Megan Nolan: 'When I think back, the way I drank was crazy. Everyone I knew did it'

The novelist talks about the heartache and hedonism that inspired her debut – and how writing helped her find a way out of the chaos of young adult life

Megan Nolan is weighing up how she feels about her relatives back home in Waterford, Ireland, reading her first novel, Acts of Desperation. She is not, she says, looking forward to it. I tell her that she might have to get used to it; I don’t live far from Waterford, and have noticed that she has already made the local newspaper (not to mention previews of 2021’s notable new voices in the Irish Times and the Observer). Anyway, what’s the problem? Everyone has been so supportive, she replies, “as soon as they heard that I was writing this book, and was having the book published, you know, everyone is so nice about it. And they’ll say, ‘I can’t wait to get it, and we’re going to have such a party when you get back.’ And then I just think: ‘Oh my God, they’re all going to buy it and be really moved that they’re buying it and then they’ll get home and have to read that.’”

“That”, she elaborates, is not exactly the sexual explicitness of Acts of Desperation’s depiction of a young woman’s life in Dublin, nor even its portrayal of prodigious boozing and partying, “but just that it’s so unhappy. You know, it’s quite a painful book to read. I just think, ‘I wish I could have given them a good experience.’”

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