Olivia Fitzsimons on The Quiet Whispers Never Stop: ‘I wanted to turn expectations of Northern Ireland upside down’

“When I think about it now, it’s such madness,” says Olivia Fitzsimons. A native of Co Down, she recalls her days as a runner on film sets. “I would go to the bar at night and work so I could work for free during the day.” She recalls being sent for coffee “and spending money that was on food that week but not on the people I was working for.” said I couldn’t afford it”. It was about gaining experience to get a paying job in the industry, which she did, “but even now, these access issues still fascinate me,” she says. “I think art can really suffer when working-class people don’t have opportunities.”

e are not here to talk about film; We’re here to talk about her debut novel, but Fitzsimon’s road to publication hasn’t been easy.

Coming from a rural working-class background, being a novelist “was just not something you could do,” she says.

She studied history at university, a professor who once suggested that fiction might be her true calling, which she dismissed. Instead, she moved to London to work in advertising before returning to Dublin to pursue film. She lives in Greystones, Co. Wicklow with her husband, who is a director, and their two sons.

She has worked in production for a long time, trying to make short films, only to narrowly miss out on funding. “I spent a long time like this and I got really discouraged and kind of got into writing,” she says.

She had taken time off to have children. A return to production and its relentless schedules was not yet possible. A friend suggested that she enter a short story competition. Although she initially dismissed the idea, she “tapped around” on her phone while her kids were doing track and field. The story she wrote was shortlisted. “I was so shocked,” she says. “But once I started, I couldn’t stop. I just fell in love with writing.”

Continuing with today and Fitzsimon’s debut novel, The soft whisper never stops has just been published by John Murray. Written in “snippets of time” between observant children, it began as a “collected collection of short stories about a place” but as it turned out “I was writing a novel, but I couldn’t really admit it to myself”. .

The result is a powerful, polyphonic narrative centered on two ‘difficult women’. Nuala struggles with life as a wife and mother in rural Northern Ireland in the 1980s. A decade later, their daughter Sam is struggling with the pressures of growing up in the same place, but as we learn early on, her mother abandoned her as a child, so growing up is no ordinary ordeal.

“I think I wanted to write a book that was about the female gaze in Northern Ireland,” says Fitzsimons. “You know, the way women were seen, but also the way they saw themselves.”

She points out that many Northern Irish writers put out books that are ‘rooted in a different kind of history’ and she too wanted to write something different.

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“I wanted to turn people’s expectations of a book about Northern Ireland upside down. I really wanted it to be universal. It’s got tough women in a tough place surviving any way they can, and I think a lot of women can relate to that.”

It can be said that the book’s main relationships reflect Northern Irish history. Nuala’s actions, for example, unleash a wave of pain that reverberate through generations.

“I look at trauma. It’s a legacy of trauma that’s a big problem in the North – I think Northern Ireland has one of the highest suicide rates in the world – and those things carry on through the generations, all those traumas,” she says. “I have a different view.”

She also looks at motherhood in a different way. A woman leaving her children is a charged topic to write about.

“It’s really hard for me to talk about it without thinking in the back of my mind, ‘Everybody’s going to think I’m a terrible mom,'” she says. “And it’s so interesting because I really shouldn’t be thinking that at all because I know what my relationship with my kids is like.”

Nuala is a merciless character in many ways. “She’s incredibly selfish. But I wanted readers to feel sorry for her,” says Fitzsimons. “I’m sure every mother has locked herself in the toilet at some point and thought: Two minutes, give me two minutes. Or you’ve been touched by nursing or whatever and you’re just wondering: Who am I? who am i now Who have I become? Who will I be?

Misogyny is rampant throughout the book, something Fitzsimons believes hasn’t gone away the way people think it would have.

“There’s some very specific things about Nuala’s character in the 1980s, like up north it would have been very difficult to leave your husband and that’s kind of changing. But I also think there are things that aren’t, like the way Sam is viewed by men and the overall level of sexual harassment.”

Fitzsimons is in a writing group, Chekov or Fuckoff, that’s packed with other younger debut authors (Sheila Armstrong, Louise Nealon, Stephen Walsh) — and, as Fitzsimons says, many aspiring writers. “I’m a strong believer in access and abundance,” she says. “I think if one person is fine, we’re all fine.”

She is currently working on a second novel and several screenplays. She believes that ‘key period support’ can be of great benefit to artists and was recently awarded a month-long residency at the Center Culturel Irlandais in Paris, where she will write. “I’m so, so grateful,” she says. “But I’m also so excited about what will become of the time I spend with my work.”


The Quiet Whispers Never Stop by Olivia Fitzsimons

Olivia Fitzsimons’ The Quiet Whispers Never Stop is published by John Murray Press

https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/olivia-fitzsimons-on-the-quiet-whispers-never-stop-i-wanted-to-upend-expectations-about-northern-ireland-41574816.html Olivia Fitzsimons on The Quiet Whispers Never Stop: ‘I wanted to turn expectations of Northern Ireland upside down’

Fry Electronics Team

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