Brought to Book: RTÉ’s Sinead Crowley on her debut novel and literary loves

I didn’t set out to write a book in a particular genre but there are a lot of ‘domestic noir’ books being written at the moment, psychological thrillers aimed primarily at women, and my book falls into that category

Sinead Crowley Can anbody help me?Sinead Crowley, RTÉ’s arts and media correspondent, is the author of Can Anybody Help Me? (Quercus, £12.99). A self-confessed internet addict, she discovered the world of parenting websites when on maternity leave with her first child. Her first novel is the story of Yvonne who, struggling with a new baby, turns to an online forum for mothers for support, volunteers more and more information about herself. When one of her new friends goes offline, then the body of a young woman with striking similarities to the missing friend is found, Yvonne realises that they’re all in terrifying danger. 

What was the first book to make an impression on you?

Alice in Wonderland. I remember my mother reading it to me when I was very young and we were waiting at the dental hospital. I was having quite a few baby teeth removed but I didn't care, I had fallen down the rabbit hole and I just wanted them to get on with the operation so I could hear more of the story.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Emily of New Moon by LM Montgomery. The Anne [of Green Gables] books are more famous, and I liked them too, but I loved Emily.


And what is your favourite book or books now?

That's a very hard question to answer! I tend to read everything that crosses my desk in work, and crime/thrillers in my spare time. But the last book that made me text everyone I knew and demand they buy it was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

What is your favourite quotation?

And still they gaz'd, and still the wonder grew, that one small head could carry all he knew. Oliver Goldsmith

Who is your favourite fictional character?

I have a soft spot for Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole.

Who is the most under-rated Irish author?

I think Marian Keyes is one of the most interesting authors writing in Ireland today, tackling issues of huge relevance to women, but she is sometimes underappreciated because she's considered to be a writer of "popular" or "commercial" fiction. So she's not under-rated in terms of sales, but under-rated by some critics.

Which do you prefer – ebooks or the traditional print version?

I prefer print but I have started to buy a lot of books on Kindle as I have literally run out of space in the house. But if/when I win the Lotto, I’ll build more shelves and buy more books.

What is the most beautiful book you own?

I inherited some lovely hardbacks from my mother, but the most beautiful book I got recently was Books to Die For, edited by Declan Burke and John Connolly. The cover is a perfect fit for the book and makes you want to dive straight in.

Where and how do you write?

Wherever I get the space and whenever I get the time. Mostly, these days, after the kids are in bed, but I can write anywhere, in cafes or in the front seat of my car if I get a spare hour.

What book changed the way you think about fiction?

Flowers in the Grass by Monica Dickens. It's the story of a young widower, Daniel, told through the eyes of the people who meet him. We never see inside his head yet we learn a huge amount about him through a series of interlinked short stories. It's a great lesson in characterisation, and it was also one of the first "adult" books I read as a child so it has stayed with me.

What is the most research you have done for a book?

Well, I suppose my time on parenting sites counts for this one but I wasn’t aware I was doing research at the time!

What book influenced you the most?

Stephen King's On Writing should be read by every aspiring writer.

What book would you give to a friend’s child on their 18th birthday?

Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman. Even if it's a boy. Especially if it's a boy!

What book do you wish you had read when you were young?

I didn't read To Kill A Mockingbird when I was a child and I would have loved it. Then again it was a real treat to read it in my 20s so I can't say I regret meeting it late!

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Don’t tell anyone you’re writing. Turn off the internet. Focus and finish.

What weight do you give reviews?

It seems to be an occupational hazard to believe all the bad stuff and assume the good stuff is only plámás! I’m trying to develop a thicker skin though.

Where do you see the publishing industry going?

Ebook readers will grow in popularity, particularly among readers of commercial fiction. So I’d like to see proper pricing for ebooks and, obviously, a clampdown on piracy.

What writing trends have struck you lately?

I didn’t set out to write a book in a particular genre but there are a lot of what could be termed “domestic noir” books being written at the moment, psychological thrillers aimed primarily at women, and my book falls into that category. I think readers want to be surprised, and intrigued, and challenged.

What lessons have you learned about life from reading?

That things will work out.

What has being a writer taught you?

That 500 words a day will get you there.

Which writers, living or dead, would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Maeve Binchy, Agatha Christie, Val McDermid. All women, lots of wine.

What is the funniest scene you’ve read?

I remember reading a book by James Herriot when I was young and literally crying with laughter, and my parents being very confused when they found out I was reading about calving and horse dentistry.

What is your favourite word?


If you were to write a historical novel, which event or figure would be your subject?

Irish feminists of the 1970s.