Breaking good at breakneck speed From working on Sky news to writing her first novel in ten weeks, Amanda Cassidy, BA (2002), talks TV deals, her student years, and books two and three (which opens with a crime ‘committed somewhere very like Front Square’) What is Breaking about? My first novel is the story of Dr Mirren Fitzpatrick, an Irish mother and oncologist on holidays in Florida Keys with her husband and two daughters. She’s drinking in a bar when her youngest daughter goes missing. The media turns on her and when she’s caught out telling a lie, suspicion immediately falls on her for the little girl’s disappearance. Breaking is about family relationships, intergenerational trauma and the expectations placed on modern mothers, posing a central terrifying question: How far would we go for our children? Have you always wanted to write a book? I have, and I still have so much admiration for the discipline it takes to write 80,000 words. It had been a dream of mine for a long time to write fiction, but I wasn’t sure how to start. I studied European Studies in Trinity with French and Italian as my languages, and majored in Italian. The Erasmus year abroad in Siena was something that shaped my earliest writing. I started keeping journals about my experience and decided to turn the travel journals into short travel articles which I sent to newspapers and magazines. I loved writing essays and after writing my thesis, I knew I wanted to continue working in the field of communication. I went on to work in the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg, writing position papers, but I always felt that journalism would better reflect my opinions and observations. That’s when I started working for Sky News. Covering live TV features allowed me to travel widely, which I still love, but I knew I needed a more solid grounding in my career, so on the weekends I worked in the newsroom at Newstalk radio. News reporting took a back seat while I had my three children, but I kept writing, and once I was out of the early fog of motherhood, I realised there was a lot I needed to say. What part did Trinity play in shaping the place you find yourself now? I had a very inspiring year group in European Studies from 1998 to 2002. I was in class with William Priestley who was elected President of the Student Union in 2002 and Niamh Sweeney who went on to become an RTÉ journalist and political advisor. I was fortunate enough to recently interview my classmate Annie Colleran for a feature in IMAGE magazine. She shared that she knew Trinity College was for her when she saw Front Gate from a Dublin tour bus as a 14-year-old Australian teenager on a trip to see her Irish grandmother. She was also elected to the SU and met her husband in Trinity, and now their daughter has just started studying medicine here. I have such fond memories of meeting friends from BESS on the ramp after class, and spending time at the Pav in the summer, and squirrelling away in the Berkeley Library during exam time. I recently received my alumni library card and I plan to write book three in the same place where I studied for my final exams and wrote my thesis. The people and grounds of Trinity have been very inspiring when it came to shaping my career - in fact, my third book is about a crime committed in a place just like Trinity Front Square, one dark winter’s morning… Tell us about your writing process. Do you plan it out and know the ending before you start? Writing a book is amazingly intense. I started writing Breaking on 1 January and finished in the middle of March. By August I had signed with an agent and in October I got my publishing deal, and here we are, a year later. This is considered very fast for the publishing industry. But I came from live TV initially and then radio, where entire stories had to be written sometimes in the thirty seconds before we went on air - and that’s how I’ve always worked, a little hurricane-like. I do write very fast with a bit of a plan, but I let the writing take me. I think all stories come from the relationship with what’s around you – the culture and the times. I watch it unfold and then try to get my fingers to keep up with the themes that emerge. I usually write 1,000-2,000 words a day, which takes me about four hours. The rest of the time I’m thinking about the characters, plotting, or unknotting any twists I want to introduce. Every time I sit down to write, I edit the previous chapter and keep going to smooth out the flow of the book. I’m only ever about two chapters ahead of the reader in terms of planning. I love the creative freedom that gives me.
Download PDF file