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Meet the Shortlist: Louise Kennedy

Louise Kennedy grew up in Holywood, Co.Down. Her short stories have been published in journals including The Stinging Fly. ‘In Silhouette’ is an ambitious story set over four time periods inspired by The Troubles in Northern Ireland.  Judge Sarah Churchwell called it ‘a mystery novel in 6,000 words’.

You will be able to listen to Louise’s story, along with the five other shortlisted entries, later this year, when the first-ever audiobook anthology of the shortlist is published by Audible. Please check our News page or follow @shortstoryaward on Twitter for publication details.

As a relatively unknown writer, Louise - along with fellow 2019 shortlistee Paul Dalla Rosa – has become part of the Award's proud legacy of discovering writers at the very start of their careers. Since the Award’s inception there has been a tradition of reading "blind": the judges read manuscripts without the author being disclosed. This has consistently led to the discovery of new talent. In the past two years alone are remarkable names: Sally Rooney got her first break here when she was shortlisted for the award in 2017 and Courtney Zoffness won the overall award last year.

Please join us on Monday when, inspired by Louise and Paul, we take a closer look at the writers the Award has discovered.

For now, read on for another look at Louise’s Q&A, and for the first paragraphs of her story.

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

I heard an appeal on the radio for information regarding one of the ‘Disappeared’ of the Troubles. I wondered what it would be like to know what happened and not come forward.

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

My novel is at first draft stage, and the process has been delightfully sloppy. With short stories you are trying to get the tone right from the first sentence and eking 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.

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

I normally type. I can’t read my own writing.

Which short story collection by another author would you recommend?

The Way-Paver By Anne Devlin

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

What are you reading now?

Point of No Return by Robert Fisk. Derek Mahon’s Collected Poems.

In Silhouette

'The hot pants look trampy with the platforms so you change into your yellow parallels. You fill your clutch bag with fags, a pat of powder, a tin of Vaseline. It’s floppy, so you wad it with tissues to fill it out. The bag came free with a bottle of Charlie perfume you bought in the chemist’s shop you’re not allowed to go into because Mr Crawford, the owner, is in the DUP. A last look in the mirror. The broderie anglaise trim on your top doesn’t quite reach the waistband of your trousers. Your stomach is hollow, which you like, and pale, which you don’t. You go down the stairs and put your head into the sitting room. Showaddy Waddy are on Seaside Special, wearing suits the same shade as your trousers. Cheerio, you say. Your mother pulls the edges of her cardigan together by way of an answer. You go down the driveway. The wee ones are down at the stream, building a dam or demolishing one, their shrieks blowing across the fields to you. The heat has been building all day. The tarmac is soft under your feet, sundering into oil and chips of stone, and by the time you get to the Half Way Inn the cork soles on your shoes are greasy-looking and the hair at the back of your neck is wet.

The front door is wedged open with a brick. The girls are already there, at the corner table by the juke box, nursing jewel-coloured drinks laced with cordial. Gin and orange. Pernod and blackcurrant. Vodka and lime. You tuck your clutch high up under your arm and go to the bar...'

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