Annemarie Neary on Siren: there can never be ‘no-go areas’ in Troubles fiction

When ‘things have moved on’ is it irresponsible to use the thriller form to address complex issues, and the painful experiences of people who are still suffering?

Annemarie Neary: If self-invention and the denial of reality have a devastating impact on an individual, what do they do for the body politic?

Annemarie Neary: If self-invention and the denial of reality have a devastating impact on an individual, what do they do for the body politic?

In all post-conflict societies, there are issues that become too inconvenient, too disruptive of the common good to be considered worth pursuing. For a writer of fiction, those are the very areas that are the most alluring. Perhaps a thriller writer’s only obligation is to thrill, to keep the reader turning those pages, to “ramp it up” (and there’s no doubt that publishers’ taglines in this genre do little to project an air of serious intent). However, if you venture into those dark corners, creating simulacra of actual events, then perhaps you take on a responsibility to have care for those who still inhabit the reality.

Róisín Burns, the protagonist in my novel, Siren, is both a victim of the Troubles and the perpetrator of terrible acts. After growing up in ’70s Belfast, she forges a new life in New York, where she goes native, works hard and gets on. But Róisín is addicted to deceit, her true history obfuscated. When her carefully constructed persona begins to crumble, Róisín travels the dangerous path towards truth.

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