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Siobhan Fallon with her father, Eamon, and her daughter, Maeve, behind the bar at the South Gate Tavern.

When the Men Are Gone

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Siobhan Fallon with her father, Eamon, and her daughter, Maeve, behind the bar at the South Gate Tavern.

Furthermore, as in any tight-knit community, everyone pretty much knows everyone else’s business. This is made clear in the title story, when childless Meg learns “too much” about her mysterious new neighbor, a noisy mother of two named Natalya. “In Fort Hood housing,” Fallon writes, “as in all Army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls. You learn your neighbors’ routines: when and if they gargle and brush their teeth; how often they go to the bathroom or shower; whether they snore or cry themselves to sleep. You learn too much. And, you learn to move quietly through your own domain.”

Visiting Leitrim and Dublin
Despite the popularity of Irish memoirs and coming-of-age stories, it never occurred to Fallon to use her own Irish upbringing as the inspiration for a book. “I’ve set a few short stories in a bar atmosphere. But I don’t really like to write about myself. I like the distance that fiction gives me. Writing about my own life…it never really occurred to me.”

Fallon has fond memories of visiting Ireland when she was younger. The family paid visits to relatives in Leitrim as well as Dublin. “We went over almost every year when we were little,” she says. “I was raised listening to all the rebel songs, doing Irish dance.” She particularly remembers hearing stories of her grandparents’ horse farm, where her grandfather could supposedly tame the wildest stallion with a shot to the jaw. “We would go and stay at my Dad’s childhood home, play with my cousins, go skipping through the fields, climb stone walls and inevitably brush up against those horrible stinging nettles and go screaming home.”

Fallon says she always wanted a career in the arts. She attended Providence College in Rhode Island, and spent the summer of 1993 in Ireland, after a year studying literature at Homerton College, Cambridge.

Back in the States, she worked at her father’s bar, as a hotel receptionist, and at literary magazines. “I’d been sending stories out to literary magazines for over ten years,” she adds, noting that she also attempted to contact literary agents and book publishers, to no avail. Finally, a literary magazine in Boston, called Salamander, published an earlier version of the story “Camp Liberty.” A phone call followed. It was a literary agent. “He said ‘I want to see what else you have. I think there might be a book here.’” To Fallon, this was “like winning the lottery.” Fallon ultimately visited almost a dozen cities during a book tour in January, which included a reading at Fort Hood. And Fallon’s traveling days will not end there. Her husband’s new Army posting, as a Foreign Area Officer, is in Amman, Jordan. Siobhan and her three-year-old daughter, Maeve, will be joining K.C. there for at least a year. “I’m excited to see the Middle East,” says Fallon.

She’s also working on a novel that deals with similar themes and characters as the ones we encounter in You Know When the Men Are Gone – a soldier and his wife –  but also has more of the elements of a thriller. Fallon acknowledges that her path to literary success was not an easy one. But given the rave reviews and bright future she has, what she writes about her husband K.C. in the touching dedication of You Know When the Men Are Gone could also apply to her literary career: “You are always worth the wait.”

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