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Crime pays for Galway writer Maureen Gallagher!

As a novelist, she’s something of a late bloomer but Maureen Gallagher’s debut crime blockbuster marks just the latest chapter in her own story which brought her to Galway in the seventies, where she contributed to the city’ s fabric on so many fronts – as an activist, teacher, latterly poet and, now, as an unlikely genre fiction writer.

Maureen Gallagher grew up in Monaghan, spent much time in Donegal and ultimately has settled and lived and worked in Galway, where she taught members of the Traveller community.

“I moved to Galway in the late seventies. Galway was at that time a ‘one-horse town’ to borrow a cliché; very nineteen fifties. Lots of seagulls. Then came the eighties. Gloom and emigration and Charlie Haughey telling us all that we must tighten our belts,” she recalls.

“I’d taken a few years off to rear my two children. During that time, I started to write and also did some cartooning – but in 1986 I returned to teaching again, first with special needs children. In 1990, I got a permanent post, teaching traveller children in St Bridget’s special school in Shantalla,” she adds.

Her lifelong social conscience and commitment to activism also saw her travel as protester at the G8 summit in Genoa – but that was far from her starting point.

“During the 1980’s there were two referendums – both triumphs for the Catholic Church. I was involved with activism in both and then what a party when the second divorce referendum passed with a small margin in 1995,” she says.

As the 90’s progressed – and with it the Celtic Tiger – Galway became a hub for artists and wannabe literary people of all types. Writing groups flourished, many of them in pubs.

“The craic was so good in Galway, that it earned the nickname ‘graveyard of ambition’,” says Maureen.

She returned to writing, after a period of not writing at all; initially songwriting and then poetry, followed by my first stories.

“By 2000, I was sending my work out to magazines and journals with some success. However, I’ll never forget the time I sent my first four poems to a magazine called The Flaming Arrow. Within two days I had them returned to me. No reply, just a library stamp on the cover letter to show it had been received.

“I stared at the stamped letter for ages before I could finally accept that this was a rejection. I was sure there must be some mistake! Since then I’ve come to ‘thrive on rejection’ as some wit put it.

“Gradually I progressed from sending work to small magazines, to bigger ones and also competitions. I knew that this is the route I must go, if I wanted to get a book of poetry or short stories published.  My debut poetry collection was published in 2008 by Wordsonthestreet,” she adds.

Maureen describes herself as a full-time writer now.

“In 2000, the special school for travellers at St Brigid’s was closed down following an EU directive re ghettoization. I thoroughly agreed with this ruling. The school was a bungalow and should never have been approved as a school for any child. Afterwards I taught for a while as a resource teacher. In 2004, I retired to write full time,” she says.

“I love living in Galway. In 2006, I moved to Friars Hill in the Westside, a small estate within walking distance of both the city and the Atlantic Ocean.

“Once a week, I go for a walk in the wonderful Connemara with a couple of walking friends and am getting to know every hill and valley. This will be the terrain for my second novel Labyrinth.”

But her debut Limbo draws from a different corner of the country for its inspiration; the wild and atmospheric presence of coastal Donegal almost like a character in the novel which features a wonderful new female protagonist Frankie – or more formally, Detective Kate Francis.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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