Longford author, playwright and journalist, Belinda McKeon, was recently awarded the prestigious Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for her début novel, ‘Solace’ (Picador). The annual award, which is given in alternate years for works of fiction and works of poetry, has previously been won by great literary figures such as Seamus Heaney, Julian Barnes and Will Self.
A native of Stonepark, Belinda spoke to the Leader about the honour.
“It is great to get recognition from the Irish awards. This, however, is a British award and so I’m honoured with the wider recognition,” said the writer who divides her time between New York and Ireland.
She added: “It’s a very big honour because some of those writers (previous winners) are ones that I really admire. Several of them have and continue to be very important to me. So it was a huge surprise to me to win the award.”
Belinda’s novel, which looks at conflict between old rural Ireland and contemporary Dublin, was praised by the panel of judges for its “crisp yet distinctive prose”. The judges, which included Rachel Cusk, Jonathan Ruppin and Leo Robson, said the book proved “there are new ways of being a traditionalist”.
In 2011 ‘Solace’ also won the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book of the Year.
Currently Belinda is working on a number of projects including her second novel. Taking into account the literary success of ‘Solace’, the Longford writer is aware of the scrutiny that her new work will face.
“Everything outside of sitting down and doing the writing could make you nervous. You have to settle down and do the job. I just try and not think about things like that,” she said.
Referring to her native county, Belinda added: “Longford often comes into my writing. I think the place where you are from will always come into your work either in subtle or more overt ways.”