In the final interview from our series on Irish debut children’s authors, Olivia Hope of our Down the Rabbit Hole blog talks to Meg Grehan. The 27-year-old writer is originally from Louth and in 2018 she won the Eilís Dillon award from Children’s Books Ireland for her first novel, The Space Between. She writes almost full-time, but is also currently studying Digital Film and Video in Donegal
Hi Meg – many congratulations on having your first book The Space Between (Little Island) win the Eilis Dillon Award for debut book at the CBI children’s book of the year award last Summer. Thanks so much for talking to me today about what the past year has been like – both leading up to being published and your experiences as a debut author.
- So, an easy question first – what was your most significant moment in the past year of being a debut author?
To be honest I think it was winning the Eilish Dillon Award. When I was writing The Space Between I had to constantly remind myself not to get my hopes up too much, I was writing a verse book about queer women for a YA audience and the chances of getting it published didnt seem to be the best. So to win this award for this specific book felt incredible, I felt so accepted and so proud.
- How long did it take from beginning your first draft of The Space Between to it appearing on the bookshelves?
Less than a year! Which is crazy! I sent it to Little Island the day I finished writing it because I knew my bravery would bottom out if I didn’t, about a month later I got the email saying they’d like to publish it and a few months after that it was on the shelves.
- How did you find working with your editor? Were there any new experiences in publishing that you hadn’t encountered when you were writing and submitting?
It was honestly great, Siobhan and Grainne at Little Island are the best, they gave me great notes but were always very gentle and understanding. I very clearly had no idea what I was doing and they helped me so much.I’m so delighted to be working with them again.
- How has your writing changed since you have been published or do you find you have become more confident in your voice in the last year? Has it influenced how you have approached writing your second and subsequent titles with your publisher?
I’ve definitely become much more confident in my writing. Writing verse means trusting your instincts and I’ve definitely found that much easier since being published. I trust myself more than I did before.
- What has the experience of receiving reviews been like?
Terrifying but exhilarating! At first I was terrified to read them because the book was so personal I worried I wouldn’t be able to handle it. But the vast majority have been incredibly lovely and any criticism I’ve been given has been constructive and so valuable.
- Promotion is a huge aspect of a writer’s first year – what tips and tricks did you discover helped you spread the word about your book?
Promotion definitely isn’t something that comes easy to me but I found that the best thing is just to be nice and talk to people. It’s scary at first but readers, bloggers, authors and reviewers are all people who love books so you already have a big thing in common! Being friendly is key, I think.
- And finally, what advice have you for writers who have just received their first acquisition or just signed with an agency?
Take it all in. It can be overwhelming and sometimes a little scary but only get one first book so breathe it all in and try to let yourself feel it all.
Thanks so much for your time – we really look forward to reading your next book The Deepest Breath (Little Island) in May.
(c) Olivia Hope
About The Space Between (Little Island):
It’s New Year’s Eve, and Beth plans to spend a whole year alone, in her snug, safe house. But she has reckoned without floppy-eared, tail-wagging Mouse, who comes nosing to her window. Followed shortly by his owner, Alice. As Beth’s year of solitude rolls out, Alice gently steals her way first into Beth’s house and later into her heart. And by the time New Year’s Eve comes round again – who knows?
A tender and delicate love story in verse, The Space Between is a tale of how warmth, support and friendship can overcome mental anguish.
Order your copy online here.
The Deepest Breath (Little Island):
There is so much that Stevie doesn’t know.
She doesn’t know about all the fish in the sea.
She doesn’t know all the constellations of the stars.
And she doesn’t know why she feels this way about Chloe.
It’s in my chest
And sometimes my tummy
And always my head
It’s a fizzy feeling
And I don’t know what it is