Anne Griffin is an author who began writing in 2013, and in 2015 undertook an MA in Creative Writing in UCD studying under James Ryan, Éilis Ní Dhuibhne, Frank McGuinness, Lia Mills, Paul Perry and Anne Enright. Anne Griffin was awarded the John McGahern Award for Literature, recognising previous and current works. She has also been shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Awards with her short story ‘Grace’; shortlisted for the Sunday Business Post Short Story Award for ‘Some Tiny Clue’ and for the Benedict Kiely Competition with ‘Mr. Henry’. Anne Griffin’s short story work has been published in The Stinging Fly, The Irish Times, Crannóg, The Lonely Crowd, Ogham Stone, The Incubator, The Weekend Read For Books’ Sake, and Bunker, a collection of short stories published by Cork County Libraries. Anne Griffin’s debut novel When All Is Said is now available and has been described as “An impressively confident debut novel.” by The Guardian. Please enjoy my interview with Anne Griffin.
How do you describe your occupation?
I’m a full-time fiction writer.
What is something about you that people might find surprising?
I love Doctor Who.
What are you reading at the moment and what made you want to read it?
Threads of Life by Clare Hunter. This is the history of needlework and how it has helped mend, in both the literal and psychological terms, people’s lives. It was a present from my publisher for my birthday.
What was your favourite book as a child and why?
The Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton. I loved the world she created, full of mischief and intrigue.
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes but I don’t think it even got a name. I was nineteen. At the time I had no desire to be a writer, I was more passing the time, which is lucky because as I recall it was pretty horrendous. My real first story was written aged forty-five. It was called Grace and was shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing award.
What was the last book you purchased, and why did you buy it?
Sweet Home by Wendy Erskine. It’s a book of short stories by a very talented Northern Irish writer. I bought it as I’ve read great reviews.
For someone starting out in your career, which three books would you make required reading and why?
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, he writes thrillers so well. Emma by Jane Austen, her characters are so well constructed, particularly Emma who isn’t that likeable and yet Austen persuades the reader to be on her side. Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo, everyone should read this for the sharp witty dialogue.
What book have you found most inspiring, what effect did it have on you?
Letter To Daniel by Fergal Keane. A collection of writings by Fergal Keane, a news correspondent. He wrote a series of letters on the subject of fatherhood on the birth of his son Daniel that was broadcast on BBC 4. In them, he traces his life experiences and all he had seen as a foreign correspondent. This book is deeply touching not just because it is an expression of love from a father to a son but also because it details some of the most horrific and beautiful moments of this world in the 20th century.
What’s the most obscure book you own; how did you discover it?
A limited edition of The Letters of Abelard and Heloise. As a history student, I came across the letters of these lovers in 12th century France. I found this extraordinary edition in an antique bookshop in Dublin years ago and it’s now one of my prized possessions.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan. I found myself re-reading his sentences in pure awe. He can capture haunted, troubled voices so well.
What is your proudest achievement?
Publishing my debut novel When All Is Said in 2019.
Can you talk us through your writing process, from the first spark of an idea, to having your first completed draft?
My policy is to get is down now and get it right later. That means once an idea hits, I try to get the first draft down in six months. When that is finished I then spend the next year, or year and a half, or however long, restructuring the novel, moving things, cutting things, adding things until I think it’s ready to get some second opinions.
If you were trying to impress a visitor, which book that you own would you leave on the coffee table?
I’m not that kind of person, I’m afraid. In truth I find all of the books on my books shelves impressive. I’d just leave them all there for my visitor to peruse if he or she so wished.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
Writing is all about re-writing, your masterpiece doesn’t come out in one smooth, glorious sitting. Listen to the feedback you get, you don’t need to take it all on board but you should consider it thoroughly nevertheless.
If an alien landed in your garden; which three books would you gift them to showcase humanity in the best possible way?
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
I’d also include:
A History of Loneliness by John Boyne,
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson,
The Barracks by John McGahern,
What a Carve Up by Jonathan Coe,
Unless by Carol Shields,
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell,
The Truth Commissioner by David Park,
Night Watch by Sarah Waters,
and Clock Dance by Anne Tyler.
Which book sat on your shelf are you most excited about reading next and why?
Last Stories by William Trevor. Because the man was an utter genius. He could write our darkest moments and our flaws in language that was wholly beautiful and gentle.
If you’d like to learn more about Anne Griffin, you can find her on her website.
Image credit: John Boyne