Brought up near Belfast the youngest of four, Jenny attended Oxford University, and then she moved to Prague for 18 months.
“I worked as a proof reader on the Prague Post, then, after a short time in Belfast I went to London and took my MA.”
Afterwards she wrote freelance for the Spectator and got a job at Prospect Magazine.
“When Dominic Lawson moved from the Spectator to the Sunday Telegraph, he offered me a job. I wrote news and comment, and, occasionally, news features.”
In 2000, she added the title, film critic, and also wrote a column.
In the mid-nineties, she covered stories in Belfast, and some of them haunted her.
“I started writing the book in the late nineties, and wrote half, but after I’d married I hadn’t the extra energy. When I was made redundant in 2014, my life freed up. I went freelance and carried on with the book. It felt seamless. A lot had changed. Complexities had been exposed with time, and some of the disappeared had been found.”
Who is Jenny McCartney?
Date of birth: 1971 in Belfast.
Education: Methodist College, Belfast. Keble College, Oxford, English Language and Literature. City University, London. MA in newspaper journalism.
Family: Husband, Rajeev Syal, son 13, daughter 9.
The Day Job: Freelance Journalist.
In Another Life: “I’d love to have a great voice, because it’s a portable instrument that brings joy to people.”
Favourite Writers: My early influences were Emile Zola; Milan Kundera; George Orwell; Agatha Christie; Elaine Dundy and Sylvia Plath.
Second Novel: “There’s one in my head. It needs to germinate.”
Top Tip: “Don’t wait for the perfect time to write, just start getting things down. And, you need to give your character a life, but then give them the freedom to develop in their own way.”
The Debut: The Ghost Factory. 4th Estate: €15.24. Kindle: €9.60.
It’s Belfast in the nineties and there’s an uneasy peace. And when Jacky sticks up for his friend, Titch, who got a beating from paramilitaries for stealing biscuits, trouble isn’t far behind. When, eventually, he moves to London, can he regain a normal life?
The Verdict: This wonderful, atmospheric debut gives insight into a time when violence was rife within the communities.
Published in The Irish Examiner on March 23rd.
© Sue Leonard. 2019