Thursday, August 20, 2009

5 Questions with... Abigail Rieley

This week, our ‘5 Questions with...’ features Irish writer and journalist Abigail Rieley, whose first book, Devil in the Red Dress, told the true story of the Sharon Collins ‘Lying Eyes’ Hitman-for-Hire case.

1. What are you working on at the moment?

I'm currently in the final editing stages of my first novel. It's a bit of a change from my previous book Devil in the Red Dress, which came out of my work as a court reporter. This book is a satirical fantasy. OK there might be one or two journos in it but after that it all gets a lot more surreal.

2. Who's the best new writer you've come across recently?

Without a doubt Sam Savage. I read Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife on the train to and from a sentencing in Galway. It's a wonderful book - funny, tragic and utterly compelling. A book in which the main character is a rat which is also a profound celebration of the richness reading can bring to life. Well, it's one of those books I read and really wish I'd had the idea first!

3. Do you have any peculiar rituals you do before you start writing?

At the risk of sounding boring it's putting coffee on to brew. I discovered a long time ago that caffeinated coffee was a severely bad idea when I was writing. I can easily get through an entire pot in a day and if it's a leaded brew, after a few cups I can't concentrate to the end of a sentence! I'm pretty obsessive about my decaff beans - if I'm having a hard time getting started just the smell of the coffee brewing gets me back on track. I have a hazelnut blend I'm eking out for as long as I can - the place where I used to get them was a casualty of the recession.

I also listen to music when I write. I'm too used to the clatter of newsrooms to work in absolute silence. I have playlists for each of my characters. It helps, when I'm working on a difficult scene, to have the soundtrack for their lives not mine.

4. Who's your favourite literary character?

Since I was a kid I've been a fan of dystopian fiction - possibly something to do with a 70s London childhood. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World was always a favourite and Helmholtz Watson is my favourite character. I always found him more interesting than the other leading men. He's principled but pragmatic and passionate about freedom of thought...although I'm not sure I'd go to the lengths he does at the end of the novel when it comes to finding a quiet place to work.

5. If you could be anything else in the world, except a writer, what would it be?

I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember so this is a really hard one. I did flirt with the idea of being a Womble for a while when I was about 5 and living in Wimbledon but I think nowadays if I couldn't write I'd have to get my fix vicariously by running a bookshop.


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