Emilie Pine is Professor of Modern Drama at University College Dublin, Ireland. Her first collection of personal essays Notes to Self won Book of the Year 2018 at the Irish Book Awards. Ruth & Pen is her first novel.
What would you do if you were not afraid? That's the question I asked myself after writing Notes to Self. And the answer is: Ruth & Pen. It's not a coincidence that this is a novel all about what happens when you stop asking the world for permission to be yourself!
Taking a step into writing fiction after autobiography felt like a huge risk, but I knew it was one I had to take. I wanted to explore emotional truths, but outside the boundaries of my own life. One advantage to this has been not having to fact check my memory! Inventing a story gave me a freedom that I was excited to explore – but also scared. In some ways, I feel that Ruth & Pen is more of a reflection of my inner self than Notes to Self was, because it’s a mirror for how I see and imagine the world.
The novel is set on one day because I have recently realised that sometimes in all the mess that life generates, the direction you take comes down to a decision you make on one day. This day – a Monday (why is it always a Monday when things have to be faced?) – Ruth has to decide whether she will fight for her marriage, after all she and her husband have been through trying to have children. But while Ruth is looking back, today is all about looking forward for Pen. At sixteen, she has so much ahead of her, including Alice, who she hopes against hope feels the same way about Pen as Pen feels about her.
I wrote this novel during a lockdown that kept us all confined to the 2km around our houses. For me, writing has always been a way not only of connecting with myself, but sending my imagination out into the world. I hope you enjoy Ruth & Pen, because I have loved discovering these two wonderful characters and along the way discovering my own voice in fiction.