Posts Tagged ‘Maura McHugh’

Scriptorium: Maura McHugh

27th May 2020

Picture by Maura McHugh

Maura McHugh lives in South Galway, and writes across media, including short fiction, comic books, novellas, plays, and screenplays. Her recent collection is The Boughs Withered (When I Told Them My Dreams), and the novella Psyche, which is set in the 2000 AD comic book universe.

Clíona Ruiséil: What are you working on at the moment and has your work been affected by Covid-19?

Maura McHugh: Currently I’m working on several prose projects and video game dialogue, which were contracted prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, and I’ve another comic book script to write soon. Later I’ve a screenplay to write.

Like most people my life has been spun around by the new regulations regarding COVID-19. In relation to work: all the festivals, conferences, and engagements I had lined up were cancelled. Since much of my social interactions with fellow writers happens at these events it was a series of sad blows. Yet, now I’m seeing festivals moving to virtual platforms. One of my cancelled gigs was a panel discussion at Cymera, Scotland’s Festival of Science-Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, which has now become a public Zoom event. I also participated in a virtual ‘Poets’ Breakfast’ for the Kinvara Arts Festival, Fleadh na gCuach a couple of weeks back.

Despite all the disruptions, including having to care for elderly parents who are cocooning, my work has been continuing, although I had quite a dip in creativity for a period as we adjusted to the new regime. I’m working from home alongside my husband now which brings its own set of challenges! But I’m grateful for all my advantages, in particular that I have high-speed fibre broadband at home – we couldn’t manage without it.

CR: The added stress is something everyone could relate to I imagine, but are writers better prepared to deal with this kind of crisis as they are generally used to dealing with uncertainty and in a practical sense, working from home?

MM: Definitely understanding how to work from home as a freelancer helps, and we are more used to long spells of introverted work. Yet that also means our social outlets are vital. We’re all trying to find new ways to connect with colleagues, friends and family now, and that’s leading to interesting developments. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of being a writer during this crisis is having a well-developed imagination!

CR: Tell me about your radio play and the challenges involved in writing it compared to say, the video games or comic books you’ve written?

MM: The radio play started life as a two-act science fiction rom-com drama I wrote called The Love of Small Appliances, which was selected to be part of Waking the Feminists West New Play Reading at the Galway Theatre Festival. That process had been super useful, as my work was read by several dramaturges, and I sat in on the cast rehearsal of the play with the director. Witnessing it produced live with audience feedback was invaluable. I had the idea in my mind that it could make a good radio play, and when I saw a call for work for the NearFM audio drama series I sent the script, and was delighted it was accepted.

One of the things I enjoy doing is figuring out the core strengths and unique qualities of each medium I work in. With radio it’s all about the characters and their individual voices in a very pure sense. It’s eyes-closed drama, so the characters have to be vibrant and real immediately, and ideally it requires excellent voice acting. It’s also a medium that allows for the exploration of ideas and deep introspection. Lisa Tierney-Keogh was the script adviser and she gave me some useful pointers, and the producer, Paul Loughran, was supportive. Director Nicola Murphy was helpful, conscientious, and worked really well with the cast, who brought a wonderful humanity to the characters, including the non-human ones! Then you need good sound engineering and post-production, and Gavin Byrne worked tech magic.

The reason I’m going to pains to describe everyone involved is that a great team elevates every script. All the media I work in – even prose – requires a supportive team. Unfortunately, sometimes it just doesn’t pull together as well as you’d like. The more I write the more I’m grateful to everyone who collaborates with me to create the best possible story experience for the audience.

CR: Are there any particular themes, issues or character types that interest you?

MM: I think a lot about identity, how we form it, what is integral to us, and how that is challenged or transformed depending on circumstances. I pay attention to technology and the innovative ways we integrate it into our lives. I consider future uses and what that may mean to us as a species. I tend to write horror, science fiction or fantasy so most of these cultural and individual concerns, fears or joys are expressed through those genres.

CR: The screenplay you’re going to write – what can you tell me about it?

MM: It’s a science fiction psychological thriller with the working title of Ardent, which is set in the future when the Earth is on the verge of environmental collapse. We may be capable of escaping the planet, but can humanity escape the dark obsessions that have led us to disaster? I’m indebted to Galway County Council for giving me an award under the Artist Support Scheme 2020 to help me write the script. I conceived the story some years ago with Greg Day, and Canadian writer/director Danishka Esterhazy (Level 16, The Banana Splits Movie) is now attached as director.

CR: Why do you write?

MM: I’m constantly imagining new worlds, peculiar people and strange situations, so writing is a great way to experiment with the scenarios and exorcise them from my brain!


Scriptorium means a place for writing – so this is a place for you to discuss your work, your views on writing in general, your thoughts on the industry and anything else you’d like to mention. You can focus on a script that you’ve written which was produced during the last year, or one you’re currently writing. We hope you enjoy this series and look forward to hearing what you think of it. We welcome in particular writers who may have an unusual or atypical experience of scriptwriting in Ireland in terms of their ethnicity, gender, age, physical ability, socio-economic background or other life experience.

Bheadh áthas orainn freisin a chloisteáil ó scríbhneoirí le Gaeilge gur mhaith leo an agallamh a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge.

If you’d like to participate simply email:

November Lucky Dozen

17th October 2014

We’re pleased to announce another in our Lucky Dozen series of talks created exclusively for our members.

This time the topic is:

Writing for Comic Books by Maura McHugh

Date 7pm on Thursday, 6 November
Venue: WGI Office, Arthouse, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

At the moment there is a trend to write comics with the aim to create a visual product to sell as a movie adaptation. While screenwriting and comic book writing share a number of commonalities, they also have specific differences both in format and technique. Maura will discuss the basics of the form, the ins and outs of working in this industry, as well as offering some pointers for those who are considering writing in this medium.

To book a place at this talk, please email our main address listed below by 30 October with ‘Lucky Dozen’ in the subject line – this talk is open only to current members of the WGI.

As always, it’s first-come, first-served, so respond quickly to get one of the twelve slots going!

Maura McHugh lives in Galway and has just finished co-writing a comic book series called Witchfinder: The Secrets of Unland with Kim Newman for Dark Horse Comics in the USA. She has also written comics for Atomic Diner in Ireland – one of the titles, Jennifer Wilde, has been nominated for both an Eagle Award and a British Fantasy Award. Maura also writes prose (with two short story collections published in the USA), and wrote a section of a horror anthology play which had a sold-out run in the West End in London.