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This questions and answers section is compiled from interviews with Maeve Binchy during her writing life.

Can you describe an ordinary day?

My husband Gordon Snell and I get up at about 7 am in our little house 15 kilometres from Dublin. We have a big study up a spiral staircase in a lovely bright room and we try to be at our desks before 8.30am. We are both writers so we have plenty to do including […]

How do two writers cohabit in one home?

Two writers co habit very well in our home but that is mainly because Gordon is a very kind and unselfish man, everyone who knows him says that this is true. We work in a lovely sunny office, sitting side by side at a big long desk and we read each other stuff at the […]

Who has supported you in your life and career at the most?

I was much supported by my parents who believed I could do anything, run the world if I needed to. Then I had a great kind boss at the Irish Times who thought I could do anything and sent me to write about wars and economics and the Royal Family and gave me a great […]

What was your favourite book as a child?

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Undoubtedly it was Winnie the Pooh. My parents would read it to me endlessly. I loved Kanga and Eeyore and thought of them as my friends. I used to ask where was I in the Hundred Acre Wood and my parents indulged me by saying I was on a tree or on a gate, then […]

When you were growing up did you have books in your home?

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Yes, books were everywhere. Floor to ceiling were shelves of books. My father went to work by train every day. It was half an hour’s journey each way and he would read a paperback in four journeys. After supper we all sat down to read – it was long before TV, remember! Because I saw […]

Have you ever lived anywhere else but Dalkey? If so, where? And if not, why not?

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I came to Dalkey when I was a child and lived here until after my father died in 1972, I lived in a flat in Ballsbridge for a year and there were mice in it so a colleague had to come and empty my mousetrap every night before I could go home from work. Then […]

Rumour has it you had a childhood crush on Marlon Brando – is that true?

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Oh no, it wasn’t a crush, I loved him when I was fifteen and a half until I was seventeen. I spent all my pocket money on airmail stamps to write to him and ask him to come to Ireland where I would sooth him and look after him. But he never listened. Which was […]

You’ve said that you were desperate to be famous – why and for what?

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When I was at school I thought I was going to be forever belted into a green tunic, bad at games, hopeless at gym, restless and anxious that I shouldn’t pass by unnoticed. I think I was just a vain show off really. Anything would have done. I once thought about tap dancing, or mountaineering, […]

You’ve also said you feared seeing a vision like St Bernadette – what did you mean by that and did you ever see such a thing?

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You have to realise that this was all more than fifty years ago, we all heard of Visions and Apparitions non-stop in those days, and how it was a sign of great sanctity of you saw one. I was pretty self-centred then as now, and I thought I was very holy so it was only […]

Do you remember the moment you decided you wanted to be a writer?

Not really: I think I always wanted to be a story teller. My writing career started with a letter which was published in Irish Times. I became a journalist and worked for the Irish Times for many years and I had a great kind boss who thought I could do anything and sent me to […]

As a teacher, what was the most important thing you wanted to give to the children?

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I was very anxious to give the girls I taught confidence, to tell them that they were responsible for their own lives. It didn’t matter about being married, or rich or good looking or thin, inner happiness is what we create for ourselves. Of course I am sure they didn’t believe me – who believes a […]

Are all your books set in Dublin?

Not all; but I set many of my books in Dublin because I am very familiar with the place and I know the nuances and lights and shade of the city It’s just like any other city really with all the hopes and dreams and adventures in everyone’s minds and hearts. And no matter where […]

How have you felt about the screen adaptations of your books?

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I have been very pleased indeed. It’s a totally different world – they have to cut out all those pages and pages of internal monologue that I write, and all the brooding and thinking and wondering that I go on with. One little sentence in a film script says and shows it all. And I am […]

Are you ever afraid you’ll run out of ideas?

No, I will never run out of ideas. If you look at people’s faces in airports, cafes, on trains, in the street you can see stories written there. Is that man afraid his wife is unfaithful? Does that woman wish she had the courage to start dating again? It’s written everywhere if you look. I […]

Do you have any idea what the secret of your success is?

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I write a lot about people being somehow restored in life and sometimes people wonder if I write this from personal experience. I suppose I have always thought it was a bit pretentious to have a ‘philosophy of life ‘ but if I were pushed I would mutter about how we only get one life […]

It can take a lot for a person in a rut to see that the life they thought they’d live has somehow escaped them. Do you have personal experience of this?

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In a magic world we could all have Eureka Moments and see the folly of our ways. Then we would set about changing things. End a toxic relationship or commit with hope to a love that had become vague and uncertain. Cut our ties with what might be holding us back or alternatively settle for […]

Outside of writing, what do you love more than anything?

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The happiest moments of my life are connected with family and friends. There is a great comfort about being with people who knew you way back when. There is a mental shorthand, and easy-going feeling that life doesn’t have to be explained or defined; we are all in more or less the same boat. To […]

Is there any particular character of yours that you are especially fond of? Are any of them based on real people? Some appear in several novels and short stories; and you’ve set a number of books in the same place in Dublin. What made you think of doing that?

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My father was a lawyer and he warned me never to put a real person in a book; but I steal little attributes from people and I do enjoy that… I don’t really have a favourite but, yes, a number of characters reappear in the more recent novels. Very often readers write and tell me […]

Has the traditional concept of ‘family’ changed? What is more important, do you think, family relations or friendship?

Yes, in a way the community has had to replace the family. Once upon a time in Ireland every one lived in the same place amongst the same people always. This is no longer so. People learn or should learn to depend on each other in a neighbourhood and form alliances that will help and […]

Is there anything you really wish you had written but never got around to?

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Any good de-cluttering manual. My life and house and study and mind are all full of clutter. I would love to have researched a way to get rid of it, and maybe some of the good advice I unearthed would have rubbed off on me.

What would you like to say to aspiring authors?

Seriously, it’s very boring, but you must write at least ten pages a week otherwise you’re not writing, you’re only playing around…

What do you most hope that people will say about your novels fifty years from now?

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I guess I’d hope people understand that we only get one life and it will be what we made it to be and there are no short-cuts. Being wealthy doesn’t necessarily make you happy, nor being beautiful or thin or married. And nobody’s life is ordinary if we know where to look.

And if we gave you three wishes?

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Three wishes? So hard to choose, but they all have to do with wishing that people realised how short life is, how foolish it is to quarrel with people and how we have to make the best of what we are given… There isn’t a magic spell that will change our lives, we must do […]