Leader: Hi Belinda, are you looking forward to this Paxman-style examination?
Belinda: Reporting for duty.
Leader: Week that’s in it. D’you remember the gist of your Leaving Cert English essay?
Belinda: Oh no, this is like one of those dreams where I have to sit my English exam again? I’m off... Seriously though, I actually don’t remember anything of that exam. Except muddling up something in a question on Kinsella... Oh wait! Something’s coming back to me. I had a theory Hamlet and Horatio were more than just friends.
Leader: Do you prefer writing plays or novels?
Belinda: I’m driven to both at different times/in different frames of mind. Prefer doesn’t come into it.
Leader: (via @ConorBarrins) What role does writing from abroad have on re-imagining ‘home’? Overly romantic?
Belinda: Evidence would suggest it happens some of the time. But I find distance a good reality check.
Leader: Some writers claim not to read reviews. Are they lying?
Belinda: Probably. And then you have Richard Ford, who puts his bullets where his mouth is.
Leader: (via @ConorBarrins) Is contemporary Irish writing ‘writing back’ to past masters or at the fore of ‘new styles?’
Belinda: “Contemporary Irish writing” is not even something you can so easily gather under the yoke of contemporary Irish writing, so, no. Also, “new styles”, where are we, a shoe shop?
Leader: Does appearing on RTE’s The View with John Kelly lead to getting mobbed on the street?
Belinda: Oh god yes. That’s why I had to emigrate...
Leader: The tough questions now. John McGahern or John Banville?
Belinda: Sorry, but they both have their uses.
Leader: Very political answer. Martin Amis or Ian McEwan?
Belinda: That I can do. McEwan. Just re-read The Cement Garden yesterday: Superb. Later work sometimes patchy though.
Leader: Now the heavyweights. Dan Brown or Jeffrey Archer?
Belinda: Never read either. Oh well. Maybe I should take that Leaving Cert English exam again.
Leader: (Via @JSPMartin) D’you read many books about writing? If so are there any you’d recommend?
Belinda: I took a writing course with Marina Carr and she lent me a copy of Annie Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird.’ I eventually, reluctantly, returned it. Also: Eudora Welty ‘On Writing.’ And ALL Paris Review ‘Writers at Work’ interviews. Those Paris Reviews are collected in a series. Also James Wood’s essays on fiction.
Leader: Cliche alert. If the men who insist on marooning folk out on desert islands allowed you one book, what’s it called?
Belinda: Alastair MacLeod’s ‘Island’, of course. (Also, I’d sneak a Kindle in with me).
Leader: (Via @Crishtor) Which country did you choose and why? Did it live up to your expectations?
Belinda: I moved to New York because I wanted to live there. Good place to write too, it turns out.
Leader: Why do you think there is such a love affair, historically, between Irish writers and living abroad?
Belinda: I know it looks that way, but we’re not the only ones who do it. Writers are the migrating sort and that is true regardless of homeplace. That said, in the past Ireland was not an easy country in which to be a writer, hence much exile. Today is different. But the Government’s current slashing of cultural institutions will do nothing good to foster future generations of writers and artists here.
Leader: Which is a better spot? The Clover Club in Brooklyn or Blazers on the Strokestown Road?
Belinda: AHA! This is the question I was waiting for. Much, much easier to get the shift in Clover.
Leader: Anything up to 140 characters worth of advice to future writers.
Belinda: Read every day. Write every day, even if just for 30 minutes. Allow yourself to write badly as a way in.
Leader: Finally, what are you working on at the moment?
Belinda: Right now, an essay on the short story writer, Mary Lavin. Also: Another novel.
Leader: Thanks for excellent answers to some interesting and some inane questions. Best of luck with the novel.
Belinda: My pleasure. It was fun. It’s easier than writing a novel.
Follow Belinda on Twitter: @BelindaMcKeon