Episode 2

Teenage pregnancy and abortion in Northern Ireland with Kelly McCaughrain

Kelly McCaughrain is a YA writer from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her first book, Flying Tips for Flightless Birds won the Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year Award and NI Book Award. She was the Queens University Belfast Children's Writing Fellow 2019-2021. Her new YA, Little Bang, is about teen pregnancy and was published by Walker Books in January 2024. When she's not writing she's mentoring teen writers with Fighting Words NI or travelling in her ancient VW campervan, Gerda.

Our interview begins at  27.00

We've got a Substack publication now! On the last day of the month, we share recommendations for two things we reckon you should read/watch/listen to. The beauty of Substack is you can revisit all our old editions and comment on our episode updates to share your thoughts. Come say hi!

Caitlin recommends: Cherry Beach by Laura McPhee-Browne

Childhood best friends Hetty and Ness leave Melbourne to live abroad in Canada. This is a beautiful exploration of friendship and love, found through a library 'blind date with a book'. It felt like it took a while to read, but I really wanted to savour this writing.

Michelle recommends: Everyone On This Train is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson

This is a sequel, but you don't have to have read Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone to enjoy this witty and clever murder mystery. In this fiction disguised as a memoir, several mystery writers on a literary festival train journey must utilise their 'expertise' to investigate when one of their own is killed.

A copy was provided by the publisher for review.

In this interview, we chat about:

  • The inequality of pregnancy and motherhood and how Kelly tackled this in a novel for teen readers
  • Why a dual perspective was the best way to tell this story
  • How to represent the nuance of the abortion debate and teen pregnancy through Mel and Sid
  • The importance of exploring friendship dynamics alongside the pregnancy storyline
  • How growing up in Northern Ireland during The Troubles impacted Kelly's writing
  • The importance of humour in dealing with tough situations
  • How a story competition helped Kelly score an agent
  • The difference between writing her debut novel and this second novel
  • Why it's so inspiring to teach creative writing to teens

Books and other things mentioned:

  • I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
  • Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
  • Rebecca Kuang (author)
  • The Afterparty (TV series)
  • Shameless (podcast)
  • Olive by Emma Gannon
  • Derry Girls (TV series)
  • Sinéad Morrissey (poet)

Follow @kmccaughrain on Instagram

Little Bang is available now. Thank you to Walker Books for sending copies of the books in preparation for the interview.

Connect with us on Instagram: @betterwordspod

About the Podcast

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Better Words

About your hosts

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Caitlin Toohey

Hi, I'm Caitlin! I've been on bookstagram since 2016, a podcaster since 2017, and worked in publishing since 2019. So books and reading are my entire life. When I'm not reading, I like listening to Taylor Swift, watching sitcoms, and generally being a theatre kid.
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Michelle Gately

Hi, I'm Michelle! I'm an Aussie living in the UK, working as a bookseller at Waterstones. I'm obsessed with storytelling in all its forms – I spend as much time watching TV or listening to podcasts as I do reading. Other hobbies include bouldering, hiking and generally obsessing about my pug Percy.