Annemarie Neary speaks to Maebh Butler about how she found herself stumble into the creative writing world, what keeps her motivated and the story behind her second novel, Siren.

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For many writers, fiction is something that’s been a long-time pastime. For London-based writer, Annemarie Neary, however, it appears that she chose to take the “scenic route”. Although obtaining a degree in English and French literature, Neary says that it was not until she began to work as a lawyer at King’s Inn did she find her true calling.

“Ironically, it was my work as a contracts lawyer in London that opened up my interest in words as conduits to hidden areas of meaning,” she says. She also notes that she “became more precise, concise and disciplined – those are not natural traits of mine!” Often it is thought that writing is something that one immerses themselves in from a young age, but Neary proves the contrary and admits that a university degree is not the key to every lock. “Get out into the world. Observe, wonder, imagine. Be curious. All that is arguably more important than a degree of any kind. But reading – anything and everything – is essential.”

All of this is surely no easy task and OTwo ponders over where Neary finds the motivation to keep herself on track. “Deadlines are a great motivator, which is one of the reasons why I’d advise beginner writers to submit to competitions and magazines. There are times (admittedly rare!) when you are writing something and it just soars. Trying to regain that euphoric state is part of the motivation.”

“Get out into the world. Observe, wonder imagine. Be curious. All that is arguably more important than a degree of any kind.” “Trying to regain that euphoric state is part of the motivation.”

Undoubtedly, this is sound advice, and it seems to have paid off quite successfully for Neary. With her first short story winning the Brian MacMahon award at Listowel Writer’s Week, it poses the question of the importance of writers receiving recognition for their work. “I realise now how lucky I was to get a confidence boost like that early on. However, it’s important not to get blinded by the light and start thinking you’re wonderful! The most important thing is to edge closer and closer to the truth with each thing that you write. So yes, awards are great but they won’t make you a better writer. You have to do that for yourself.”

With great success over her first novel, A Parachute in the Lime Tree, there is much anticipation over her coming novel, Siren. Siren is a psychological thriller that tells the story of Róisín, “a woman claiming back her own identity” who returns to Lamb Island to confront her enemy, a career politician named Lonergan.

The novel is due to be published in March 2016 by Hutchinson and Neary says that, although a fictitious place, Lamb Island borrows traits from some West Cork islands that are familiar to her. If some of the landscape is taken from Neary’s life, how much of herself is put into the characters? “Not a great deal, I hope – there are some pretty dark characters in Siren… Everything you are or have been goes through the blender and emerges in a character trait here, an observation there. I’m not interested in writing about myself, and my work is not remotely confessional.”

As well as the publication of Siren on the horizon, readers can expect another psychological thriller from Neary to greet bookshelves in 2017. Neary’s career has gotten off to a strong start, and this seems sure to continue as the hype continues to build.