Write side with author Alice Taylor
Alice Taylor on her runaway bestseller, writing with a pencil and rubber, and her love of Biggles stories
Your book To School Through the Fields was one of the biggest-selling books ever published in Ireland. Why was it so successful?
It was published in 1988. People were intrigued to read about an Ireland that was fast disappearing. I was surprised. I thought it would be of interest at some point in the future, but not immediately.
Had you written much before that?
I was 50 at the time. It was the first manuscript I ever sent to a publisher. Steve McDonagh of Brandon Books was interested, but he said I should go into more detail with my descriptions of life on a farm. It was good advice, because it meant the book had a broad appeal.
And how did it end up being translated into German, Polish and Japanese?
I suppose themes of the land and childhood are universal. The German translator said it was appealing in Germany because society had changed there as well.
How do you actually write your books?
I wrote my first books in the attic on an A4 pad with a pencil and a rubber. I still keep a pad and pencil by my bed. Then, in the mid-1990s, my husband and my lads got me a computer. At first I didn't know what to do with it. I had to teach myself to type.
Were you a great reader as a girl, and who encouraged you to write?
My brother Tim encouraged me. He had us signed up to the local library. I liked the Biggles stories about a flying ace in the world wars by Captain WE Johns. When we went to Cork city, it was like going to New York. I went to Woolworths and got some of the classics, like the books of the Brontë sisters.
So did you actually go to school through the fields?
We went to school in Newmarket [in North Cork] - it was a three-mile walk there, and three miles back. I grew up on a farm, and I just caught the end an era, when people still did not have cars, tractors or electricity.