02 October 2016

Inspired by a great...Edna O'Brien, Country Girl

At the book signing. I'm telling her how much she inspired me. 
Last night, we saw Edna O'Brien, perhaps the most well-known living Irish author and playwrite, being interviewed by Sean Rocks of the great radio programme Arena.  She walked on stage tentatively, taking small cautious steps like a frail old woman. But she was dressed in her favourite things -- flowing black lace skirt, black and beige ruffly blouse, with a black sequinned jacket, black stockings and black suede ankle boots -- feminine through and through. You could feel her clothes delivering comfort and a touch of glamour in an uncomfortable setting. Her hair was perfectly styled, softly framing her face in reddish tinted swooshes. She made me smile.  An old woman comfortable in her skin and her presentation of it.

They sat down on stage and began to address a packed audience. Sean asked, "Are you comfortable?" She answered, "No, but I'll manage." It was love from the start. They've talked together many times, these two. She called their relationship an "intermittent marriage". He asked her one pointed question about her new book, The Red Chair, and she was off. I could have listened to her forever.

The one thing that struck me the most was the research she does in developing her characters. She interviews people who have experience with similar roles -- cleaning women, religious leaders, healers, barmen, convicts. She listens to their stories then compiles them into a conglomerate character. How authentically inventive that is.

Alex asked the first question from the audience. He asked, "When you're almost finished writing a book, does a character ever come knocking on your door asking to come in and become part of the story." At first she said she wouldn't answer the door, but Sean liked the question and explored it further realizing she had misunderstood. He explained it was the door in her mind and she laughed, "Oh, yes, it happens all the time."

She signed books afterwards. We were warned not to ask questions as there were too many people waiting to have theirs signed. The first guy started asking her a question, naturally, and she quipped, "Just give me your first name."  I laughed. I was next in line and gave her my name, then spelled it and told her how much she inspired me.  She looked me in the eye and thanked me for coming.

She revitalized me completely, and today I begin to edit and write anew. Thank you, Edna.  For the inspiration. I needed that.

What a life she must have lived. Certainly not a cautious one.

PS She talked about the view of Croagh Patrick from her room that morning, how there was a veil over the mountain performing as though by command. I presumed she was watching from the Knockranny Hotel.  I was watching that same veil that same morning from the other side of the mountain. I wondered about the potential of writing a parallel story from the opposite sides of a holy mountain. Here's what I saw.

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