Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Relatively speaking: Caroline and Patricia Healy

Book lovers: Caroline 

Healy (left) and her 

sister 

Patricia
Book lovers: Caroline Healy (left) and her sister Patricia

Name: Caroline Healy Age: 30 Occupation: Children's fiction writer Relationship to Patricia: Sister

I'm the youngest of six siblings, with three older brothers and two elder sisters. I think I was a surprise in the family, as they're all a bit older than me. It's nice at this age, because they're all having kids and I get to hang with them and be the cool auntie.

I'm quite close to all my siblings, but my other sister lives across the water in England, so maybe I'm a bit closer to Patricia who doesn't have a family and isn't married. We went back to college at the same time. It was kind of like we were going through the same experiences.

Patricia graduated recently with her PhD. She lives and works in Galway as a midwife and research assistant at NUI Galway. She started her PhD two or three years ago. I was working at the time, so I brought her things like washing powder when I went to visit her. When I did my MA at Queen's, she would then come and visit me and bring me food. We supported each other's lifestyles.

She was originally a midwife in the HSE – the equivalent to the NHS in the Republic – and had a really good career. She always wanted to do her PhD though – it was almost like a personal challenge.

She's very methodical because of her profession, and the way she approaches her work would be different to me, but she's a ferocious reader. She would read two or three books in a weekend. Because there's that crossover between us – we're both interested in arts and literature – she's good at reading through my work and giving me her opinion.

She'll say if it's good or bad – and why – which is good, as you have to go beyond saying if you like it or not.

She'll also be on Skype to me saying "just keep going" – she's like my support system. She kind of knows what it's like to take a risk and try to follow through on something you want to do. I originally did English and archaeology and worked for a number of years as an archaeologist. When I came out of college it was the type of qualification you could actually get a job with.

NAME: PATRICIA HEALY

AGE: 44

OCCUPATION: MIDWIFE/POST DOCTORATE RESEARCHER

RELATIONSHIP TO CAROLINE: SISTER

There's a generation gap between me and Caroline. I suppose that colours our relationship a lot. I remember when Caroline was born – I think I was 14 at the time. Maybe it's because of what I do for a living, but I've always been maternal, so there's a maternal relationship between us.

I left home when she was still a baby, although I do recall changing her nappy on occasions, although she might not want to be reminded of that. However, I don't remember her starting school or as a child and I have no experience of her as a teenager. I perhaps missed out on a huge bit in the middle.

The beauty of our relationship – with the studying – is that I have a very adult, 'mature-student' attitude to study, and she has a young person's attitude.

She also sees no limits in life. When I'm saying, 'I have a life and a job and a mortgage', she pushes me. I would be a lot more cautious to take risks than her.

She would be a feminist and she's very forthright in her thinking. She would be much more forthright than her siblings, and much more honest and upfront with the rest of the family. She wouldn't hide things like we would, but wouldn't maybe protect them from things they don't necessarily need to know!

My job is very practical and I'm not a bit creative – I'm logical and a total pragmatist.

Because I'm not creative, I can be totally practical in my feedback to her writing.

In my academic career I do have to write a bit and I'm a reader as well, so maybe that helps.

I'm not afraid to give feedback because she's not afraid to take it.

e Caroline is a graduate of the Seamus Heaney Centre, Belfast and divides her time between writing and teaching creative writing.

e She will release her novel, Blood Entwines, through Bloomsbury this summer.

e Caroline is currently editing her second short story collection, The House of Water.

e She has been awarded a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre – a retreat for those in the creative arts – and has won various Arts Council of Northern Ireland awards.

e Her award-winning short story collection, A Stitch in Time, won Doire Press's International Chapbook Short Story Competition.

e Caroline is involved with the Art in the Eastside project in east Belfast, with Creative Exchange Artist Studios, Belfast.

e For more information go to www.carolinehealy.com

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