February 10, 2020

The Write Space – Alena Dillon

by Felicia Cheney

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The Write Space is a monthly Q&A series from Creative Collective covering a local writer and a North Shore space(s) s/he associates with writing.  Questions? Contact: ellorelizabeth@gmail.com

Give us your best writerly bio. 

Photo credit: Debasmit Banerjee

Alena Dillon’s debut novel, Mercy House, releases this month, February 2020 by HarperCollins. It was voted a LibraryReads book of February and called a “stirring, fiery debut” by Publishers Weekly. Like many authors, Alena’s was a sometimes frustrating, sometimes joyous, but always curvy road to publication, maneuvering countless manuscripts, submissions, rejections, and revisions, revisions, revisions. But she is thrilled to have her story on the shelves and in the hands of readers.

Her novels are often centered on factual moments of injustice or social import, and her essays are typically humorous examinations of significant life events and their emotional fallout.  

Alena earned her MFA from Fairfield University. Her work has been featured in Slice Magazine, Bustle, River Teeth, The Rumpus, Scary Mommy, Points in Case, The Smart Set, Huffington Post, and The Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review.

She lives in Beverly with her husband, their one-year-old son, and black lab.

Tell us about a North Shore Write Space. 

Since my son was born last year, I have to be very economical with my writing time. Even car travel steals precious words. So I usually work on a small desk in our bedroom while my husband stacks blocks with the baby in the basement. (My bedroom is on the same floor as our kitchen, so running for a coffee refill takes about twenty-three seconds.) But when I’m able to hoard more generous chunks of time, I write in the Endicott College library or at Atomic Café on Cabot Street in Beverly. They put my latte art to shame.

When I’m in North Shore, not writing, I’m …

I adore the North Shore. We’ve been here five years now, and my family and friends are sick of me bragging about where I live. The sea coves and fisherman villages and orchards and farm stands. The forest trails and old graveyards and polo fields. The city thirty minutes south and the mountains an hour north. What don’t we have?

So, to answer your question, when I’m not writing, I’m enjoying all the gifts this place has to offer. I’m visiting breweries, beaches, and any restaurant with a patio. I’m in the woods with our dog. I’m on a blanket with my baby in the sun listening to a podcast or, if he’s sleeping, cracking a book, waves crashing softly nearby.

What are you working on now? 

I am revising a manuscript that is due out in 2021. A SECOND book deal. If you knew how many years it took to secure the first, you’d understand the caps. This one is about a gymnast who is willing to pay any price to achieve her Olympic dream. 

And finally – 

Here’s the synopsis for Mercy House:

Inside a century-old row house in Brooklyn, renegade Sister Evelyn and her fellow nuns preside over a safe haven for the abused and abandoned. Gruff and indomitable on the surface, warm and wry underneath, little daunts Evelyn, until she receives word that Mercy House will be investigated by Bishop Hawkins, a man with whom she shares a dark history. In order to protect everything they’ve built, the nuns must conceal many of their methods, which are forbidden by the Catholic Church.

Evelyn will go to great lengths to defend all that she loves. She confronts a gang member, defies the church, challenges her own beliefs, and faces her past. She is bolstered by the other nuns and the vibrant, diverse residents of the shelter—Lucia, Mei-Li, Desiree, Esther, and Katrina—whose differences are outweighed by what unites them: they’ve all been broken by men but are determined to rebuild.

Amidst her fight, Evelyn discovers the extraordinary power of mercy and the grace it grants, not just to those who receive it, but to those strong enough to bestow it.

Find out more at —- 

You can visit my website at alenadillon.com
Follow me on twitter @TheAlenaDillon
Instagram at @alena.dillon
Or Facebook at @TheAlenaDillon

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