Pick ’n Mix Fiction
Award-winning writer Caroline Healy on her debut novel Blood Entwines and ‘writing about everything’
Refusing to have her work pigeon-holed, Belfast-based Caroline Healy is one author who embraces the eclectic. Unlike most of her writing peers, who prefer to pick a genre and stick to it, Healy is bucking that particular trend and throwing herself wholeheartedly into writing, well, everything. Except crime – but she’s confident she’ll 'get to that soon…'
With two short story collections under her belt - A Stitch in Time (winner of the Doire Press International Chap Book competition in 2012), and A House of Water (currently with publishers) - Healy has just released her debut YA (young adult) novel, Blood Entwines. Published as an ebook through Bloomsbury Publishing, it is the first in a planned trilogy.
Meanwhile, with another YA book with an agent, an 11+ stand-alone novel and two adult novels written, as well as her ongoing work on 'the concept for a high fantasy series,' one wonders where Healy, also a community arts facilitator and dance teacher, finds the time to live.
'I write everything,” she admits. 'I don’t write genre - I write story and whatever story is coming at me at the time; that’s what I will write. I enjoy every type of fiction - short, novella, literary, magical realism...'
It’s magical realism that permeates Blood Entwines, which tells the story of 17-year-old Kara and the events which unfold after she undergoes a life-saving blood transfusion. When mysterious stranger Jack turns up, she realises their fates are now inextricably linked.
'I remember reading an article about a man who had a heart transplant,' says Healy. 'He was a meat-eater, but when he woke up after surgery he became an instant vegetarian, even began listening to classical music and painting landscapes - something he’d never done before.
'So, this story got me thinking about organ and blood donors, and then Kara appeared in my head. The book, when you take away all the creepy blood connections, is about family and belonging.'
Like most authors, Healy came to writing indirectly, having worked first as an archaeologist. Passionate about books from an early age, but also a history buff, she completed a BA in English and Archaeology at University College Cork, but never abandoned her love of literature.
'I never really appreciated that I could study creative writing,' she says. 'I moved to Belfast via Dublin and began to work in history, heritage and the arts, shifting more and more towards the arts.
'Then I wondered what it would be like to write, so I began a little story. It was a complete train crash, but I had enjoyed the creative process so much, I started to think about joining a writers group, or maybe doing an online course.'
Which led Healy to Queen’s creative writing programme at the Seamus Heaney Centre and ultimately, put her on the path to publication. Healy subsequently saw her short stories published in various literary journals, won some writing competitions and got her debut collection of short stories published by Doire Press.
And, despite suffering the usual round of rejections that every writer inevitably faces from publishers, it was Healy’s very first attempt at a book which was picked up by Bloomsbury.
'I was in shock when Bloomsbury said they were interested in the manuscript,' she says. 'The last year has been a whirlwind of edits and planning… it’s been surreal.'
Meanwhile, in her ‘spare’ time, Healy continues to project-manage arts initiatives, particularly literature-themed ones, working with community groups, youth groups and schools.
With her second book in the trilogy completed and more in the pipeline, Healy’s advice to aspiring novelists is simply to 'just keep submitting, keep writing and eventually something will happen.'
'Never, ever give up,' she adds. 'Put in the hard work and keep going. And be nice to people!'
Blood Entwines is published by Bloomsbury and is out now.