A beloved member of the Irish LGBTQ+ community, Katherine O’Donnell is accomplished in several fields, including journalism, academia and activism. Now, following the release of her debut novel Slant in May 2023, she has added published fiction author to her list of already impressive credentials.
Slant is a heartfelt celebration of all kinds of queer love and experiences. Spanning a timeframe from 1983 to 2015, it follows Cork-woman Ro McCarthy through pivotal moments of her life, whether it be as a student navigating relationships and coming out in Boston or as an adult campaigning for marriage equality in Ireland.
Previously preferring to write as a hobby, Katherine never expected this story to turn into a published book. “I started writing fiction as a way to deal with burnout,” she told GCN.
“Just because I was burnt out, I didn’t have the same level of control over it. It just kept growing, and it became Slant. After about two years, I was finished.”
Even once the book was completed, she hadn’t planned on sending it to publishers. That was until one of her “fierce and tough” friends convinced her to do so, and Katherine describes the novel being picked up by New Island as a “minor miracle”.
For publisher & author nothing quite compares to when you hold the printed copy of the book you’ve been working & dreaming of for years for the very first time ? We’re so proud to be publishing SLANT this May. This debut novel by Katherine O’Donnell is a headbutt to the heart ❤️ pic.twitter.com/AGvrAIFrAS
— New Island Books (@NewIslandBooks) May 3, 2023
Now that Slant is out in the world, both Katherine’s reputation and the enticing synopsis of the novel are sure to pique the interest of many LGBTQ+ readers. Additionally, although we’re taught to never judge a book by its cover, it’s practically impossible not to be attracted to Slant’s striking appearance.
“I wanted young dykes at play, and I wanted it to be bold and brave as we were,” Katherine said in reference to the artwork. It features an image from Chloe Sherman, a queer photographer well-known for documenting lesbians and queer women in San Fransisco through the ‘80s and ‘90s.
“I tried for months to get a similar kind of photo from our culture here in Ireland, and they are there, but I just couldn’t lay my hands on them, not on time anyway,” Katherine added.
However, fret not; there are plenty of Irish LGBTQ+ references throughout the novel, including a nod to yours truly, GCN.
“I did want that bang of realism,” she explained. “So I did have to put in the actual things like GCN and Women’s Camp because these were compass points for our lives.”
Readers will also enjoy a range of music and poetic references, with Emily Dickinson tributes particularly potent throughout the book.
It’s here! Katherine O’Donnell’s debut novel SLANT is out now.
A ground-breaking Irish lesbian love story, set across the decades from the 1980s AIDS crisis to the 2015 marriage referendum?️?https://t.co/XfxHWNUUXD #irishwriters #debutnovel #publicationday pic.twitter.com/h7gK7MVkDk
— New Island Books (@NewIslandBooks) May 22, 2023
All of these subtle mentions are incredibly purposeful, with Katherine explaining that she wants the story to serve as a kind of “manual” for younger generations, “basically to explain why we’re all so bonkers,” she laughed.
“Or just how our world is so different and we are handing on things to you whether you know it or not.”
She added that she hopes the book acts as a “conversation fodder”, inspiring a “juicy” set of questions like “What the hell is love?”
Katherine also notes: “There was one political message I wanted to put in very strongly, and actually, it had nothing to do with queer life or culture. [It] was to remind people that we had almost a decade of export of young people, mainly to the States, who were illegal economic migrants.
“I don’t see that represented much in culture, literature or even in a cultural imagination. And I really think that’s incredibly important, looking at the fascism that’s on the rise, that we remember our very, very recent past.”
Delivering heartwrenching takes on a number of fascinating themes, including Irishness and queer life, Slant is a perfect addition to any bookshelf this summer. The authentic tale encourages readers to indulge in Ro’s journey through adulthood and reflect on the shared experiences of Irish LGBTQ+ folk in the present day and times gone by.
Available to purchase now, find Katherine O’Donnel’s debut novel Slant at most popular bookshops or on the New Island website.
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