After graduating with a PhD in languages, Deirdre turned to journalism.
“I did an internship with the BBC, and they told me about a training scheme. I became the year’s global trainee working on international news, using my languages.
“I worked in the Washington Bureau during Trump’s presidency, in Brussels during the migrant crisis in Greece, and the Westminster Office during Brexit,” she says. “I now write and edit news online and produce the day’s stories.”
Bessborough began as a 5,000-word article for the BBC.
“It was the most read article in 2019,” she says. “I made a lot of contacts, and then I had an approach from a publisher. It took time to find women generous and courageous enough to tell their stories. I got a book deal, and then Covid hit.”
Deirdre worked in the newsroom in London through the first lockdowns, then in September 2020, she took a year’s career break.
“I wrote the book at home in Mayo and met people when restrictions allowed.”
Who is Deirdre Finnerty?
Date of birth: 1985 in Ballinrobe, South Mayo.
Education: Ballinrobe Community School; University of Limerick, Applied Languages. Integrated MA PhD in Hispanic studies.
“The PhD was on testimonies of women in prison during the Spanish Civil War. I finished it through a Fellowship in the University of London.”
Home: Southeast London.
Family: Mother, father, sister, brother, nephew.
The Day Job: Senior Broadcast Journalist at the BBC.
In Another Life: “I’d own a bookshop in Galway. That would lovely!”
Favourite Writers: Elena Ferrante; Donal Ryan; Mary Beth Keane; Celeste Ng; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Emilie Pine; Louise O’Neill; Elizabeth Strout.
Second Novel: “I’ve been working on an idea for a novel, but I haven’t yet done anything about it.”
Top Tip: “Tell yourself to write for just 20 minutes. More often than not, you’ll end up doing 40 minutes or an hour.”
The Debut: Bessborough. Hachette Books Ireland: €15.99. Kindle: €9.90.
Bessborough in Cork operated as a mother and baby home for over 70 years, with devastating results. Joan, Terri, and Deirdre, confined there in three separate decades, tell their heartrending stories of confinement, secrecy, suffering, and loss of their babies to forced adoption.
The Verdict: A powerfully important book that demands to be read.
Published in The Irish Examiner on 7th May.
© Sue J Leonard. 2022.