Ryan was initially rejected by publishers but persevered

Listen | 44:07

Debut novelist Alice Ryan says writing her book, There’s Been A Little Incident, was an “act of hope” in the face of terrible loss. Speaking to The Women’s Podcast, she talked about the grief that followed her mother’s death by suicide 11 years ago.

“In time we were able to say her death was one thing and her life was another,” she told Roisin Ingle. Ryan’s mother, Caroline Walsh, was the former literary editor of The Irish Times.

Ryan, the grand-daughter of writer Mary Lavin and cousin of novelist Kathleen Mac Mahon, said she wrote her first novel in secret.

“I just didn’t want anyone doing me any favours,” she said. Her first attempt was rejected - “there was so much rejection” - but she persevered until she got a book deal.


“I wrote the novel almost entirely on my phone while the fish fingers were burning,” said the mother of one daughter. In addition to her writing life, Ryan works as Head of Insight for the Arts Council in Dublin having previously held a similar role in London with the BBC.

Perhaps in rebellion against her mother’s literary leanings, Ryan told Ingle she hadn’t read books seriously until she was 17.  After her mother died she began reading through her book collection, discovering that they were full of notes and observations made by Walsh. Her mother’s books, she said, were “the greatest gift, like a survival kit”.

Writing was another gift. “There’s a great freedom in it being your debut novel” she said.

“I had nothing to lose …  I wanted to write a novel that made you both laugh and cry. It’s a novel about grief that is hopeful”.

Alice Ryan’s debut novel There’s Been A Little Incident is in bookshops now. You can listen back to the full conversation in the player above, or wherever you get your podcasts.