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'You couldn't get a Dublin toilet for what I paid for my house'

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Paul McVeigh

Paul McVeigh

Paul McVeigh

The Belfast writer Paul McVeigh began his career as a playwright and then moved into prose and short stories.

His debut novel, The Good Son, won the Polari First Novel Prize and the McCrea Literary Award. His short stories have been read on BBC Radio and published in many journals and anthologies.

He will be facilitating the five-day novel-writing workshop at the West Cork Literary Festival from July 13 to 17. For more details, visit westcorkliteraryfestival.ie.

What's the most important lesson about money which your career in writing has taught you?

Keep your overheads low. Most writers earn below the minimum wage - therefore low overheads are essential so you can keep writing and not have to get work at other things to pay big bills.

The most expensive country you ever visited?

Norway. My trip was many years ago, but it stuck in my mind. I remember stopping for a sandwich and a soft drink, and it cost what I would have paid for a meal in a good restaurant in London. Big cities can scare the life out of you too. Sitting outside a café in Paris a couple of years ago, I had a pint that cost over €12. I nearly had a canary.

Apart from property, what's the most expensive thing you have ever bought?

I bought a coat for £500 in the 1990s with the wages from a TV job. It was a lot of money back then. Still is, in my book.

Do you expect to be better or worse off financially under Brexit?

I've no idea. Has anyone? It's so hard to tell with all the conflicting reports. Northern Ireland often seems to exist in a bubble anyway.

The best thing financially about living in Belfast?

In north Belfast, I've seen fixer-uppers for £60,000 (€72,000) and two-bedroom, semi-detached houses with a garden for around £80,000.

What was your worst job?

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I worked on a building site with my brother when I was 17 or 18 and I hated it. I didn't fit in with the blokey banter and was clearly useless at everything that required any skill so I was set on to shovelling all day, every day. It was the monotony of the work that I hated the most.

What was your biggest financial mistake?

I'm too scared of money to ever have been in debt and I have never had enough money to make a mistake with it.

If you won the EuroMillions, what would you do with the money?

I would buy a detached house. I hate noise. I think maybe now I'm ready to live in the country - where my neighbours would be about 20 miles away.

Have you ever made an insurance claim?

Yes, for a couple of phones that needed replacing. I have a habit of falling asleep on all forms of transport - usually within two minutes. I've left laptops on planes, phones on buses and passports on trains, because I haven't really woken up when I'm getting off.

iTunes or Spotify?

I was a huge record fan - I spent all my money on them growing up. I was then a big CD fan. I never liked iTunes but I like Spotify and am trying Amazon at the moment.

What was the last thing you bought online?

I bought a replacement for my broken cafetière - I'm a coffee addict.

Would you buy property now?

I've just bought my first house in Belfast. You couldn't get a toilet in London or Dublin for what I paid for my house.

Do you ever haggle?

I find haggling so embarrassing. In places like Morocco and Vietnam, market traders and shopkeepers got really annoyed with me because I just wanted a fair price.

What three things would you not be able to do without if you were tightening your belt?

Coffee. Netflix. Wine.


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