Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Áine Greaney

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author answers three questions about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.

Say “Áine Greaney” to bookish people anywhere up in New England and you’re met with a lovely hushed reverence. She’s a cool person, a gorgeous writer, and yep, she’s Irish…as in “of the country.” (Or, I should probably say, “of the county, County Mayo.”) And now you, lucky you, get a wee glimpse into her writerhead.

So pull on your Wellies and let’s get moving…

The Scoop About Dance Lessons

A year after her husband’s death in a sailing accident off Martha’s Vineyard, Ellen Boisvert bumps into an old friend. In this chance encounter, she discovers that her immigrant husband of almost fifteen years was not an orphan after all. Instead, his aged mother Jo is alive and residing on the family’s isolated farm in the west of Ireland.

Faced with news of her mother-in-law incarnate, the thirty-nine-year-old American prep school teacher decides to travel to Ireland to investigate the truth about her husband Fintan and why he kept his family’s existence a secret for so many years.

Between Jo’s hilltop farm and the lakeside village of Gowna, Ellen begins to uncover the mysteries of her Irish husband’s past and the cruelties and isolation of his rural childhood. Ellen also stumbles upon Fintan’s long-ago romance with a local village woman, with whom he had a daughter, Cat. Cat is now fourteen and living with her mother in London. As Ellen reconciles her troubled relationship with Fintan, she discovers a way to heal the wounds of the past.

Deeply rooted in the Irish landscape and sensibility, Dance Lessons is a powerful story of loss, regret, and transformation.

The Buzzzzzzzzzzz

“A beautiful examination of three women’s lives, this novel deftly explores both relationships and solitude, with Ireland’s gorgeous countryside as backdrop.” ~ Booklist

“The author is able to capture emotional nuance with minimal flourish; her characters emerge as strong individuals confronting unexpected pain.” ~ Publishers Weekly

First Sentence

“The kitchen phone is ringing again.”


And now, Áine’s writerhead…

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

If I’m working on a project, I’m usually in writerhead on and off throughout the day and (horrors) mostly at night. Honestly! I do dream about my work quite a bit, and when I wake up at 3 a.m. and again for work at 7 a.m., I am immediately thinking about the project and puzzling it out in my head. I keep a notebook beside the bed, and my favorite way to write is to just get up, get coffee and get going. It’s much easier for me in the morning.

My favorite way to write is to go away and hole up on writer’s retreat. When I’m away on writer’s retreat, the project and the words and the voice are there all day and most of the night, too. I love that kind of intense (manic?) immersion in a project. It’s my favorite way to work. When I go away to write, I pack the usual bag but truthfully, I rarely unpack or wear even half of it. I live in a state of total slobbery for days on end. The summer before last, I was under deadline for my writer’s instructional book, so I sneaked away to my little hideaway. Imagine how mortified I was to realize that I’d been wearing a grungy stained T-shirt most of the week. (Hmmm… so that’s why that snooty poet was gawking at me like that!). But when I’m truly immersed, I tend not to care about the basics—except food, of course. Writing the battle hymn or the disco dance numbers for Noah’s Ark’s next grand voyage would not keep me from my three squares.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

Hmmm… that depends on the project, doesn’t it? Sometimes, I’m delighted to be interrupted, and have been known to keep the mail man in longer and deeper conversation than is ever necessary (“You deliver ‘round these parts often, then? You know, blue really *is* your color”). But when the project is humming and happy, I can quite easily ignore a ringing phone or even the front door bell. When I was writing the first draft of my first novel, The Big House, our local library had been relocated to another building while they were renovating the main library downtown (speaking of Noah’s Ark era stuff). It was deep winter and I was clacking away on my old laptop and never looked up to see why or if the library had emptied out of all other patrons. Eventually, one of the librarians came, touched my shoulder and said, “We’re closing the library early because of the snow emergency. Will you be able to dig your car out?” I had an old Saab 900 back then, and, sure enough, there was the poor thing, the last car in the lot, absolutely buried under a day’s snow. Who knew? It wasn’t snowing where I had been, right?

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

When I’m in writerhead I feel like I’m chomping into some homemade apple pie (there’s that food thing again). I’m in love. In ecstasy. It tastes and feels fabulous, but then, there’s that small voice that’s saying, “you’re going to pay for this.” I’m always excited when a project is going well, but I’m always bracing for when it’s not. Yes, it’s a very fatalistic, glass-half-empty outlook. Err … must do something about that.


Áine Greaney is an Irish writer who lives north of Boston. She’s published four books, including two novels, a short story collection and an instructional writing book, Writer with a Day Job from Writers Digest Books. Her most recent novel, Dance Lessons was released in April 2011 by Syracuse University Press. The Women’s National Book Association has chosen Dance Lessons for 2011 National Reading Group Month. As well as writing, she teaches creative workshops at various schools, arts organizations and libraries.

Intrigued? Thought you might be. To learn more, skip on over to Áine’s web site (www.ainegreaney.com). Pop into her blog, Writer With a Day Job. Give her a nod on Twitter (@ainegreaney) or like her (love her!) on Facebook.


Q4U Readers / Writers / New Englanders / Irish-philes / Writers With Day Jobs: Glass-half-empty or glass-half-full?


10 Responses to Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Áine Greaney

  1. Aine’s book sounds quite intriguing! I enjoyed hearing of your comparison of Writerhead to eating food. I also like how immersed you get, to the point of slobbery. Sounds like some of my more creative (& hygenically disgusting) times in life. (It also sounds like you don’t have little kids in tow!)

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great interview, K & A! I loved Dance Lessons, and recommend it often.

    And there’s nothing wrong with a glass half empty as long as it follows a boisterous “Cheers” and a clink of the pint ; )

  3. Pingback: Kitchen Phone

  4. Thanks, everyone for your insightful comments and follow-up. Noooooo glasses half full. I am an advocate of pessimism and fatalism. It worked for Thomas Hardy, and it shall work for me. Dammit.

    Kristin, this was such a fun interview with some really provocative q’s. Now that it’s the weekend aka no more day job for 3 whole days, I’m going to try and take my own advice and get lost in WriterHead.