- 22 May 20
"Immersing myself in the world of a book has always been a magical, life-affirming activity," the Kildare author says. It looks like Louise Nealon might just be bound for literary stardom...
As they continue to break records with their TV adaptation of Sally Rooney's Normal People, Element Pictures has snapped up the rights to the debut novel by Louise Nealon, ehtitled Snowflake.
It's being published at some point in 2021 by Manilla Press, a new imprint who acquired it and a follow-up book for a six-figure sum. The 27-year-old Nealon, who lives on the family farm in Kildare, studied English Lit at Trinity before undertaking a Masters in Creative Writing at Queen's in Belfast.
The buzz surrounding her started in 2017 when she won the prestigious Séan Ó Faoláin International Short Story Prize with 'What Feminism Is', which can be read at http://munsterlit.ie/Southword/Issues/33/stories/nealon_louise.html
Louise Nealon has just penned this extended Snowflake teaser:
"When I was eighteen, I woke up in the middle of the night convinced that the dream I just had belonged to somebody else. I was a university dropout and had been diagnosed with depression. My dream was immediately dismissed as a delusion. I always wondered what would have happened if I had been allowed to dwell on my dream world for longer. I began to write down those dreams that didn’t belong to me. That’s how I met a girl called Debbie and her uncle, Billy.
"Debbie White lives on a dairy farm in rural Ireland. Her uncle Billy lives in a caravan in a field at the back of her house. Debbie’s mother, Maeve, is obsessed with dreams. She teaches Debbie from a young age that while people exist as individuals on a daily basis, at night, the boundary between us disappears. According to Maeve, sleep is not a solo activity. When we drift into the realm of the unconscious, we all share dreams. Maeve has dedicated her life to researching these dreams from the confines of her bedroom.
"Debbie has an ambivalent relationship with her mother. She has always been close to her uncle Billy, who assures her that Maeve is mad and university is her one-way ticket to freedom. However, as Debbie moves from the familiarity of her rural home to the anonymity of the city, her sense of identity is challenged. She finds it increasingly difficult to navigate her way through life. She also begins to have strange dreams.
"The title, Snowflake, addresses my generation who are often referred to as snowflakes in a disparaging way. A snowflake is a rare and wonderful thing. The six arms of a snow crystal reflect the internal order of water molecules. Like human cells, it reflects nature at its best. Snowflakes are also flawed. They are irregular in structure – evidence that nature is capable of failure, not just humans, which is a relief.
"At its heart, Snowflake is a coming-of-age story about Debbie leaving home and beginning to make her way through a world that constantly threatens to obliterate her sense of self. Snowflake explores the fine line between what our fickle society considers sane and insane. There is an Irish proverb, 'Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine,' which translates as, 'People live in each other’s shadows.' The characters in this novel rely on each other for shelter. It turns out that they have a lot to teach each other.
"I have been driven to tell this story for a decade. It is the reason I became a writer. By telling Debbie’s story, I am trying to get at a psychological realism. There is a buffer of silence around mental illness that psychiatry has failed to penetrate. When I was unwell, psychiatry did not raise me out of the depths of despair, but reading literature did. I found therapy frustrating and expensive, but reading was free, in every sense of that word. Immersing myself in the world of a book has always been a magical, life-affirming activity.
"Fiction has a dreamlike dimension that invites us out of our sense of self and into someone else’s imagination. It brings us in touch with a wisdom that is buried deep within us, a kind of fantastical knowledge that invites endless possibilities. I think I have secretly known that literature has the ability to save lives, ever since I was a child reading Alice in Wonderland, poking the pop-up book and reading Alice’s worry: 'I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night.'"
That is us officially intrigued! Louise Nealon will be hoping to follow in the commercial footsteps of Sally Rooney, whose Normal People is currently number two across all genres in the UK – second only to Joe Wicks' Wean In 15. The TV series, which has been watched a record 2.2 million times on the RTÉ Player, has been sold to over twenty countries worldwide with the buzz really growing in the US. More of the same for Louise Nealon, please!