The Nuala O’Faolain File
Date of birth: long ago
Place of birth: Rotunda Hospital, Dublin
Spouse/partner: I have a man friend in Brooklyn and I spend a lot of time with him and his young daughter, but I live in Ireland where the closest I have to a partner is my little mongrel sheepdog.
Residence: North of Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare
Published works: “Are You Somebody?” a memoir: “My Dream of You,” a novel, “Almost There,” another memoir, and “The Story of Chicago May,” a biography (to appear next month).
Personal: I used to be a university teacher and a television producer and a journalist — I didn’t begin writing until I was in my 50s.
But a daring robbery of American Express in Paris led her in the end to attempted murder and she spent 10 years of the prime of her life in terrible conditions in a jail in England. She was deported back to America and in the next few years sank to the very bottom. But in the late 1920s her collapse on the streets of Detroit – where she was working as a prostitute – began an amazing redemption, and when she died, in Philadelphia, she was a published author. On that very day, too, May had been due to marry a man who loved her.
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
My cottage in Clare is very good, but the best place ever was the artists’ colony called Yaddo, near Saratoga Springs.
What advice to you have for aspiring writers?
Not to worry about publication: worry about writing.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure?
“Jane Eyre,” ever since I was a little girl; “The Great Gatsby” — I read it again recently and the end is so perfect a piece of writing that it makes me cry. The same goes for the story “The Dead” by James Joyce.
What book are you currently reading?
I’m reading guidebooks to the corner of Italy I’ll be going to with my sisters for a week’s vacation
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Is there a book you wish you had written?
I wish I could write as beautiful a book as “The Master” by my friend Colm Toibin. Alternatively, or as well, I wish I’d written “The Da Vinci Code” and was dripping with money.
Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by?
Since I began writing myself I admire every single book I read. It is very hard work to write even a bad book.
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
I’d like to have known the French writer Colette – she really knew how to fill her life with nature and food and wine and admirers, not only in middle but in old age.
What book changed your life?
The book — it was about a murder in Scotland — from which I learnt to read, when I was four.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
When I come over the last hill and see Lahinch and Liscannor Bay spread below me, I’m home.
You’re Irish if . . .
you always try to keep the company entertained.