Lisa McInerney is a thirty-three-year-old writer of contemporary fiction from Galway. Her debut novel, The Glorious Heresies, explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland’s twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family.
Lisa’s fiction is shaped by her unconventional upbringing. The result of a crisis teen pregnancy, she was adopted by her grandparents, and has only ever spoken to her father via Facebook. She was born in 1981, when babies born outside marriage were still saddled with the legal status of ‘illegitimate’ (the concept of legitimacy was not removed until 1996) and so the evolution of the Irish family, of attitudes towards sex and women’s rights, are themes that run through The Glorious Heresies.
Similarly, Lisa’s interest in Ireland’s underworld and our social and ethical responsibilities regarding the drug trade have been informed by her working-class background and the experiences of the people she loves. These have shaped her obsession with the minutiae of the everyday, and the secrets hidden in even the most humdrum lives. She believes that it’s in the smallest stories you find the biggest truths, and so her stories are populated with honourable thieves, Machiavellian misfits and reluctant street heroes. Though inspired by writers like Melvin Burgess, Irvine Welsh and Hubert Selby Jr, years writing for an online audience means she also draws from the humour and wordplay of the internet’s hive mind.
A native of the small town of Gort, Lisa couldn’t help but veer towards the literary arts – Gort was the home of Abbey theatre founder Lady Augusta Gregory and Nobel Laureate William Butler Yeats, in whose bedroom Lisa is proud to say she’s stretched out. Having spent most of her time at school and university (UCC, where she took English) writing fiction when she should have been studying, it occurred to Lisa that she had no real way out of this writing lark, and so she endeavoured to make it a career.
In 2006 she started a blog about working class life in a County Galway council estate, ‘Arse End of Ireland’, through which she cultivated a reputation for documenting modern Ireland with her own particular brand of gleeful cynicism. In the same year, Haydn O’Shaughnessy in The Irish Times called her “…the most talented writer at work today in Ireland”, and journalist and author Belinda McKeon said that “she takes the Celtic Tiger by the scruff, and gives it a sound kicking in prose that sears”. Nominated for Best Blog at the Irish Blog Awards for three years running, Lisa took away the Best Humour gong in 2009, which came as a surprise because she wasn’t aware she was being particularly funny at the time.
Lisa went on to write regularly for award-winning entertainment site Culch.ie and prominent Irish feminist site The Antiroom, and in 2012 launched Ramp.ie, a pop culture magazine for which she served as editor for its inaugural year. From 2011 to 2014, Lisa wrote a regular column on Irish news site TheJournal.ie, taking a frequently acerbic look at social and cultural issues. She’s spoken at literary festivals both at home and in the US discussing new media, its effect on traditional publishing, and possibilities for writers. Having set out to build a solid profile from which to stake her literary leanings, she eventually realised that she’d succeeded and had to return to fiction or spend the rest of the decade faffing about with hit counters and arguing with conservatives on Twitter.
In 2013, Lisa’s short story ‘Saturday, Boring’ was published in Faber’s ‘Town and Country’ anthology, edited by Kevin Barry, who had gotten in touch after reading some of her online writing. Seeing as this was the first short story Lisa had ever written, she was rather chuffed and assumed there will be a similarly disproportionate award for her second – dinner at the White House or something.
A challenge set by her agent led to her writing The Glorious Heresies over the summer of 2013. Through exploring the mischief made by five Corkonian rebels – a drug dealer, a sex worker, an unrepentant penitent, a gangland boss and a failed family man – she was able to expand on the same themes that moulded her: family, shame, repentance, and redemption.
Lisa lives in Galway with a husband, a teenage daughter and a dog called Angua. She learned the word “sporadically” from Clueless, and has endeavoured to use it sporadically ever since.