Writers’ Week“I just felt the book come to life.”

As heard on arena

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Listowel Writers’ Week starts on Wednesday and on Monday’s Arena, Seán Rocks welcomed two writers who’ll feature at the festival, both of whom have new novels based on the lives of real people. In Shadowplay, Joseph O’Connor explores the life of Dracula author, Bram Stoker, while Christine Dwyer Hickey focuses on the life of painter Edward Hopper and his wife Josephine in The Narrow Land.

Christine told Seán that she had no intention of writing a novel about Hopper – it just sort of happened. She was sick and watched a documentary on Hopper and his wife:

“And bit by bit, I began to kind of think about their marriage and it kind of entered my head. I’d fall asleep watching it. And then I’d wake up and watch it again.”

Joseph O’Connor wasn’t lulled into writing about Dubliner Bram Stoker by watching a documentary. He told Seán that he’d always loved Bram Stoker and been intrigued by him.

“He was certainly the first author I thought of as a Dublin author and as one of us and as somebody who’d walked the same streets and all of that.”

Joseph first read Dracula when he was 12 or 14 and has read it every four years or so since. Shadowplay is about Stoker and his friend, the actor Henry Irving. The actress Ellen Terry – whom Stoker mentions in Dracula – was added into the story and it was then that Joseph felt it all came together:

“The moment that I did that – I mean, I could probably date the very moment if I thought about it – I just felt the book come to life.”

Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor is published by Harvill Secker.

The Narrow Land by Christine Dwyer Hickey is published by Atlantic Books.

You can hear Seán’s full chat with Christine Dwyer Hicker and Joseph O’Connor, as well as the rest of Arena here:


© The Listener 2019

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