Heyoooo! So basically, right now I’m snowed under with exams, revision, work experience applications and general stress, so here’s a little post I’ve had archived for some time. For a lil journalism competition I entered a few months back, the criteria was to ‘interview someone who is not a family member’. To suit the publication I was applying for, I decided to create a new interview instead of relying on one I’ve done with various bands in the past. This is where Ruth Gilligan, kindly, came in. Wanna know more? It’s a good one to get yo bum in gear if you’re feeling demotivated during exam season. Have a lil read- no really, I insist.
Ruth’s stellar advice: “It’s always better to try and fail, than to not try at all. Then when it does work out, it is the best feeling in the world”
When it’s 9am on yet another Monday morning and your usual coffee-fix hasn’t quite produced that boost of vitality, a pick-me-up is needed. Fast. A quick browse through Topshop’s new-in section on your lunch break could suffice. Maybe even another coffee will do. However, something we can all agree on: looking for inspiration in another female is a sure-fire way to increase motivation.
Whether it’s your mum, a celebrity, or just another colleague who is not so much climbing but sprinting up the career ladder, these women are living proof that hard work pays off. They remind us not to give up on the 9-5 grind, even if it is tedious and makes you want to slam your head against your laptop’s keyboard. Hard. For want of a less horrifyingly millennial phrase, these women are ‘girl bosses’.
Introducing: Ruth Gilligan, the woman who is eponymous with many professions – author, actress, journalist, university lecturer and charity ambassador, to name a couple. Hailing from humble roots in Dublin, Ms. Gilligan has packed a lot into her mere 29 years, and if this interview doesn’t fix the weekly motivational slump, it might be time to down many shots of coffee, in quick succession.
Ruth on writing: “I bought a book called How to Write a Novel, read it, and began”
Ruth’s career began at just 15, when she wrote her first novel, Forget, as a school project. “I had a year in school called ‘Transition Year’. You do lots of work experience and we also had to do a 50-page project. I bought a book called How to Write a Novel, read it, and began.” Once completed, Ruth’s parents read it and loved it, her friends read it and loved it and somehow it ended up in the hands of prominent Irish author, Patricia Scanlan, who also read it and loved it- “Dublin is a very small place,” Ruth laughs. “When it was tidied up a bit – a lot – Patricia showed it to her publishers who eventually offered me a two-book deal. I was amazingly jammy the way it all worked out.”
Baby Ruth then flew the nest at 18, after securing a place at Cambridge University to study English Literature, whilst publishing a subsequent two novels. Next on the list was further study at Yale and East Anglia, before finally settling on a PhD at Exeter. Not much, then.
Ruth on fashion: “I still remember showing up to my fiancé’s house and his family thinking I was in fancy dress!”
In 2014, Ruth became a full-time Creative Writing lecturer at the University of Birmingham. In between the daily commute from her London home, inspiring students and writing her latest novel, it’s safe to say that she fits the ‘girl boss’ definition. Ruth’s best tip for aiding productivity: “when I’m working from home, I’ll make sure not to lounge around in my PJs all day – it’s not good for motivation.”
Just as writing gives Ruth an outlet for creative expression, so does fashion. “I’ve always had a slightly eccentric streak,” Ruth tells me. “I still remember showing up to my fiancé’s house and his family thinking I was in fancy dress!” At work, she’s concerned to look the part. “I have to stand out from my students because you’ve no idea how often I get confused for one, daily! I’ll wear a shirt and some slacks, and ensure my hair and makeup is done nicely.” Not the fuddy-duddy lecturer archetype, Ms. Gilligan is giving everyone a run for their money. But following the crowd isn’t a Ruth Gilligan thing to do. “I’ll always gravitate towards the unconventional rather than the generically fashionable. No one likes a conformist, do they?”
Ruth on seeking out the perfect story: “I think as authors, we are always looking for the narratives that lie on the fringes of society”
Nonconformity shows in her work, too. After three novels that can be loosely termed as ‘chick-lit’, she’d had enough. “For ages, I totally adhered to that age-old thing of ‘write what you know’,” says Ruth. “But then I realised that the authors I really admired wrote far outside of their own experience.” Despite pressure from her publishers not to take the leap, Ruth indeed took it: into historical fiction.
Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan sheds light on the untold stories of the Jewish community in Ireland: “I think as authors, we are always looking for the narratives that lie on the fringes of society.” Published in the UK last July, Ruth has now sent her paper swan gliding across the pond: the novel was published by Tin House in the US this January.
And thus completes the powerhouse’s colourful CV. Fancy a final motivational kick up the bum from the author herself? “It’s always better to try and fail, than to not try at all. Then when it does work out, it is the best feeling in the world.”
So, procrastination over. Get back to work and fulfil your own ‘girl boss’ definition. If you need a pick-me-up again, reread this interview, coffee in hand. You can do it; Ruth Gilligan says so.