Alice’s artistic talent showed early.
“I was an artist as a child, and I was encouraged. I wrote little bits, but wanted to become a visual artist.”
At university, the art course was too conceptual, and losing self-confidence, Alice didn’t pursue it. She drifted through her twenties, waitressing, lecturing to tourists on a whaling ship, and teaching refugees English, before returning to university and reconnecting with art.
She moved from America to Ireland, and worked on drawings and those turned to language.
“I started to write poems – they flew out of me for 6 weeks, then I entered, and won the Patrick Kavanagh Award.”
When Alice started writing Oona, she didn’t realise it was a novel.
“I was exploring my past and my experience of grief. Then I came up with the notion of writing the book without the letter ‘O’. When I dug into my life I realised the larger question was not just about me. There was a freedom from releasing myself from the story and creating Oona. It became a fascination and a joy to write.”
Alice started the book during a year’s fellowship at Harvard. She found her publisher and agent through the Irish Writer’s Centre Novel Fair.
Who is Alice Lyons?
Date of birth: 1960, New Jersey.
Education: Connecticut college; switched from Visual Art to European History minoring in Creative Writing. Boston University; Degree in Visual Arts, and MA in painting. Seamus Heaney Centre, Queens University, PhD in Creative Writing.
Family: A daughter, Caoimhe.
The Day Job: “I teach on the Sligo IT Creative Writing Programme.”
In Another Life: “When I was a young we had a visit from a brain surgeon, and I wanted to become one too. Now I think I would have enjoyed being a family doctor.”
Favourite Writers: Elizabeth Bishop; Olga Tokarczuk; Alice Oswald; Wislawa Szymborska; Miriam Toews; Ciaran Carson.
Second Novel: “I’ve started one.”
Top Tip: Don’t hurry. Take it slow.
Website: www.alicelyons.ie Twitter: @AliceLyons22.
The Debut: Oona. The Lilliput Press. € 15.00. Kindle: €4.21
This exceptional debut explores Oona’s life, from the death of her mother, through her beginnings as an artist and writer, and her move to Ireland.
“Finding a creative life is a way of putting oneself together.”
The Verdict: Astounding! A poetic, unique new voice.
Published in The Irish Examiner on 18th April
© Sue J Leonard. 2020