I am currently working on a book about growing up as a girl within the GAA

Eimear Ryan’s debut novel ‘Holding her Breath’ is out now. She will be appearing at the West Cork Literary Festival, which runs from July 9 to 16
I am currently working on a book about growing up as a girl within the GAA

Eimear Ryan. Picture: Trevor Patchett

TELL us about yourself; I’m a writer and editor from Co. Tipperary. My writing has appeared in Winter Papers, Granta, The Dublin Review, The Stinging Fly and The Long Gaze Back. My debut novel Holding Her Breath is out now with Penguin Sandycove. I’m the 2021 Writer in Residence at the School of English in UCC.

Along with my friends and fellow writers Claire Hennessy and Laura Cassidy, I’m a co-founder of the literary journal Banshee and its publishing imprint, Banshee Press. Our most recent title is I Want to Know That I Will Be Okay by Deirdre Sullivan, a brilliant collection of short stories.

I’ve played camogie since I was a kid, and now play for St Finbarr’s. I’m a sports columnist for the Examiner and am currently working on a book about growing up as a girl within the GAA.

Where were you born?

I grew up in Moneygall, on the border between Tipperary and Offaly. I was firmly on the Tipp side but there was a lot of good-natured border rivalry. 

The GAA was central to the community and most of the kids around would have played hurling or camogie.

Where do you live?

I live in Ballinlough in Cork city. This is my third address in Cork; I first moved here from Dublin in 2014. It’s a lovely neighbourhood, close enough to town but it also has its own village/community feel. I can’t wait for crowds to be allowed back into matches since Páirc Uí Chaoimh is only up the road.

Family?

I live with my partner Cal and my stepson, Sebastien (13), spends his summers with us. My parents, Seamus and Ber, are retired primary teachers. I have two older siblings, Conor and Eileen. They are all based in Tipperary so it was tough over lockdown as I mostly only saw them over Zoom, but it’s great now that we can visit each other more often.

Best friend?

I met Olive in Junior Infants and we went through primary and secondary school together. She’s kind, funny, and wise beyond her years. We’re both fairly busy so we only see each other a few times a year, but it’s one of those friendships where we can easily pick up where we left off.

Earliest childhood memory?

I went to Carraroe on a family holiday when I was very small, two or three, and became fascinated with a laundromat there. I have a very vivid memory of watching the drum of this huge washing machine rotating and being almost hypnotised by it. But memory is a tricky thing and I sometimes wonder if I only remember this because I’ve been told the story so many times.

Person you most admire?

I love Anne Enright’s writing, but also her wisdom. I love quoting her on the lack of respect given to the Irish women’s canon: ‘It always seemed to me a double burden that women should suffer the discrimination and do all the work to fix it.’ It’s true of literature but it also applies to so many other areas of life — including sport.

Who would you like to see as Minister for Finance and why?

Anyone who would bring in Universal Basic Income. I think it would generate a sense of solidarity and would be a lifeline to artists, freelancers, people in the service industry, and anyone in unpredictable or seasonal work.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that having a social safety net for everyone is a good idea.

Where was your most memorable holiday?

My friend Claire moved to Tokyo about five years ago, and we visited her in 2017. I had expected the ‘bright lights, big city’ aspect of it, and that was loads of fun — like a futuristic New York. But what really surprised me was how quiet and peaceful other parts of it were — lovely parks and shrines, little winding streets. And the food was amazing.

Holding her breath by Eimear Ryan.
Holding her breath by Eimear Ryan.

Favourite TV programme?

Buffy The Vampire Slayer was my favourite show as a teenager, and I’ve re-watched it many times since.

Favourite radio show?

I love Mystery Train on Lyric FM in the evenings.

Favourite restaurant?

I love Miyazaki for a takeaway, and Elbow Lane for a night out (I’m partial to a steak).

Last book you read?

White City by Kevin Power — hilarious and unexpectedly moving. I’d highly recommend it, especially if you liked Kevin’s previous book, Bad Day In Blackrock, or Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies.

Best book you read?

One of my all-time favourites is The Collected Stories by Amy Hempel. She’s one of the masters of the short story form, and it’s a great book to dip in and out of.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

We bought a record player a few months ago, which is a huge novelty. The most recent album I bought on vinyl was Seven Swans by Sufjan Stevens, from Cork’s brilliant Plugd Records.

Favourite song?

It changes all the time, but at the moment it’s With Arms Outstretched by Rilo Kiley. It’s a cheery, acoustic, summery song.

One person you would like to see in concert?

Beyoncé.

Do you have a pet?

I have a black and white cat called Doughnut. He’s a great companion, affectionate but self-sufficient. And cats are just generally hilarious.

Morning person or night owl?

Definitely a night owl. I would love to be more of a morning person but my brain doesn’t seem to switch on properly until around lunchtime.

Your proudest moment?

Hearing the news, in December, 2019, that Holding Her Breath would be published by Sandycove. I’d begun working on it in October, 2013, so hearing that all that work was going to pay off was incredible.

Spendthrift or saver?

I’m a strange mix of both. I’m generally quite cagey with money but occasionally I’ll go on a tear — especially if I find myself in a bookstore or a homeware shop. Then I’ll go back to being frugal for a few weeks.

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

I wish Cork had more cycle lanes and better public transport. Bring on the Cork Luas!

What makes you happy?

Hanging out with family and friends, going for a cycle in the sunshine, playing camogie, staying up late to finish a great book.

How would you like to be remembered?

I’d like to be remembered for being generous. And I hope that when I’m old and grey that someone reminds me that I used to be handy at camogie.

What else are you up to at the moment?

I’m looking forward to doing a couple of readings to promote the book — in particular at West Cork Literary Festival (July 9-16). 

They will hopefully be in front of small outdoor audiences. It’s so heartening to see things starting to gradually open up again.

Full information about the literary festival on www.westcorkmusic.ie

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