrafting a much longer piece about a family visiting a guest house in Donegal in the 1980s. After struggling to make the story work and getting bogged down in the wider family dynamics, I decided to focus on the relationship between the boy and his father.

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

Until last year I have only ever written short stories. I find the short story form hugely challenging. To pick the right place to make the ‘incision in time’ is so important and can transform the whole thing if it’s not right. I’m now working on a historical detective novel.

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

I write longhand and then revise my work on computer text documents for months or even years, re-writing sentences and paragraphs until I’m happy with them.

Which short story collection by another author would you recommend?

Walk the Blue Fields by Claire Keegan. A collection of unsurpassable short stories.

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

‘Foster,’ by Claire Keegan. I’d listen to Claire reading it.

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

The Belfast based actor Ian McElhinney.

What are you reading now?

I’ve just started reading ‘The Five: the Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper’ by Hallie Rubenhold. So far, it’s excellent.

Please read on for a preview of Wet Bloody Country:

‘Are you sure you want to let the boy go with Jackson? I’d not let him take the boy to the shop, never mind Donegal.’

Aunt Eileen spoke through a mouthful of toast, adjusted the headscarf on her forehead. She was like an older version of my mother, only one more likely to raise her voice, who didn’t care how roughly her words landed.

‘And hasn’t he probably stolen the keys off some poor bastard,’ she went on, ‘or won the fuckin’ thing in a game of cards?’

My mother’s hands reached for the unused cutlery on the table; they straightened the knife and fork in front of her, shifted the spoon a notch so it squared everything off at the top.

‘Go up and pack your bag, Colm,’ she said.

My washed clothes lay on my bed, ready for the journey. I sniffed my t-shirt and shorts before I pushed them into the corner of the small red case. From the back of my wardrobe I took my swimming togs and on top of the pyjamas threw a tennis ball, three conkers, a ‘Dublin Zoo’ cap and a handful of cowboys my father had given me; he’d owned them since he was a boy. One face looked like it had been chewed away.

My mother’s voice reached me...

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