Interviewed by Rachel Wild

Read Rosita Sweetman’s fiction piece, heroin – a love affaire in twelve stanzas

Rachel: This is an original and darkly humorous piece of writing. It’s written in a compelling and experimental form. Did you set out from the beginning to write it this way, or was it something that happened through the process of writing it?

Rosita: The story started in such a strange way. I was sitting around day-dreaming and suddenly this very strange phrase came into my head: Show me an arsehole and my inner child jumps down out of my arms and runs towards them shouting Daddy! Daddy!

That was the seed. From it the whole thing grew. I just grabbed a piece of paper and started writing furiously as the piece fell out onto the page. There was lots of polishing and refining afterwards of course, but it arrived in a rush. The format evolved as I wrote, matching the pace as the images tumbled out.

The story describes something that is mostly taboo—a much older woman falling in love with a younger man. Why do you think this subject is so rarely depicted in fiction, be it literature or film/plays?

It’s the Patriarchy isn’t it? They can’t stand the idea that older women have agency. And desires. They want it all their way—hoary old men creeping on beautiful young women.

And I’m only half joking. How many late middle, aged white male actors like Jack Nicholson et al get to play movies in which the ‘love interest’ is younger than their own daughters?  There is also of course an historical context—women were once old and grey haired by their fifties. But mainly it’s the Patriarchy reflecting itself.

Not that I’m advocating older women predating on younger men. I hope my ‘Heroin’ characters are so against the norm that that doesn’t apply.

The story is brilliant in the way it conveys a complex scenario with great brevity. I notice from your bio that you have written and published novels before. How do you decide whether an idea will be better suited to a short story or a novel?

Thank you for such kind words! When I wrote ‘Heroin’ I was between books, mostly writing poetry and short stories. I’m not very good at ‘planning’ things—it’s more get an idea and then go for it, hell for leather. As for brevity, it’s fashionable to give out about ‘Social Media’—as if there was ever any other kind of media—but Twitter and Instagram have taught me the value, and power of brevity. Pack your work full of rockets then compress, compress, compress.

What effect has the past two years, the pandemic and the resulting lock down had on your writing, if any?

The pandemic has been so awful for so many people—so many terrible deaths and lonely bereavements—not to mention useless politicians, but lockdowns are what writers need most. I was just going through my desk the other day and during the two lockdowns here in Ireland I published a memoir and history of the Women’s Movement in Ireland (I was a founding member of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement here), ‘Feminism Backwards’, wrote a non-fiction book about pesticides, ’Pesticides and Me’, re-wrote a novel, ‘Chronic Love’, and completed a first draft of a novella, ‘The Beast Machine’, plus I published 4 long form essays on the Catholic Church in Ireland, Pornography and the Patriarchy, Francis Bacon the artist and DH Lawrence the author with book reviews and lots of contributions to Facebook, Twitter and Insta in between. Bonkers!

What are you working on now?

I had coffee with my lovely agent just after Christmas. ‘Your next year’s work is to write your memoir’ she said, on our second Americano. So that’s what I’m doing. Tumbling down the rabbit hole of memory while taking breaks to hang out with my 20-month-old granddaughter—the very best company a writer could have: a living tuning fork for the truth, you literally cannot bullshit them.

Thank you so much again for publishing me.