Category: Archive

The power of story

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

What is your latest book about? I have a friend who always replies to this question. “Oh it’s about 350 pages.” Or “Oh it’s about $25.” “Zoli” is about both of those things, I suppose, but really it’s about a Romani/Gypsy woman who as a voice, and a prophet, of her people, gets exiled. She walks across Europe. It’s a story of exile, loss, belonging, about regaining and understanding beauty.
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions? I wish I could wake up and write first thing every morning in the dreamtime before coffee, e-mails, school runs. That would be ideal. But life intrudes. I take whatever I can get. I work from home most of the time. Towards the end of a novel I can sometimes work up to twenty hours a day. In the beginning it’s much more hunt and peck. At that stage there’s also a lot of research involved too.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? The old Beckett saw: “No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure. I find this such an extraordinarily difficult question. I see books like people — I find different values, qualities, beauties and terrors in each. As a kid, I was completely enthralled by Mary Lavin’s “The Second Best Children in the World.” As a teenager I went through my Kerouac phase and I latched on to “The Dharma Bums” If I were to pick one book for my current years I’d chose anything by John Berger, author of “Ways of Seeing” and “To the Wedding.”
What book are you currently reading? I’m researching a new novel, so I’m currently reading about the Internet and how it was developed back in the 1970s. It was like a form of space exploration. I’m also reading about liberation theology. And the birth of hip-hop. Don’t ask! It’s a madly ambitious project.
Is there a book you wish you had written? If I could have any Seamus Heaney poem at my fingertips I think I’d be a happy man.
Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by. I really liked Larry Kirwan’s “Green Suede Shoes.” It is as if Kirwan has stepped in many different pairs — singer, actor, headcase, activist, writer. I’d only seen him as a musician and it was interesting to see how well he shapes his prose.
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be? I live a very charmed life. I have gotten to meet most of my contemporary heroes — Berger, Doyle, Carey, Harrison, O’Brien, Kiely, Heaney, Muldoon.
What book changed your life? You know, when I was a youngster, my father wrote a series of kids soccer books. Georgie Goode was the hero. He was a Gypsy boy in England who never had any football shoes so he played in his runners. And I remember my 3rd-class [5th grade] teacher, Mr. Kells, reading the books aloud to us in class. On Friday afternoons. And I remember that moment of intense pride when Georgie would score the final goal. He’d bury it in the back of the net. It was always inevitable but amazing how he got to that moment of inevitability. And I was stunned by the power of story, even then.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland? I love going North to my mother’s old family farm in Derry. Otherwise, an afternoon in the Stag’s Head in Dublin. Or a mad jaunt along the cliff-faces in Achill Island.
You’re Irish if . . . You can walk along Fifth Avenue and say how much cheaper it is than Grafton Street.

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