Liz Nugent: ‘I’m proud that I got published in a tough time for the industry’

Life Lessons: ‘Sebastian Barry told me that to improve as a writer, I must do it every day’

Liz Nugent: ‘I have learned so much from reading other people’s books, whether they are personal essays, historical fiction, literary works, page-turning romantic fiction or crime and thrillers.’ Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Liz Nugent: ‘I have learned so much from reading other people’s books, whether they are personal essays, historical fiction, literary works, page-turning romantic fiction or crime and thrillers.’ Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Liz Nugent is an award-winning novelist, and author of Unravelling Oliver (2014), Lying In Wait (2016), and Skin Deep (2018). She lives in Dublin.

The best advice I ever received was . . . a question my dad asked me about six months after my first novel, Unravelling Oliver, was published. He couldn’t open a newspaper without reading about me or turn on the radio without hearing me, and he said “Now lovey, you have to decide. Do you want to be a celebrity or do you want to be a writer?” It really made me stop and think. Media attention is welcome most of the time, particularly when it is focused on your work, but I was in danger of becoming a pundit that would talk on any old subject at the drop of a hat. I’ve pulled back from a lot of that ever since, and try to only do publicity about books I have written or enjoyed, or festivals I’m helping to promote. I want to be a writer.

The worst advice I ever received was . . . “Don’t give up your day job.” My mum had the best of intentions when she said this. I was in a permanent, pensionable job (a rare enough thing these days) but I was utterly miserable, creatively unfulfilled and there was no value placed on my work. It was lovely Sebastian Barry who told me that in order to improve as a writer, I must do it every day. My mum has forgiven him now.

The moment that changed my life was . . . learning to drive when I was 30. I have a condition called dystonia as the result of a childhood brain haemorrhage, which means I have some mobility issues. The freedom that driving gives me is unquantifiable.

The biggest influence on my career is . . . other writers. I have learned so much from reading other people’s books, whether they are personal essays, historical fiction, literary works, page-turning romantic fiction or crime and thrillers.

My biggest flaw is . . . addiction to social media and news websites. This also leads to massive procrastination. Hours of aimless scrolling every day.

My worst habit is . . . interrupting other people when they’re talking. I have spent years trying not to do it without any degree of success. It’s unforgivably rude and I’d like to take the opportunity to apologise to everyone I’ve done it to. I think it comes from growing up in a very large family. If you didn’t speak up, you wouldn’t be heard.

The thing I’m most proud of is . . . the fact that I managed to get published at all in a tough time in the industry.

My motto for life is . . . I learned really late in life that if I’m not happy with a situation, I must be the person to effect change rather than waiting for the issue to resolve itself.

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