Category: Archive

Page Turner: One sentence at a time

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

What is your latest book about?
“Ireland — a Novel” tells the story of how a seanchai, a wandering storyteller, narrating the history of Ireland by the fireside, captures the heart and imagination of a 9-year-old boy in rural Ireland in 1951. The boy then devotes his young life to finding the elusive and mysterious old man, and on the way hears story after story of his own country — its history, its mythology, its spirit. The reader likewise comes to know Ireland and its glorious countryside, its people, its memories, its heartbeat.

What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
I try to work office hours, which includes a minimum period of three to four hours of uninterrupted writing. Sometimes I get a good day of five to six hours of uninterrupted writing, sometimes not — and I’m still trying to make a fixed routine of two hours’ reading seven days a week. As for ideal conditions, I suppose a small house, sheltered by a wood, looking out on a lake, with no interruptions — but there is a real world to be observed. Therefore, as an old friend in Tipperary used to say to me, “You might as well dream here as in bed.”

What advice to you have for aspiring writers?
Write the next sentence. This is as simple as it sounds — and yet it is not as simple as it sounds. I write the next sentence. Then I write the next sentence. After that I write the next sentence. Soon I have a bunch of sentences and I read them over and I make changes — and on and on the process goes; I simply write the next sentence. And be assured of one thing: if your work is good, if it is honest to yourself, if it is true to your spirit, it will find a publisher.

Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure?
“Ulysses” by James Joyce; “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway; “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens.

What book are you currently reading?
“Timebends,” the autobiography of Arthur Miller, one of the most wonderful books I have ever encountered. It begins slowly but soon the reader is irretrievably caught up in the nobility of this remarkable man and you begin to understand why his plays have such dignity and power. His death now adds a freight of poignancy to every page I turn.

Is there a book you wish you had written?
“The Great Gatsby” by Scott Fitzgerald — a piece of thoughtful, lyrical and poised writing that survives every reading.

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Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by?
“John Adams,” the biography by David McCullough, but surprised only because I had never read McCullough’s work before and was thrilled to find that such a fine non-fiction writer strides the planet.

If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
There can be only one answer: William Shakespeare (although Oscar Fingal O’Flaherty Wills Wilde comes a close second).

What book changed your life?
“Ulysses” by James Joyce: the discovery, upon persisting with reading it, that it is not nearly as obscure as reputed, especially when read aloud.

What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
There is a hill in Munster, near the ruin of Thomastown Castle, between the towns of Cashel and Tipperary, to which I return in my mind most days of the week.

You’re Irish if . . .
You can ride two horses at once (metaphorically speaking).

(Frank Delaney will discuss his latest work, “Ireland — A Novel,” on Friday, Feb. 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the American Irish Historical Society, 991 Fifth Ave.)

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