Some class of bio
In Léan Cullinan’s family, you can’t throw a stone without hitting an artist. Creative life is front and centre. Born in 1974, she has been writing since she was a child and publishing since her teens. At school she won several national awards for fiction and poetry, and in college she combined a literature degree with an ongoing study of writing.
Having graduated from TCD’s MPhil in Creative Writing in 1998, Léan set out to seek her fortune. The dot-com bubble provided a job as a tech writer, and she later worked as an editor of scholarly journals. She now works from home, parenting her two young sons and pursuing a range of creative projects.
As well as writing, Léan loves singing (she’s an alto with the Mornington Singers) and she’s a hopeless textile nerd (in fact, technically speaking, she’s an internationally exhibited quilt artist). The politics of gender, particularly as it relates to textiles, parenting, and creativity, really gets her going.
She lives in Dublin with her techie poet husband and their children. The Living (2014) is her first novel.
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Pardon me while I switch to first person... *click*
Léan Cullinan isn’t the name I grew up with. I’m actually Léan Ní Chuilleanáin, but since that surname is enough to strike fear into the hearts of all but the most hardbitten phoneticians, I decided to simplify it for publication.
I was born in November 1974 in Cambridge (UK), where my parents were studying for their PhDs. This gave a distinctive flavour to my early years: I can clearly remember both parents writing up their theses, several of my toys were named after prominent medievalists, and I used to have a recurring nightmare that my dolls' house was infested by monstrous creatures called footnotes. (True fact.)
In due course we moved back to Dublin, where I became the eldest of three children who grew up surrounded by books, writing, music, and languages. We went to Irish-speaking schools, and most summers our academic parents put us all in the car and journeyed over sea and land to France and Italy. In 1980s Ireland, these experiences tended to set me apart from other children, laying the foundations for an outsider complex the size of the Phoenix Park … which, arguably, is an asset for a writer.
My family is full of writers: my mother, father, and sister have all published work in fields ranging from crime fiction to literary history; my aunt and her husband are noted poets; my grandmother published more than 50 novels in the course of a four-and-a-half-decade career. My favourite teddy was called Flaubert. Really, I didn’t stand a chance.
I wrote my first stories aged 5 and turned pro (in my mind!) soon after. As a teenager I won several national prizes for short fiction and poetry in English and Irish, and I began to publish my work while I was in Trinity College Dublin studying English and French.
When TCD launched its MPhil in Creative Writing in 1997, I leaped aboard. The story I wrote for the class anthology that year was later chosen for an international collection and translated into Italian and Hungarian.
My time in Trinity allowed me to study with a host of excellent writers, including Anne Enright and Sebastian Barry. After I finished the MPhil, my artistic pursuits took a back seat for a few years while I did some living. I worked as a tech writer for one of Ireland’s first web companies, and later as an editor of scholarly journals for one of the oldest publishers in the country. I had two children, decided not to be a professional musician, and underwent a sudden reinvention as an entrepreneur. In the interstices, I managed to fit my creative life: singing, sewing, painting, blogging, and always, chipping away at one novel or another, word by word by word.
Eventually, I finished one. The Living was published in 2014 by Atlantic Books (London).