Monday, 21 March 2016

Interview with Writer Martina Reilly

Martina Reilly
Hi Martina and welcome to emergingwriter. How did you first get into writing and then plays?

I don’t think there was actually a time when I got ‘into’ writing, I just always wrote. It was instinctive for me to tell stories and write them down. I remember reading Enid Blyton when I was very young and thinking that that was what I wanted to do – create characters and plots that people would love. So I did.
My first books were about kids in a gang solving mysteries (I knew nothing about plagiarism back then!). The only thing was I couldn’t solve the mysteries I had created and so those books had to be abandoned. It was when I started writing about things I knew that I actually finished the books I started.
The first books I completed were the Gang books 1 -4 about a girl called Anne who moved to Dublin from Cork and made loads of new friends in her secondary school. By the end, she was married to one of the guys. Such dramatic tension!
Livewire – my very first published book – came out of these gang books. I wrote Livewire when I was fifteen and got it published about ten years later. 
Alongside all the story writing, I was also scribbling little plays for my friends. My mother enrolled us in drama class when I was about eight and I loved it. I loved the idea that stories could become 3D and that within a play, a person could become that brave/cool/funny person they kind of wanted to be in real life.
So, I suppose I was always writing a bit of everything.
I have turned some of my books into plays but Conquered Not Were We (my new play) could only ever have been a play. I say that because it’s a very visual experience and though words can paint pictures, this story gains so much more through lighting and movement.   

Tell me something about your new play. Where did the idea come from and how did you get it to be performed?

My new play is called Conquered Not We Were.  I first heard the story of the ‘Maynooth 15’ some years back, when a monument was being erected in Maynooth for the fifteen men of the town who took part in the Easter Rising in 1916. These men walked along the canal from Maynooth into Dublin, firstly spending the night in Glasnevin graveyard. On Tuesday, having finally arrived at the GPO, they were sent to Parliament Street to relieve the Evening Mail office. Here, they were engaged in battle, escaped and then spent the rest of the week in the GPO.
The motivation of each man interested me, the walk interested me, the idea that fifteen mostly ordinary men, who had never even handled a gun before that day should go and kill in the name of Ireland interested me. How did it feel? Was it worth it?
So of course, the anniversary of 1916 was the ideal time to turn my idea of site specific play that would take place whilst on a march into a reality.
An Nuadha Players in Maynooth supported me all the way.
It has been a monster roller-coaster so far. I have become writer, director and part producer! Funding was secured through Kildare County Council, Tesco, O’Neill’s Bar and through Insight Theatre group in Celbridge. Then permissions had to be sought to preform and march in all the areas we walk through – that’s St Patrick’s College in Maynooth, Maynooth Main Street, Carton Avenue and Carton House Hotel. And because it’s outdoor and mobile, no amount of rehearsing will prepare you for what might happen. That’s scary....

Did you have to do much research? How did you manage to get the period aspect in?

The research was enormous but at the same time there was a lot of material out there that I could work from. Some of the men had made statements to the military and all of them had applied for the pension – so I read their pension files. The staff in the National Library were fantastic with sites like findmypast.com proving to be invaluable for tracing Oliver Ryan’s story. I read old newspapers and every single book on 1916 that I could get my hands on.
I suppose being so absorbed in the research helped me get a feel for the period – I’m not saying that what I have done is perfect and I’m sure someone will discover an inaccuracy, but at the end of the day, it’s the human story I’m interested in more than authentic period details. If people are moved by what I have done, then I’ll be happy.

How did you get their voices?

I suppose I had actors in mind when I wrote the parts, so I wrote to their voices. Also, the pension files of the military are online now, so I looked up each man’s pension file and tried to gague how they sounded from their statements and the letters they wrote. Mainly though, I wrote for the actors.

It sounds fascinating. When is it on?

The play ‘Conquered Not Were We’ is on March 26th (5:45) and March 28th (6:45) starting from Maynooth College.

How does play writing differ from novel writing?

I am a natural novelist and I do find the writing of plays a little more difficult. I think it’s because typing in the name of who is speaking interrupts my flow of thought whereas a novel can be written as it plays out inside your head. (No pun intended!) I tend to see most stories in novel form as well.
However, what I do love about writing plays is the social aspect of it, the casting and the seeing it come to life under a director’s influence. For that to happen with a novel, I’d need someone to buy it but I live in hope!

What advice do you have for the new writers who might have an interest in writing plays.

My advice to any aspiring novelist or playwright is to have a vision of what you want and stick to it as much as you can. If you are passionate about what you do, you’ll make others care too.

Great advice. Thanks Very much Martina and I'm looking forward to seeing the play.

Martina has been writing since she was eight years old. To read all about Martina Reilly (aka Tina Reilly) have a look at her website where  there lots of information and news about her many many novels and other writing.  15 novels for adults translated into French, German, Latvian, Italian and Greek and 6 teen fiction books amongst others.Conquered not we were

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