In Soldier Sailor, Claire Kilroy takes us deep into the early days of motherhood. Exploring the clash of fierce love for a new life with a seismic change in identity, she vividly realises the raw, tumultuous emotions of a new mother, as her marriage strains and she struggles with questions of love, autonomy and creativity.

In her acclaimed new novel, Claire Kilroy creates an unforgettable heroine, whose fierce love for her young son clashes with the seismic change to her own identity.

A beautiful and harrowing novel about what it can feel like to be a first-time mother

Indira Varma

Soldier Sailor

by Claire Kilroy

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Describe your book in one sentence as if you were telling a friend.

The secret life of that woman you see plodding around with a pram.

What inspired you to write your novel?

There was nothing else I could write. The writer I used to be was gone. I could barely finish sentences let alone bring a world around. There was no world – there was just me and my boy. So I lay down, as Yeats said, where all the ladders start, in the foul rag and bone shop of my heart, where a woman was speaking to her sleeping child, telling him the things she needed to tell him.

Which part of the book was the most fun to write? Which was the most challenging?

The most fun section was the nightwalking on the beach scene because it was just there in my Notes file, something I came upon as opposed to something I wrote, although clearly I did write it. I wrote it at a time when I thought my writing self was RIP, and then I forgot that I wrote it because early motherhood takes place in a strange forgetful pocket out of time. Everything about that scene and how it came together on the page was the sun breaking through the clouds. The most challenging part was chapter two, the Day in the Life chapter. A day in the life of an exhausted parent with an inexhaustible infant is stressfully dull and unfeasibly long, but how do you depict that without the book itself becoming stressfully dull and unfeasibly long?

If you could take one book to a desert island, what would it be and why?

Collected Works of Shakespeare because it (they?) would sustain me. You learn a lot of poetry and Shakespeare by heart in Irish schools, and the rugged rhythm of blank verse fascinated me. There doesn’t seem to be time for anything anymore. Am I really going to die without returning to the touchstones that set me upon this path in the first place?

Where is your favourite place to write?

Home. We are finally in our forever home. I have a study. I don’t take this for granted.

If you hadn’t been a writer, what would you be doing now? Where would you be?

There was no Plan B. There can’t be a Plan B in the arts. Because if there was, you’d take it.