Photograph by Reg Gordon
In the second of two parts, I caught up with two previous contributors to The South Circular, the digital magazine of short stories which I’ve published since March 2012. Danielle McLaughlin’s story, “Five Days to Polling Day,” published in Issue 8 in December 2013, was nominated for a Writing.ie Short Story of the Year Award as part of the Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards in 2014. Andrew Meehan’s story, “Man of God,” is a hoot of a tale which appeared in Issue 2 in June 2012.
Aoife Walsh: Bring us up to speed on your work right now.
Danielle McLaughlin: My debut short story collection, Dinosaurs on Other Planets, will be published in Ireland by The Stinging Fly Press in October 2015 and in the UK (John Murray), US and Canada (Random House), and Germany (Luchterhand) in 2016/2017. I’m currently working on a number of new short stories and I’m also writing a novel.
Andrew Meehan: I am just about done with a screenplay called The Best Bar In Baghdad for Parallel Films and, with the director Ivan Kavanagh, I’m about to get going on an adaptation of Lermontov’s A Hero Of Our Time. I’d hate to impede its progress with too much yapping, but there will at some point be a novel called One Star Awake.
Aoife Walsh: Can you tell us about the publications (Irish or otherwise) you look to for new writing and publication opportunities?
Andrew Meehan: The most important magazines in the world are of course the ones in which I have featured: The Stinging Fly, The Moth, and The South Circular. Beyond the end of my own nose, I can think of nothing finer than a mahogany dresser full of Tin Houses, gorses, Penny Dreadfuls, and Chapmans.
Danielle McLaughlin: Among the Irish lit mags there’s The Stinging Fly, gorse, The South Circular, Southword, The Penny Dreadful, Long Story, Short, The Incubator, The Bohemyth, The Moth, and Crannóg, all very supportive of new writers. I’m looking forward to Banshee, a new arrival on the Irish lit mag scene, which will be launching its first issue at the Cork International Short Story Festival this September. I’m currently a fiction editor at Southword, the online literary journal of the Munster Literature Centre. It’s my first gig as an editor and I’m enjoying it hugely. The latest issue can be read online.
Aoife Walsh: What are you most concerned with when you write a story?
Danielle McLaughlin: It has to be as true as I can make it, even if the particular truth that I’m attempting to convey is harsh and not particularly pretty.
Andrew Meehan: I foresee a medical catastrophe if I write more than one short story every four years. When I have one on the go, I do know to move fast. My mind is a flea-market so it’s a good idea to show up early for fluke leftovers and pervy finds. Otherwise, I can end being consoled by basic competence.
Aoife Walsh: Can you speak about an Irish writer you think deserves more attention?
Andrew Meehan: It has to be a poet, although I should, before nominating him, check whether Patrick Kavanagh is in or out of fashion. Then again, there’s no need for Kavanagh as Louis De Paor’s The Brindled Cat and the Nightingale’s Tongue was published by Bloodaxe Books last year, and it is a very shapely parcel of work indeed. I treat it like a self-help book, hence its ongoing presence in the most important place in the house: the box in the kitchen where we keep the liqueurs. Lips tremble while the sausages grill.
Danielle McLaughlin: I loved Aiden O’Reilly’s first collection of short stories, Greetings, Hero, published last year by Honest Publishing, an independent UK publisher. It’s a superb collection—fresh, inventive, witty—and the novella-length title story is remarkable. In his review for the Irish Examiner, Val Nolan said:
The 15 stories of Aiden O’Reilly’s very fine debut offer the reader a series of candid dispatches from a changing Europe. It is a volume defined by a sense of unease. The characters here are stateless not simply in their wanderings but in their unsettled mentalities.
Aoife Walsh: Are there Canadian writers on your radar or who influenced you over the years?
Danielle McLaughlin: Of course there’s Alice Munro—I’m a huge, huge fan of her work! Also DW Wilson, whose stories I encountered for the first time when he appeared at the Cork International Short Story Festival a couple of years back. Once You Break A Knuckle is a really great collection.
Andrew Meehan: Wasn’t The Littlest Hobo a Canadian show? I listened to Feist’s “My Moon, My Man” as I wrote my story, “Spoons”—a sad ditty which featured in The Stinging Fly. In a previous career, I was peripherally involved in the development of the film based on Carol Shields’ Unless, in that I first read the script and thought: “You can only make a good thing worse, why would you go near such a perfect book?” I laid off once I recognized that the hardy screenwriter, Alan Gilsenan, knew what he was doing.
Aoife Walsh: What were the formative moments/people in your life in terms of encouraging you to write?
Andrew Meehan: The Cúirt International Literary Festival really matters in my world: I won their New Writing Award with my first story, “Her Way of Saying No.” To live in Galway, as once I did, and on your way home from work to mosey past a Claire Keegan reading or a public interview with Joyce Carol Oates is something else altogether. The general gawping is good, too—Ian McEwan dad-dancing or Patrick deWitt having his dinner in your friend’s restaurant. I don’t live in Galway anymore and I miss Cúirt more than gluten.
Danielle McLaughlin: My parents, who bought me loads of books when I was a child—I’ve only been writing for five or six years, it’s something I’ve come to a bit later in life, but I’ve always been a big reader. I attended workshops at the Munster Literature Centre in Cork in 2010/11 and those workshops, and the writers I met there who became my writing group, proved to be a turning point in my attempts to write. In 2011, when I had even less of a clue about writing than I do now, I began sending stories to Declan Meade at The Stinging Fly magazine and so began a process that over a number of years has led to my debut collection coming out this October.
Danielle McLaughlin’s short stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines such as The Stinging Fly, The New Yorker, The Irish Times, The South Circular, Southword, The Penny Dreadful, and Long Story, Short. Her debut collection, Dinosaurs on Other Planets will be published in October 2015 by The Stinging Fly Press.
Andrew Meehan lives in Heidelberg, Germany where he earns his living as a screenwriter. His fiction has been published in journals and anthologies in Ireland and the UK, most recently in Town and Country: New Irish Stories, edited by Kevin Barry (Faber & Faber, 2013).