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only ever yours

From drafting her first book at home in her parents' spare room to being flown to New York to discuss her first film deal, it’s certainly been four years of extremes for Cork native Louise O’Neill.

After over a year working for ELLE magazine in the US, O’Neill moved home in September 2011 with a plan – to write her first novel. Just over a year later, she had a full first draft of Only Ever Yours under her belt, which went on to win her the Newcomer Of The Year Award at the Irish Book Awards in 2014.

Pausing during our interview to hug her mum goodbye (“She’s off to Thailand!”) it’s clear O’Neill still has strong roots at home in West Cork. But over the last twelve months her life has spiralled in a million different directions – most notably last September, when US film/TV studio Killer Content bought the rights to Only Ever Yours.

"They flew me first class to New York and threw me a party on a yacht with Eva Longoria. It was all very surreal," she recalls to SHEmazing! from her family home in Clonakilty, where she’s spending the night before travelling back to Dublin for a panel discussion at the Mountains to Sea Book Festival. 

"I could never have anticipated it when I first started writing. I was just thinking of the next thousand words."

While that undeniably huge level of success might be enough to keep some young authors going, O’Neill barely stopped for a minute before penning her second – and equally lauded – book, Asking For It, which threw up a whole new set of "firsts" for her.

Chief among those is the fact that she’s become something of an unintentional activist for consent and sexual violence issues in Ireland, largely due to the subject matter of Asking For It.

The story of a Leaving Cert student who has her life ripped apart after explicit images of her end up online has struck a chord with Irish readers, not just in the Young Adult sphere but everywhere else, too.

"Even early on, when I was researching the book, I realised that rape and consent were much bigger issues in Ireland than I had ever known," she recalls.

"Women were coming to me and telling stories, saying things like ‘Oh, I had an unpleasant sexual experience,’ or ‘I was drunk, I said I didn’t want to have sex but we did’… Things that made me think, ‘That sounds like the definition of rape to me.’"

And even now, O’Neill is still asked to advise, help or just to be a listening ear to countless readers.

"I get emails every single day from women sharing their experiences – survivors or people going through things right now that Asking For It has helped them to understand," she says.

"It’s just been this ripple effect from where I first started, at home in my parents' spare room in my PJs, on the laptop.

"It’s humbling and gratifying but it’s also terrifying… The main thing I try to do is to listen and to be there."

Despite the ever-blurring divide between, as she puts it, "artist and activist," O’Neill is still on track with her third book, which she hopes to have finished by early next year.

"I do feel off-kilter at the moment, but I have a blanket ban from June [2016] to January [2017], and that’s when I’ll stay at home and really get into the writing. I need that stability and normality."

While O’Neill says she’s too "superstitious" to discuss the plot of her third novel just yet, she’s already started speaking to women and crafting "the voice of my main character."

For now though, it’s back on the road – first to UCC later in the afternoon for a creative writing workshop, and onward to Dublin tomorrow.

"It never stops," she laughs. "But it’s great. It’s brilliant."

Louise O’Neill will be discussing Asking For It at Opsh’s Book Club next Monday, March 14 at The Button Factory, Dublin 2.

She’ll be joined by journalists Louise Bruton and Jeanne Sutton; and blogger Rosie Connolly.

Tickets for the event start at €15, with €5 of each ticket redeemable on Opsh.com. Dubray Books are also offering 25% off Asking For It for ticketholders ahead of the event – simply use the code OPSH at checkout.



Young Adult author Louise O’Neil has been called “an heir to Margret Atwood” and it does seem that her work will follow in the footsteps of one the literary world’s favourite female writers.

Variety have reported that Killer Content has acquired the rights to Louise’s novel Only Ever Yours. There are supposedly plans to develop the property as a film and TV series.

Her debut novel was originally released in 2014 and landed Louise the unofficial title of “the best YA fiction writer alive today” from The Guardian.

The dystopian novel follows the story of the young women of The School. This is a world where women exist solely for the pleasure of men and must fight to ensure their place in the top 16 rankings before they ‘graduate’ in order to ensure they don’t end up living as a concubine or a “chaste”.

Adrienne Becker of Killer Content said of the novel:

Only Ever Yours, while dystopian in genre, may be closer to today’s reality than adults recognize. Today’s young people struggle to define themselves on their own terms under the harsh glare of the information age Klieg lights.”

Louise, a native of West Cork, announced the news on twitter yesterday, joking that someone was throwing her a party on a yacht to celebrate.

Only Ever Yours won the Best Newcomer Award at the Irish Book Awards last year and this last week O’Neil celebrated the release of her latest novel, the much-discussed Asking For It.

The novel examines rape culture in a small town in Ireland which Louise says she started thinking about in 2012 when a story from a small American town caught her attention.

“I started to think about what would have happened if this case had occurred in an Irish context, in a small community in which the football team were local gods, where boys will be boys but where girls are expected to safeguard their virginity.”