Sep 24, 2022
best-selling crime novelist, delves into the dark side of humanity on RTÉ’s The Meaning of Life
“I find it unnervingly easy to think like a sociopath. But I’m only guessing!” - Crime Novelist Liz Nugent joins Joe Duffy on RTÉ’s The Meaning of Life
International best-selling crime fiction writer Liz Nugent joins Joe Duffy on The Meaning of Life this Sunday 25th September, 10.30pm on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player. In the fourth episode of the new series, Liz discloses her insights into the dark side of humanity that underpins her characters.
“There’s nothing that spooks me or...causes me any angst after it... I always describe it, like, I grab the reader by the scruff of the neck in the opening line, and then I hold them for the entire length of the book, and then drop them like a stone at the very end... I inhabit the character. It’s like a performance for me. I think like a sociopath would think, and I find it unnervingly easy to think like a sociopath or psychopath... “
Nugent reveals a remarkable ability to enter the sinister headspace of her characters, but then, just as easily, to close the book on all that darkness, when she’s finished writing
She opens up about her childhood, on feeling like an outsider during her upbringing: “I felt like I didn’t fit in... that there was something inherently wrong with me... that there was some part of me that everybody else had that I didn’t...”
On growing up in a south Dublin home Liz says:
“We grew up in a big Dublin 4 house, but, like the Mitfords, we couldn’t really afford to heat it! She also felt “had a sense of menace”, as it was broken into 11 times over the years. Liz reveals that on one chilling occasion, she and her family were held at knifepoint by a “creepy neighbour.” She speaks candidly about a life-changing childhood accident and a moment of epiphany on a subsequent visit to Lourdes that made her re-think her views on God.
“I thought, ‘Maybe a miracle will happen and my leg will be fixed.’ But then, I looked at the person in front of me, who was walking on crutches with one leg, and I thought, ‘He is not going to grow back a leg.’ If there really was such a thing as a miracle, somebody’s leg would grow back. That would be a miracle. And if that is too hard for God, well, then there is no such thing as an actual miracle.”
She talks openly about finding love, meeting her husband Richard while working on Riverdance, on Broadway in New York, and knowing instantly that he was the one. Liz also discusses why she chose not to have children, talks movingly about the recent death of her father, about where she thinks he is now and why that loss hasn’t changed her views on assisted dying.
Now firmly established as one of RTÉ’s most compelling television interview shows, over sixteen seasons, a dazzling array of public figures from all walks of life have agreed to be interviewed about how they try to answer life’s big questions and where they look for meaning and purpose.
For all this and more, tune in to the new series of The Meaning of Life this Sunday, 25th September at 10.30pm on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player.
Additional Quotes from Liz Nugent:
On her parents’ separation: “It was very taboo in those years to come from ‘a broken home.’ I think I may have been told not to tell anyone that my parents had separated, because there was a great deal of shame involved.”
On going to counselling recently: “It was like opening Pandora’s box, and my immediate reaction was to close the lid on that box. Because I don’t like thinking... I like to be surrounded by noise and stories and books and other people’s stories... I don’t like being on my own with my own thoughts.”
On her father’s death: “When he died, all 9 of us were in the room with him. I had my hand on his heart, and I could feel it slowing down... I had my hand on his heart when it stopped.”
On where she believes her late father is now: “I don’t believe in an afterlife... I think we get one shot...and he had his shot, and whatever may have happened, or whatever way he lived his life, I believe he did his best.”
On meeting her husband Richard while working backstage as Production Stage Manager on Riverdance in New York, on Broadway and knowing he was ‘the one’: “The day after we met, we discussed whether we’d have children or not... Once that conversation was out of the way, we didn’t have to worry about biological clocks ticking... Three weeks later he moved in with me, and we never looked back.”
On writing dark, sinister books: “I have always found the psychology of characters fascinating and I think that’s why I write the books that I do.”
On finding inspiration for her characters: “I’m really interested in the psychology of people who do things in plain sight, particularly middle-class people who seem to get away with it a lot more, because they have this veneer of respectability.”
Liz discusses writing dark, sinister books:
The first line of her novel, Unravelling Oliver is “I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her”, which Joe Duffy describes as “the most chilling opening line I’ve ever read.” But Nugent disagrees: “I think the opening line of ‘Lying in Wait’ is worse: ‘My husband didn’t mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it...’ I was writing it from the point of view of the beater... In all of my books, I do play out the consequences for the victims and the survivors of the victims.”