T. L. Sherwood: I fell in love with your story, “As Time Goes By,” during the first read though. Humphrey Bogart and his movies are woven into the story so deftly, so I have to ask–what is your favorite Bogart movie?
Orlaith O’Sullivan: Tough question! I really love his whole body of work, but if I had to choose one… it would be The Big Sleep. Such a superb film noir, and watching Bogart and Bacall spark off each other with that razor-sharp script – it’s a gem!
TLS: Great choice. It’s one of my favorites, too. Now, the grandfather in your story is a wonderfully vivid character, but Susan is just as sharp. Did these characters come to you first, or was the ending where the story originated?
OO: I think it began with the grandfather in his sickbed, certain of all his beliefs, and then I panned out from there, and explored who else was in his life, and how they experienced his illness. The ending was a surprise to me too! Sometimes when I’m writing, there are connections forming that I’m not consciously aware of – I remember writing this story, and thinking ‘we just need a key lime pie, some feathers and a goat’ – I realised that the narrative had been building towards this all the time.
TLS: It is such a good ending! Do you have any writing rituals? A favorite place to write?
OO: It’s a mix for me – in regular out-and-about life, I jot down a lot of short moments; it might be a turn of phrase or a colour that strikes me, so I’m very happy to sit in a coffee shop and scribble out thoughts long-hand. At home, I’m grateful to have a super light laptop, so I can curl up and tap away. There’s a lot of flexibility around writing: sometimes I’ll fill the place with music, if a story resonates with a particular album; other times the environment is quite quiet. I can always tell when momentum has built beautifully because when I’m sleeping, I dream that I’m writing – just typing away, working out a story, enjoying the words as they appear.
TLS: Is there anything you could share about the novel you’re working on? Are any of the characters in “As Time Goes By” going to be in it?
OO: It’s a literary thriller, about the museum world and the underbelly of antiquities smuggling. It’s inspired by a story I wrote a few years back called “Gilt.” To my knowledge, none of the “As Time Goes By” folk appear, but I’ve thought that before and been proven wrong!
TLS: Who (or what) is the biggest influence on your writing?
OO: I get inspired by daily life – the voices and colours, the stories people share. “As Time Goes By” arose from the experiences of several of my friends: relatives had suffered strokes, and they were re-forming relationships and coming to understand the new landscape they were in. I also enjoy random bits of information that turn up along the way – in the story, there’s mention of the man who invented the saxophone surviving several assassination attempts – that’s true!
TLS: What does recovery mean to you?
OO: Ending with a tough question! Hmm… I think for me, recovery isn’t necessarily about getting back to where I was pre-illness. It’s about acknowledging the suffering that I feel from being ill, and somehow transforming that to the point where I’m not feeling incomplete or less than my pre-illness self. For me, that means I can have a sense of wellness and wholeness, even though there is illness or pain in my body or mind.
TLS: Thank you so much for your answers, Orlaith. It’s been a pleasure to chat with you.