Interview with Ellen Dunne
[Dominique Jeannerod] What made you decide to set your first novel (Wie Du mir, 2011) in Belfast ?
[Ellen Dunne] I became interested in the Northern Irish Conflict aged 17, when I watched the movie “In the Name of the Father” by Jim Sheridan, in early 1994. The story of the Guildford Four upset me so much, I wanted to understand the real background. So I endlessly read articles and books and watched TV documentaries. I always have been writing, and after a while, a story formed in my head, and intuitively I chose Belfast as location.
How would you introduce your protagonist, Patsy Logan? Why does she work in Munich ?
Patsy Logan is Irish-German, lives in Munich but has an Irish father with whom she spent many summers in Dublin. Her stories are set in Munich and also in Dublin. Why? I have been living in Dublin for 13 years and lived in Munich for a year, and to me, the two cities have almost nothing in common, apart their size. Munich is a very affluent, balanced, well-groomed and orderly city, with often grumpy inhabitants. To me, Dublin is much rougher, with a lot more social differences (and thus problems) and a somewhat chaotic setup. A contrast that mirrors Patsys inner conflict and intrigued me.
How would you describe the genre of Crime Fiction to which your novels belong? And do you see an evolution between the first and the most recent ones?
I always was more interested in characters and their motifs than in plot twists. I guess it is fair to say that my stories are mixtures between crime and contemporary literature.
Who are the top ten main International Crime Fiction writers in your personal Pantheon?
I read mainly British/Irish as well as German speaking crime writers, so here goes, without a particular ranking: English speaking: Tana French, Adrian McKinty, Kate Atkinson, Stuart Neville, Dennis Lehane, Eoin McNamee German speaking: Simone Buchholz, Friedrich Ani, Oliver Bottini, Jan Costin Wagner
How did you discover Irish Crime Fiction?
Initially, through my interest in the Northern Irish conflict.
Who are the Irish Crime authors who might have influenced you?
I hope I developed my own voice by now, but I guess it’s hard to not be influenced by writers you enjoy. For example, I adore Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy series and also Tana French’s novels, but also like Stuart Neville’s thrillers. Also enjoyed Eoin McNamees Resurrection Man and The Ultras a lot. As I do read a lot of non-crime fiction, it is a short (but growing) list, sorry.
Had you heard of them before settling in Dublin?
Eoin McNamee, yes – all the rest I only found out about while living here.
Have you contacts with other writers of Irish Crime Fiction?
Much less than I would want to; mainly due to the fact that I write in German.
What is Irish Crime Fiction all about, according to you? And Northern Irish Noir, as you arguably write both?
I haven’t read enough of Irish Crime fiction to comprehensively comment on this. Coming from abroad, to me there is this two-faced quality to Ireland, with so many friendly and easy-going people, which makes its social problems and organised crime underbelly all the more jarring – and a good source for stories. There a lots of stories about the crisis and its fallout still. And for Northern Ireland especially the conflict, which writers only in recent years start to really explore. I am excited to see that it gets more attention internationally, too.
Could you tell us a bit about Eire Verlag? Is there a market for Irish Crime Fiction abroad?
Eire Verlag is a very small German press; the publisher has a personal interest in Ireland and we got in touch over private connections.
In general, there is definitely a market for Irish Crime fiction in the German speaking market. Many writers are translated into German, there is a big interest in Ireland as a country.
Do you go to Crime Festivals and meet many authors?
I do attend literary and crime writing festivals regularly. It is a great way to get in touch with authors and network. It is important to network among writers, it’s a lonely job.
Did you write Cigarette Break – A Short Belfast Story directly in English?
There was a German version first, so the English version was between a rewrite and a translation. I did it all myself, with an Irish proofreader to check.
What made you decide to set this story in Belfast (again)? And did you feel the need for a prequel to your first novel?
As it is not a real prequel but a short story that gives background to my first novel, Belfast had to be the logical location. I wrote the story as part of a World Book Day promotion.
To what extent was the timeline important? Will there be other Belfast or Troubles novels?
There is nothing planned yet, but who knows? I have never stopped being interested in the topic, and the recent tragic events around Lyra McKee’s murder show that the Troubles still effect the whole island.
How much reading/documentation does it take you to write novels set during the Troubles?
I’d say a lot, it is a complex set-up. It’s hard to tell for me though, as I first got interested in the topic and the story developed naturally out of it. So I guess I did much more “research” than necessary.
Who are you readers? Where do you meet them? Do you interact with them online? Do they comment on your stories?
My readers are usually people that read a lot and are ready for “something different”; often not the typical crime readers. I meet them often online in book groups or at book fairs, or they write to me after reading the book and tell me how they liked it. Mostly these interactions are great, I enjoy them.
What are the languages in which your books are translated?
I have one of them translated in English, “The Lost Son”
What are the four Crime Fiction novels you recommend to your friends?
Available in English:
The Sean Duffy series by Adrian McKinty
The Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French
The Chastity Riley series by Simone Buchholz
Light in a dark house by Jan Costin Wagner
Is there any question you would have liked me to ask? Sorry for not mentioning it…. Please do now…
This was a very comprehensive interview, it was fun. Thank you!
Thank you, and looking forward to your next book! To be followed