March 2010


Belfast-born Kate Thompson spent many years acting on TV and in theatre before turning to writing novels. Her first novel It Means Mischief was published in 1999. Her latest, The O’Hara Affair, is the follow-up to The Kinsella Sisters. And she’s just about to return to the acting world with a role in an Irish soap. Find out more at her website.

Return to interview list

  1. 1. What inspired you to look at online life in The O’Hara Affair?

    I am an awful Luddite and am generally suspicious of online communities but my husband reckoned I might have fun on Facebook - especially since it's a good way to keep up with my daughter, who is an inveterate traveller. From there, once my appetite was whetted and I saw the potential for an intriguing Facebook-related storyline, it was a natural progression to push the boundaries a little, and pay a visit to Second Life.

  2. 2. Did you spend much time on Second Life researching this novel? And if so describe your avatar.

    I will confess that oftentimes when I logged on I spent hours travelling around Second Life. It is curiously compelling - I can understand why some people choose to spend their lives play-acting in a parallel universe, where they can assume an uber-glam identity and escape from the banality of real life. Sometimes I found it fascinating, other times I found it spooky and unsettling, more often I found it deadly dull. I had several avatars - one (like Fleur in the novel) - made numerous sartorial faux-pas, and one I manipulated to appear utterly repellent. I had great fun sending him walkabout through hip Second Life rendezvous, monitoring the appalled reactions of other residents!

  3. 3. The issue of dementia and caring for the elderly was also a major theme. Have you had personal experience of this?

    Yes. A couple of years ago I spent some time caring for my mother-in-law 24/7, who was at that stage in a fairly advanced stage of dementia. I found it heart-breaking to witness the decline of a woman for whom I had once had great affection and admiration, a woman who had been elegant, articulate and full of joie de vivre. It was the toughest job I have ever undertaken, and I have huge respect for the army of carers who find themselves perforce devoting their lives to loved ones. Now that we are all living longer, issues connected with an ageing society are becoming increasingly urgent, and I believe that few governments have put much thought into what is effectively a demographic timebomb. Incidentally, my publishers have included topics for discussion on this and other matters in the back pages of the novel, which should be of benefit to book groups.

  4. 4. Tell us about your next novel, That Gallagher Girl.

    Cat Gallagher makes an appearance at the very end of The O'Hara Affair. When I introduced her, I knew that I wanted to make her a maverick, someone who would stir things - not necessarily out of malice but because she doesn't give a flying f . . k about social niceties. She's a little amoral: rules for Cat exist only to be broken. In the very first chapter, we find her breaking into a house with remarkable insouciance.

  5. 5. And what can we expect from the final book in the Coolnamara series?

    Well, it's Cat's story, so I have to integrate her into the village of Lissamore and see how she interacts with the people who live there. I have some loose ends to tie up: I need to resolve whether Río lives happily ever after or not, and I'd like to bring back Izzy and Finn.

  6. 6. How did you go from acting to writing?

    The one prerequisite for both professions is a fertile imagination. I lived in a make-believe world when I was a child, and that ability to escape into the realms of fantasy has never left me.

  7. 7. Many of your characters are actors. Does that mean you miss acting?

    Yes. I realised just last year that - after nearly a decade away from the business, working all by myself in my attic - I sorely missed the camaraderie of the acting world. Upon meeting a radio producer friend at the theatre one evening, I inveigled my way into a small part in a play by the superb Thomas Kilroy, and had such a blast at being reunited with my 'tribe' that I asked my agent to let me know if anything suitable might be in the offing. Serendipity struck, and I'm soon to appear in Ireland's most popular soap opera as a rather flamboyant character called Justine Lennox.

  8. 8. Is your first character, actress Deirdre O’Dare, similar to you?

    Deirdre is not unlike my younger self - but then, I guess most of my characters have something of me in them. I think the one with whom I identify most strongly is Pixie Pirelli.

  9. 9. Why did you decide to write a novel under the name of Pixie Pirelli?

    Pixie (her real name is plain Jane Grey) appears in Sex, Lies & Fairytales. She is a bestselling writer of chick lit, and I thought it only fair that I should write one of her novels for her. She even has her own website! ( )

  10. 10. How does being Irish influence your storytelling?

    I wrote an article on this very subject - the phenomenon of bestselling Irish women writers - for the London Independent about a year ago (click to read). The Irish are a nation of storytellers - it's in our genes, we didn't lick it off the stones. Plus we have some of the most glorious, unspoiled scenery in the world in which to set our stories. Long may we stay that way.

  11. 11. Why do you like writing spin-offs with the same characters?

    My readers ask me to! Honestly - I get so much mail asking me what's going to happen next with such-and-such a character that I feel duty bound to continue writing about them. Also, I get to know the people who inhabit my books so well that they feel like dear friends. I'd be letting them down if I didn't tell their stories for them.

  12. 12. Do you find yourself thinking about your characters even after the book/series is finished?

    Absolutely. I miss them so much that I'm inconsolable. I cry real tears every time I finish a book.

  13. 13. What are you reading at the moment?

    Like Fleur in The O'Hara Affair, my great passion is Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s. I'm currently re-reading a biography of Ava Gardner, who was the ultimate screen goddess. I have row upon row of movie-star biogs on my book shelves - Marilyn Monroe is a particular favourite.

Back to top