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The Inspiration for Boys Don’t Cry by Fíona Scarlett

Writing.ie | Magazine | Interviews | Literary Fiction
Boys Don't Cry

By Fíona Scarlett

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On a February evening, just over three years ago, I was happily procrastinating on Twitter when I came across a post by a paediatric palliative care doctor. Here, he had listed what his young patients said they would miss the most when they died. It was an incredibly powerful and moving Tweet, and after reading, I immediately opened up the laptop and wrote the first chapter of Boys Don’t Cry, which has remained virtually unchanged from then till now. It also couldn’t have come at a better time, as I was in the final throws of an MLitt in creative writing and I hadn’t decided what I was going to do for my final portfolio, until that very moment.

I am here to say, though, that you absolutely do not need a masters in creative writing in order to be published, but for me, it gave me the confidence to trust in my own writing voice and allowed me the space to experiment with different styles and genres. It also was the first time I admitted to myself that I wanted to be a writer, that I wanted to treat it seriously, that I did not want it to be just a hobby anymore. I had zero confidence in my ability, and didn’t come to writing until my mid-thirties as it wasn’t something that I ever thought I could do, it wasn’t even on my radar to be honest. I didn’t do English in college, so I decided that I would give this my all and see if I had what it took to become a writer. So that is what I did, and I signed up for an MLitt in creative writing via distance learning (not being able to give up the day job ) at the University of Glasgow, them truly understanding the importance of accessibility long before Covid days.

2019 is when things really started clicking into place for me. I had the opening twenty thousand words of Boys Don’t Cry polished within an inch of its life thanks to the MLitt portfolio, so I decided to chance my arm and enter the annual Date With An Agent which is part of The International Literature Festival run in conjunction with the fabulous Writing.ie, and to my utter shock, I was selected as a finalist. This was such an incredible opportunity, as not only did I get a workshop with agent extraordinaire Lucy Luck, but the day was jam packed with panels and talks from industry professionals from agents, to editors, to authors, to publicists, it was such an eye-opening experience and one that made me even more determined to keep chipping away at my little book and to try to get it out there. A number of other opportunities came my way that year that I am incredibly grateful for, and ones that I do not take for granted: I won the Denis O’Driscoll Bursary through Kildare Co Council for an emerging writer, got selected as a mentee through Words Ireland, won a literature bursary through the Arts Council, and finally, in December 2019, got a literary agent through the infamous slush pile. 

Did I receive rejections, yes, loads, the most common of which was we don’t know where this would fit on the shelf, from both agents and publishers alike, who didn’t know how they would sell this book of mine, didn’t know how they would market it, didn’t really know what to do with it at all at all, but when I told my Ma this, she laughed and said,  of course they can’t see it on the shelf, because it’ll be in the window, so sucking it up, I kept firing the book out into the agent abyss until somebody said I do.

Although the spark of Boys Don’t Cry started with a Tweet, the true inspiration of this book lies in my Da, who called the inner city home, who attended, along with his brother, free music lessons in the heart of Dublin in Parnell Square, set up by a man who believed that music should be accessible to all, who went to university in his thirties, with three young children at the time, to train as a music secondary school teacher, so that he could give the same opportunities to the young adults in his care that he himself was given, who believed without question that one person could make a difference, and that we should all at least try, who died on the 10th December 2020 at the age of just sixty six. So even though all the excitement and joy surrounding this novel is extremely bittersweet, making my Da’s absence all that more visible, I cannot think of a better tribute to him and his life.

(c) Fíona Scarlett

About Boys Don’t Cry:

‘I can’t remember ever reading anything so moving . . . It’s so beautiful.’ MARIAN KEYES

They say boys don’t cry.
But Finn’s seen his Da do it when he thinks no one’s looking, so that’s not true.
And isn’t it OK to be sad, when bad things happen?

They say boys don’t cry, but you might . . .

‘Unforgettable.’ Donal Ryan

‘Authentic to the bone’ Kit de Waal

It will break your heart in a million different ways.’ Louise O’Neill

‘Powerful and poignant.’ Ruth Hogan

‘Hilarious and heartbreaking.’ Louise Nealon

What readers are saying:

‘Fiona Scarlett is certainly up there with the likes of Roddy Doyle . . . A beautifully written, authentic novel, that will make you both laugh and cry, I just want to recommend this book to everyone.’

‘This is a heartbreaking and very emotional novel that is exquisitely written. Fíona’s writing style helps to bring such raw emotion to the text that it was impossible to not shed a tear!’

‘I cried so much reading this book . . . A stunning read that I’ll be thinking about for a long time.’

‘There is a lot of humour to balance the heartache . . . All humanity is here, in all its shades, and that’s what stays with you long after you finish reading. A brilliant debut.’

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Fíona Scarlett is from Dublin but now living in Co. Kildare with her husband and two children. She holds an MLitt in creative writing from the University of Glasgow as well as a masters in early childhood education. She was awarded the Denis O’Driscoll Literary Bursary through Kildare County Council in 2019 and a Literature Bursary through the National Arts Council Ireland in 2020. She works full time as a primary school teacher and Boys Don’t Cry is her debut novel.

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