Fiona never thought about writing when she was a child- though she was always an avid reader. At 35, she began making up funny stories for children, and found that she couldn’t stop writing.
“Two years ago, I decided to give it a go,” she says. “I wanted to test myself, give it a year or two and see if I was wasting my time. So I took an MA.”
During that course, taken in the evenings, she got the idea for her debut.
“It started with a tweet from a palliative care doctor who had asked children what they would miss when they died. I wrote the first chapter immediately. The story came fully formed.”
She was inspired, also, by her dad’s life. From inner city Dublin, he’d gained a scholarship to the Irish College of Music and went on to train as a secondary school music teacher.
Fiona gained agent Sophie Lambert shortly before Ireland’s first lockdown – and got an offer on 1st April 2020.
Who is Fiona Scarlett?
Date of birth: 1980 in Mulhuddart, Dublin.
Education: Coolmine Community School, Dublin 15. Trinity College Dublin and DIT – Music Education, with a performance element in Piano. St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra; Post Grad Diploma in Primary School teaching and MA in Early Childhood Education. Glasgow University, M Lit in Creative Writing.
Home: County Kildare.
Family: Husband, Dermot Kelly, and children Molly 13, and Charlie, 11.
The Day Job: Primary school teacher.
In Another Life: “I’d absolutely love to be a contemporary dancer, but I can’t dance.”
Favourite Writers: Donal Ryan; Kevin Barry; Maggie O’Farrell; Sarah Moss; Roddy Doyle
Second Novel: “I have a rough draft of a second novel done”.
Top Tip: “Don’t talk through your characters. Remove yourself and keep their voice authentic. Allow space for the reader.”
The Debut: Boys Don’t Cry. Faber. €13.12 Kindle: €4.92.
Joe, 17, lives in an inner-city tower block. His da is embroiled in the drug world – but Joe is artistically gifted. He’s on a scholarship to a private school and has a chance to escape his background. But when Finn, the little brother he loves becomes sick, everything crumbles.
The Verdict: Unforgettable. Authentic and raw, it will break your heart.
Published on 8th May in the Irish Examiner.