Interview with Rory Ni Coileain

Rory Ni Coileain majored in creative writing, back when Respectable Colleges didn’t offer such a major, so she had to design it herself, at a university which boasted one professor willing to teach creative writing, he being a British surrealist who went nuts over students writing dancing bananas in the snow but did not take well to the sort of high fantasy she wanted to write. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa at the age of 19, sent off her first short story to an anthology being assembled by an author she idolized, received one of those rejection letters that puts therapists’ kids through college (Ivy League), and found other things to do, such as going to law school, ballet dancing (at more or less the same time), nightclub singing, and volunteering as a lawyer with Gay Men’s Health Crisis, for the next 30 years or so, until her stories started whispering to her. 


Now she’s a lawyer, a legal journalist (and thus a card-carrying Enemy of the State and darn proud of it), an Associate member of the Order of Julian of Norwich, a proud mother, and engaged to the love of her life, and is busily wedding her love of myth and legend to her passion for m/m romance.


When did you first start writing? 

I wrote my first short story when I was six. It was about a suitcase that didn’t like to have things packed in it, so it ran away from home. It didn’t get very far, though—forgot to pack a lunch, a change of clothes, a toothbrush... 


What is the greatest joy of writing for you? 

Discovering what other people see in my stories. It always amazes me when people see things that make perfect sense, but that I totally didn’t have in mind when I wrote.


Which other authors have most influenced or inspired your writing?  

Tanith Lee, Jane Yolen, Diane Duane, Ursula LeGuin, Emma Bull, Eleanor Arnason, Sheri Tepper. Oh, and Erma Bombeck. (My psychiatrist likes to analyze people by their bookshelves. I make her giggle.)


What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

I’m not sure anything Ursula LeGuin wrote could be called “under-appreciated,” but I’ve noticed that her Always Coming Home doesn’t get nearly as many mentions as her other works, and it’s always been my favorite. You don’t read it, so much as you live with it.


What do you read for pleasure? 

At the moment, I’m on my second trip through Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich – this time in the original Middle English, just for fun. And Thomas Merton’s Dialogues with Silence and Richard Rohr’s Essential Teachings on Love.


Describe your desk. 

Hold on while I try to find it under the cats.


What is your writing Kryptonite? 

Executive function disorder. Basically, I have the attention span of a mayfly on crack. It’s hard to write a scene when you get two paragraphs in and your muse goes haring off after a squirrel!

What is the first book that made you cry?

 It takes a lot for a book to make me laugh, and more to make me cry. The first book I remember making me cry was Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. I read the New York Times review of it when it came out, and immediately went out and bought a copy. And when I finished it, I sobbed for a good hour.

Do you have a muse or a “constant reader”? 

At the moment, my muse is a smart-assed Fae with a lousy work ethic. I’m taking applications for a replacement.

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