Internationally recognised critics are agreed that there is a new Irish light in the competitive world of fiction and her name is Belinda McKeon. Longford born author and award winning playwright, Belinda attend the official launch of her debut novel, Solace, in Dublin on Tuesday, August 16 next. The Longford Leader caught up with her prior to the event and talked to her about her latest work which has already earned her much applause.
“It’s been busy for a while now. The process has been about a couple of months long as Solace came out in May in America so I spent May and June promoting it over there,” said Belinda, who is a daughter of Oliver and Angela McKeon of Cloonany, Stonepark, Longford.
Solace, which is published by Picador, is set between the rural landscape of Edgeworthstown and the urban landscape of Dublin and largely centres around the relationship between a father and son, Tom and Mark Casey.
“Tom is a farmer (in Edgeworthstown) and Mark is undertaking graduate study in English Literature in Dublin. His thesis is based upon Maria Edgeworth,” said Belinda.
Tom would like Mark to return home to the farm. Mark however is continuing at the age of 28 or 29 to live the student life in Dublin. Mark then meets Joanne and their relationship causes changes in both their lives.
“I feel that Solace is about responsibility and people facing up to the responsibilities in their relationships. It’s also about the end of the boom in Ireland and the responsibilities that Ireland had to face up to over the last couple of years,” said Belinda.
Although Solace is set in Longford, Belinda is clear in pointing out that the novel is based upon a world that stems from her imagination.
“Longford has been my touchstone for this book. The world that I draw is fictional. I was more concerned in basing it upon particular fictional characters than I was about setting it in a particular place. My own experience did however inform the mood of the novel and its landscape. Drawing from life is something that I do,” she said.
Belinda has had a love affair with English since her early years at Stonepark National School and has been influenced by many teachers along the way.
“I’m very lucky to have had great teachers in my life,” she said. “Eamon Brennan in Stonepark National School and Imelda Lennon in Scoil Mhuire, were among them. I was also really fortunate to have Brendan Kennelly as a lecturer. So yes, I have been influenced by teachers and writers who have been encouraging and inspiring.”
The Irish Times, in their review, described Belinda’s debut novel as ‘assured and poised’, while the Irish Independent believed that readers should come to ‘much love’ her work.
“There have been two types of responses so far; readers and newspaper reviews,” said Belinda, who spends the majority of her time living in New York. “Readers these days are more immediate with their responses thanks to social media networks such as facebook. The reviews in the newspapers have been positive and I feel that the reviewers have really given Solace considered close reviews. You don’t get that that often. There will be people who don’t connect with the book but you can’t please everyone.”
Belinda McKeon will make a welcome return home in September for a Longford launch of Solace. Details, once confirmed, will be published in the Longford Leader.