Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Learning from the best....Maeve Binchy's life and way of writing

I've just finished reading Maeve Binchy, The Biography by Piers Dugdeon. Being a fan of all Maeve's writing I was interested to find out more about her as a person. What came across in the book is how Maeve used her past environment, situations and overhead conversations to bring those books to life. Not only did I learn about Maeve but also about Irish history (something I've a no little about).

 Maeve's view on the world as she saw it, the things should wanted to convey came out through the words and actions of her characters.

What I also loved was learning about the way she worked - how she drew her characters and ideas and I found myself saying 'I do that'! I loved the fact that she drew maps of where her characters lived (I do that for anything longer than a short story), how she used the mixed method for character building (taking aspects from several people as well as inventing). She worked alongside her husband Gordon Snell, who wrote many children's books, sitting each end of a desk in a studio with large windows. They would critique each others work and have 'sulking time' (something I do when I get rejections!).

Maeve did so much in her life. She went to University, became a teacher, worked in a Kibbutz  for several summers, wrote for The Irish Times and other newspapers and wrote plays. Then of course there were her short stories and novels, some of which were made into films. Once when she visited Jerusalem she lost her faith, having felt that everything she had been told and taught was a lie. She found peace in the spirituality of a once yearly festival at Cumann Merriman through their promotion of Irish Culture. When Maeve's health began to fail and publicity touring became too much she went into retirement but soon she was producing stories again and I was thrilled that there was another batch of books of hers to read. Maeve travelled widely and in her early years her travels were written and published in The Irish Times. She was an incredible lady and the biography made me see her stories in a whole new light as her life runs through them. It makes me want to re-read her books. Writers are always given the advice to write what you know. Maeve did just that which is probably why they work so well. She once apologised that her stories did not contain graphic sex. She  reckoned that her love life wasn't that exciting and she wouldn't know how to describe whose limbs went where! She then wrote a story about a girl who goes in search of a book to tell her what to do when she sleeps with her boyfriend. Maeve never let anything go to waste!

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