Lisa McInerney on Cork: ‘If cities have characters then this one’s a brilliant brat’

From student life to clubby nights out … how Cork city inspired the author to write

I don’t have a fixed origin story. I was born to an unmarried 19-year-old and quickly adopted by her parents because Ireland would otherwise have classed me as illegitimate. I’m either the cherished baby of the family or a symptom of my country’s troubled relationship with religion. Depending on the way I feel like tackling the question of siblings, I can have a half-sister or I can be the youngest of nine. I spent my childhood in Gort, County Galway, but it was Cork city that made a writer out of me. If I’m asked now where I’m from, I say: “Well, that depends. A bit of both.”

Gort is a small town on the edge of the Burren, halfway between Galway and Limerick. It has some literary standing. WB Yeats lived in ...

Don’t tell me that working-class people can’t be articulate | Lisa McInerney

When writing dialogue, the idea that a drug dealer must be portrayed as verbally hesitant is daft – language is not a tool issued by the nobilityLast summer, about a year after my first novel The Glorious Heresies was published, I led a workshop for aspiring writers. In the session, we referred to my experience writing Heresies – lessons I’d learned or techniques I found useful. One of the attendees had read the book in preparation for the session and had an issue with my take on dialogue. He believed my characters’ speech, and each narrative voice I employed, was far too complex. He maintained that a writer writing a working-class story should not use sophisticated words or inventive phrasing, even in third person. He was adamant my vernacular wasn’t the vernacular: a working-class story should be told through simple prose and working-class characters should have a limited vocabulary, ...

Lisa McInerney: ‘The phone has to be in another room. And even then I’ll play Minesweeper’

The winner of the Baileys women’s prize for fiction on running, blogging and why she’s learning to eavesdrop I don’t start when I get up. I know a lot of people work in the early morning, but I am not one of them. I get up and do whatever chores need to be done – I’ll bring the dog out for a walk or I might go for a run. I have a friend in Ireland who’s a crime novelist, Arlene Hunt, and she runs as well. She says, “Isn’t it wonderful, when you run and get all these ideas?” That has never happened to me. All I think about is how I don’t want to be running any more. No ideas. I’ll come back and have breakfast, and at some stage I know I’m going to have to think about going to the computer. So I sit there ...

Lisa McInerney: ‘Short fiction leaves its author nowhere to hide’

The writer explains how the ‘exhausting, exasperating, excruciating’ work of writing short stories provided the groundwork for her novel, The Glorious Heresies Before The Glorious Heresies, it seemed to me that – for all but the most exceptional talents – making a career in writing involved achieving a sequence of objectives. A writer was expected to serve an apprenticeship in short fiction, and only after publishing a profusion of stories could they graduate to the long form. Short fiction was the flexing of muscles prior to the serious battle: the novel. Yet the short story was, for me, the more intimidating of the two: a progression of brilliant thought, condensed, as a wolf to a terrier, into something taut and confrontational. The idea of having to serve that apprenticeship made me nervous. And adversarial. I mutated the short story into some joyless academic exercise, which provided an excuse for not ...