Jamie O'Connell Discusses Creative Writing With Ruth McKee, Editor at Books Ireland

On 3 June 2020, my debut novel, Diving for Pearls was published. To tie in with the publication of the book, I spoke to Ruth McKee, Editor at Books Ireland, about finding creativity, Founding Blackwater Writing, and the techniques I use to edit fiction.

You work as an editor—how does this inform your own craft?

During my MA in Creative Writing, my lecturers showed me the ‘rules’ of good prose, the craft that underpins great fiction. Before this training, I had lots of creative energy but it was unfocused and undisciplined. In the decade since then, these fixed writing ‘rules’ have fallen away as I edit. I do not consciously edit my work or others with a list of rules to hand. Instead, the sentence is like a line of music. I try to read it with heightened concentration, looking for off ‘notes’ (a word or phrase). Then I examine why it is not working.

My ethos for editing prose is taken from a quote by James Ryan: 'Fiction is a work of the imagination for the imagination'.

The questions all writers must ask of every word and sentence is, ‘Does this engage the reader? Does it earn its place on the page?’.

Why Dubai as a setting for Diving for Pearls?

In 2010, I flew to Dubai for the first time. My flight crossed the sparkling azure seas of the Persian Gulf before looping around over the golden desert of the United Arab Emirates. The moment I caught a glimpse of this sparkling city of Dubai rising out of the sand, my imagination was caught. The metropolis of seventy-story skyscrapers left me with a wondrous feeling. I understood how Dorothy felt seeing The Emerald City for the first time.

How did you come to writing fiction, from your background in editorial?

My first love has always been writing. When I was eleven, I saw an interview with a famous Irish writer (I believe it was Maeve Binchy), which put the idea of writing in my head. I set about learning to type using Maevis Beacon, endlessly keying ‘ASDF’ while a cartoon chameleon was rewarded with flies for every letter I typed correctly. After learning these basics, I began to compose my first ‘novel’ in Microsoft Word. I have been writing ever since.

Read the full interview HERE.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

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