Jenny McCartney

Posted by Sue Leonard on Monday 29th April 2019

Brought up near Belfast the youngest of four, Jenny attended Oxford University, and then she moved to Prague for 18 months.

“I worked as a proof reader on the Prague Post, then, after a short time in Belfast I went to London and took my MA.” 

Afterwards she wrote freelance for the Spectator and got a job at Prospect Magazine.

“When Dominic Lawson moved from the Spectator to the Sunday Telegraph, he offered me a job. I wrote news and comment, and, occasionally, news features.”

In 2000, she added the title, film critic, and also wrote a column.

In the mid-nineties, she covered stories in Belfast, and some of them haunted her.

“I started writing the book in the late nineties, and wrote half, but after I’d married I hadn’t the extra energy. When I was made redundant in 2014, my life freed up. I went freelance and carried on with the book. It felt seamless. A lot had changed. Complexities had been exposed with time, and some of the disappeared had been found.” 


Who is Jenny McCartney?

Date of birth: 1971 in Belfast.

Education:  Methodist College, Belfast. Keble College, Oxford, English Language and Literature. City University, London. MA in newspaper journalism.

Home: London.

Family: Husband, Rajeev Syal, son 13, daughter 9.

The Day Job: Freelance Journalist.

In Another Life: “I’d love to have a great voice, because it’s a portable instrument that brings joy to people.”

Favourite Writers: My early influences were Emile Zola; Milan Kundera; George Orwell; Agatha Christie; Elaine Dundy and Sylvia Plath.

Second Novel: “There’s one in my head. It needs to germinate.”

Top Tip: “Don’t wait for the perfect time to write, just start getting things down. And, you need to give your character a life, but then give them the freedom to develop in their own way.”

Twitter: @mccartney_jenny


The Debut: The Ghost Factory. 4th Estate: €15.24. Kindle: €9.60.

It’s Belfast in the nineties and there’s an uneasy peace. And when Jacky sticks up for his friend, Titch, who got a beating from paramilitaries for stealing biscuits, trouble isn’t far behind. When, eventually, he moves to London, can he regain a normal life? 

The Verdict: This wonderful, atmospheric debut gives insight into a time when violence was rife within the communities.


Published in The Irish Examiner on March 23rd.

© Sue Leonard. 2019

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