We are delighted to welcome to the Festival Irish novelist Michelle Gallen and debut Irish novelist Olivia Fitzsimons to discuss their latest books Factory Girls and The Quiet Whispers Never Stop.
Both novels feature stories of youth, love and escape in 1990s Northern Ireland, when the Troubles were the norm and growing up meant choosing to stay or fighting to leave.
Chaired by Jan Carson.
Michelle Gallen was born in Tyrone in the 1970s and grew up during the Troubles a few miles from the border. She studied English Literature at Trinity College Dublin and Publishing at Stirling University. She has had work published in The Stinging Fly, Mslexia and others and won the Orange/NW Short Story Award. She suffered a devastating brain injury in her mid-20s which took her several years to recover from. She returned to writing in her 40s and her first novel, Big Girl, Small Town, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award.
Olivia Fitzsimons is from County Down, Northern Ireland and now lives in Wicklow, but never lost her accent. She studied History at Trinity College Dublin and Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. The Quiet Whispers Never Stop is her debut novel. It was an Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair Winner 2020. She works as a screenwriter and film development.
Jan Carson is a writer and community arts facilitator based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She has a novel, Malcolm Orange Disappears and a short story collection, Children’s Children (Liberties Press), two micro-fiction collections, Postcard Stories 1 and 2 (Emma Press) and a short story collection, The Last Resort (Doubleday). Her novel The Fire Starters (Doubleday) won the EU Prize for Literature for Ireland 2019, the Kitschies Prize for Speculative Fiction 2020 and was shortlisted for the Dalkey Book Prize 2020. Jan won the Harper’s Bazaar Short Story competition in 2016 and has been shortlisted for the BBC National Story Prize and Sean O’Faolain Short Story Prize. She was the inaugural Irish Writers Centre Roaming Writer in Residence on the trains of Ireland in 2019 and the Open Book Scotland Writer in Lockdown during 2020. She is currently writer in residence on an AHRC-funded research project at Queen’s University Belfast exploring the depiction of dementia in contemporary fiction and will be editing a collection of newly commissioned short stories exploring the dementia experience to be published in September 2022. Jan’s third novel, The Raptures was published by Doubleday in Spring 2022.