Coping with the future – an interview with Stefanie Preissner

Stefanie Preissner is not a new name to the Irish writing scene, but is one that’s getting called all the more frequently. Through her work in theatre, her critcally acclaimed series, Can’t Cope Won’t Cope and her new book, Stefanie Preissner has gone from ‘one to watch’ to someone we’re all watching closely. We sat down with Stefanie to discuss writing, advice and the new season of Can’t Cope Won’t Cope. 

1. Can you remember the first time you thought ‘I want to be a writer’? 

No. I don’t think I have, even to this day, thought that sentence. I still feel like ‘writers’ are very serious, intellectual people and I’m just here in a café on my laptop. I wanted to be the first female Garda Commissioner, then I wanted to act, and now… while I still see myself as a performer I feel like I have too much to say to speak someone else’s words. The world is chaotic and the only way I can process it is to write. I’m just fortunate that I get the luxury of being able to combine what feels like a contribution to society and my passion.

2. Did you feel more pressure approaching season two of Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope, given it’s success in Season One? If so, how did you combat this? 

Of course. I think that Season One hit a nerve and while it was good, I think it was received as ‘great’ because people hadn’t seen young Irish women represented on screen in that way. In season one, I was free to sort of write whatever I wanted but in Season Two I had to respond to the reaction to Season One. I think it’s inelegant and a sign of hubris to rebut every single criticism of your work, so I take criticism seriously. I don’t always react but I always consider it. And I had issues with Season One too. So I looked at what worked, and looked at how Ireland of 2018 is markedly different to that of 2015 and I went into the scripts with the intention of writing a show that was relevant and provocative.

3. Who do you identify with more, Aisling or Danielle? 

I identify strongly with different parts of each of them. I identify with Aisling’s impulsiveness and her impatience. I identify with Danielle’s wishes to be a good friend, to be a good student, to put other people’s plans and needs ahead of her own.

4. What advice would you give them if you could speak to them?

I wouldn’t bother trying to give advice to Aisling, I’d be wasting my breath. I’d probably encourage Danielle to be a bit gentler on herself which would inevitably make her see the world and other people with more sympathetic eyes.

The world is chaotic and the only way I can process it is to write. I’m just fortunate that I get the luxury of being able to combine what feels like a contribution to society and my passion.

5. What was it like unveiling your innermost thoughts in ‘Why Can’t everything just Stay the Same?’

It was a beautiful luxury. Writing for TV, the scripts have to be so lean and the writing so sparse. It was a luxury, and –  let’s be clear – an exercise in indulgence. I have always been paralytically indecisive. I ask my friends to confirm my opinions and to guide my tastes so it felt strange to commit opinions, feelings and thoughts to print but that’s why I have the caveat in there that I reserve the right to change my mind. And in one of the chapters “GENDERALISATIONS” I actually change my opinion half way through the chapter but I didn’t delete the first half because I think it’s crucial, if society is to progress in a meaningful, functional and empathetic way, that people are not held to things they have said in the past and they are allowed to change their views and grow if they choose.

why-can-t-everything-just-stay-the-same-and-other-things-i-shout-when-i-can-t-cope-by-stefanie-preissner

6. Do you find you have to get into a different mindset when writing fictional series like Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope versus writing about your own experiences, like you did for your book? 

Not really. They both come out of my head, my experiences and my imagination. Its more fun being able to construct a false narrative but it’s important in this day and age that we have books and art and theatre that use extreme truth. There’s too much fake news and lies out there. You don’t have to look further than Instagram filters to see it.

Its more fun being able to construct a false narrative but it’s important in this day and age that we have books and art and theatre that use extreme truth. There’s too much fake news and lies out there. You don’t have to look further than Instagram filters to see it.

7.You’ve spoken frequently about mental health and bullying, do you think creative outlets like writing have helped you deal with these experiences?

I mean, they help as much as a nice hot bath helps. But I think it undermines the experience of being bullied or depressed to think that creative outlets can solve the problem. It helps of course, to talk and process but the psychological weight of those things shouldn’t be undermined or underestimated.

8. What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given? 

What other people think of you is none of your business.

 9. What would you like to be working on next?

I have loads lined up for 2018 so I’m going to be working hard on taking breaks. I love my work. But I love not working too.

What other people think of you is none of your business.

 Why Can’t Everything just Stay the Same is available in a bookshop near you now.

Author: Méabh McDonnell

As editor of Cinders magazine books, television, comic books and the lack of representation for women in movies that I otherwise enjoy are most of what I talk about. Aside from reading I write, mostly about driving from Galway to Ennis. You can find more of my musings over on Twitter @redridinghood19. Check out Cinders magazine at www.cindersmagazine.com

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