Monday 20 August 2018

Write side... Novelist and playwright Frank McGuinness


Frank McGuinness
Frank McGuinness
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

Novelist and playwright Frank McGuinness on his obsession with Joyce, and writing lyrics for Marianne Faithfull.

Your recent novel The Woodcutter and his Family is about James Joyce. How did you get into Joyce?

When I was young, I heard Joni Mitchell reading from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man on the radio. It blasted me and it was the beginning of an obsession with Joyce, especially that book and Dubliners.

Did you do a lot of research for the book?

There was a lot of biographical research to be done about Joyce's children, Giorgio and Lucia. They were an extraordinary family - so vital and intelligent, destructive and, at the same time, supportive.

Were you encouraged to write at school?

No, it wasn't that kind of school at all. The person who really encouraged me was David Marcus (editor of New Irish Writing at the Irish Press). I sent him poems and a couple of stories.

What was it like coming to Dublin from Buncrana when you were 18?

I was terrified and sick with loneliness. I had never been away from Buncrana and my family. I knew nobody in Dublin.

You are best known as a playwright, but many people might not know that you are also a songwriter.

I have written lyrics for Marianne Faithfull and we are friends. Occasionally, I get a barked command telling me that she wants lyrics - and I duly oblige.

What book are you obsessed with now?

David Park has just written a sensational book, Travelling in a Strange Land. It's a beautiful testimony to the love of parent and child. I have bought 10 copies to give to friends.

So, which book would you take to a desert island?

I think it would have to be The Collected Works of Jane Austen, or I would try to get on top of Ulysses.

If you weren't a writer, what would you be?

A bad primary teacher.

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