Minding Frankie, Tara Road, Evening Class, Circle of Friends and many, many more…
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Dublin in 1940 the eldest child of a happy couple who told me I was the best girl in the world. My father was a lawyer, my mother had been a nurse but in those days women didn’t work after marriage. I had two sisters and a brother, went to school at The Holy Child Convent, and then to University at University College Dublin.
Life was safe and happy and we lived such a peaceful contented life that no one would believe it if I wrote about it. So no autobiography!
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
When I was twelve I wanted to be a Saint. The first Saint Maeve. I was absolutely sure that I would too. When I was eighteen I wanted to be a judge, not an ordinary lawyer but a judge. I was certain it was possible, but fortunately I realised that I would have been hopeless at any kind of law and changed to studying History to become a teacher.
When I was thirty I would like to have been a wife. I saw a lot of my friends with happy marriages and wondered should I have travelled less and concentrated more on finding a husband. By great luck and good fortune I found one not long after, and he is the love of my life.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
When I was eighteen I believed strongly that everyone was looking at you, and either criticising you or praising you. Later I discovered that nobody is really interested at all in what you are doing. It was a huge liberation.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
In the 1960s there was a great re-discovery of old Irish music and I was very moved by these ancient melodies, laments and songs which made me proud of being Irish and made me want to celebrate my own heritage. I loved the stories of Charles Dickens and the way he could bring you into the lives of so many people. I liked Great Expectations more than any other.
I liked the poetry of WB Yeats, it was simple to read and it flowed gently along but the more you thought about it the more you found in it.
I had written short stories already but always felt a little disappointed when I came to the end, I felt I wanted to follow the characters and know what happened to them next! This meant a novel, I found it hard to keep at it but eventually it was finished. Then everyone loved it and I was as pleased as anything and started the next one!
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
The latest novel Minding Frankie is about a baby girl called Frankie whose mother dies in childbirth and whose father seems, to say the least, unreliable; he is a loser and an alcoholic called Noel. But Noel awed by the possibility of being a parent and therefore someone who might be admired and respected resolves to pull his life together. The social worker on the case doesn’t believe he will go the distance and she wants to take Frankie away and put the child in care. The story is about how the people on his street bond together to help Noel keep his baby. (Click here to read an extract.)
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope that people will take away from my books the belief that none of us live ordinary lives. We are all the heroes and heroines of our own dramas. They are not makeover books. Nobody necessarily becomes slimmer, richer or married by the end of the story. We have all met slim, rich, married people who live nightmarishly unhappy lives. Instead they become more confident and take control of their own lives. This gives us all hope. (BBGuru: Love this answer.)
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I admire the writers William Trevor and Thomas Keneally. William Trevor because he is meticulous and exact, describing the lives of both the very rich and the very poor and gets right into the hearts and minds of both. Tom Keneally because he never writes the same formula, he goes for a different world every time and succeeds.
My goals are to keep going and to be more disciplined about getting upstairs to work immediately after breakfast rather than lingering and talking and reading the newspapers! My head is full of ideas, I’d love to write a few more of these down as stories.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Believe in yourself. Take your work seriously but never take yourself seriously, that way you can become pompous. Try to enjoy it and not worry. It’s a lovely world to be in. You’re welcome to come and join it.
Maeve Binchy, thank you for playing.
Filed under: Author Interview, Book Trailer, Contemporary Women's Fiction, Writing Style, Writing tips Tagged: | Circle of Friends, Evening Class, Maeve Binchy, Minding Frankie, Tara Road, Ten Terrifying Questions, Thomas Keneally, William Trevor