Heather O’Neill

If you get a chance to listen to Heather O’Neill read from her novels GO. She is as fun and entertaining as her books. A week ago I attended the launch of her book The Girl Who Was Saturday Night in a packed theater.

 In the interview, after she read excerpts from her book, she said that she always starts her novels with the characters. She gives them negative attributes and then makes them lovable.

Once I have the characters I put them in a situation that’s going to make them react.


It was seven years ago that she published her award-winning Lullabies For Little Criminals. When asked by the interviewer Laurel Sprengelmeyer (Little Scream) why it took her so long to write this novel, O’Neill stated various reasons. One, was that she was also working on a collection of short stories.  She also spoke about how she likes to write with a lot of metaphors.

If you do that on one page you elevate your writing and so you have to elevate it on the other page.


 “O’Neill wrote “Lullabies” while busy raising her young daughter, on scraps of paper and the backs of receipts — “a huge grocery bag of a novel, covered literally in dog prints,” she says. The novel’s success came as such a surprise to her that she felt almost as though she was competing with it when writing The Girl Who Was Saturday Night.

“It feels a little bit like (Lullabies) doesn’t belong to me in the same way. It just has its own identity. That’s probably why I was feeling competitive with it a little bit,” she says. “It seems like it kind of walked off and went into the world. It’s like, ‘Thanks. I spent a long time on you and now you’re just abandoning me here and I’m stuck working on another novel. Have fun!”

– See more at: http://www.princegeorgecitizen.com/entertainment/horoscopes/heather-o-neill-finds-independence-in-the-girl-who-was-saturday-night-1.1057431#sthash.4rR0Tqrb.dpuf


HEATHER O’ NEILL’s first novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals, earned accolades around the world, including being named winner of Canada Reads 2007 and the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction, and being a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the Orange Prize. She is a regular contributor to CBC Books, CBC Radio, National Public Radio, The New York Times MagazineThe Gazette (Montreal) and The Walrus. She was born in Montreal, where she currently lives.  Harper Collins Canada


20 thoughts on “Heather O’Neill

  1. I can’t say I’ve written anything on the back of receipts yet. I guess there’s always tomorrow…

    By the way, thank you again for your review of my Amazon excerpt. Much appreciated!!


    • Carrie, that was a really quick review that I wrote on Amazon. I really like the relationship between mother and son and the other characters you introduced in chapter 2. Your first chapter really set the scene for a scary novel. I admire how in so little time you painted such vivid portraits of so many characters.
      As for writing on the back of receipts, I have a few with notes on them. It’s really a question of the only paper available at the time a flash comes into my mind.
      Thanks for stopping by. 😉


  2. It sounds as though it was a great evening, Carol – thanks for sharing. That’s such an interesting idea, to take a negative character and make that person appealing. I like that way of thinking about it.


    • It was a fun event. She has such a bubbly personality and talked about her characters as if they were her children (cliche, I know but it was so).
      Her characters are young and brought up by dysfunctional parents – mainly the father. It’s the world of crime, drugs and prostitution seen through the eyes of kids.
      Thanks for stopping by…:)


  3. Heather’s share really captures how writing is such good, hard work… the time it can just spend to find the right word… and how one change can compel one to shift everything. Can be maddening sometimes but choiceless, really, when one is a writer.


  4. Detective Humphrey Goodman in TV Series Death in Paradise writes on bits of paper, scraps, receipts, brochures etc – O’Neill must have had a finger in creating him or she has some kindred spirits out there in the writers’ world 😀 but I like her style: making negative characters turn out positive is something to certainly follow and learn from – how such transformations occur through reactions, experiences etc – most interesting


    • Thank you, Ina for your wonderful comments. I googled Death in Paradise. It sounds like a fun show to watch. Plus, the setting – Guadeloupe- makes it all the more interesting.
      I too like the idea of making negative characters turn out positive. Wish it was as easy to do in real life. Many political leaders could use this change.


  5. Love your last line in your reply. ‘Many political leaders could use this change.’
    Ha! It seems funny how so many writers go missing in the cracks (of my knowledge). Of course, I should be reading a lot more than I do. This was an interesting post, Carol. This writer has accomplished so much. Rather makes me feel as though I’m lost and drowning in the sludge. Hugs!


    • Oh, I don’t think you’re drowning in the sludge, Drew. Your writing and photography is amazing.Not everybody can be center stage but without the audience center stage means nothing. But, you’re right that so many authors go missing in the cracks.Hugs back to you.


  6. Thanks for sharing yet another interesting look at another writer Carol. Of course, I’m on my way over to amazon to add something else to my TBR! 🙂


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