"People here have a warmth and wit and loquaciousness that is unique in all the world"

Madeleine D’Arcy will be appearing at the West Cork Literary Festival on Thursday, July 15, in Bantry Library, alongside Nithy Kasa. See www.westcorkliteraryfestival.ie
"People here have a warmth and wit and loquaciousness that is unique in all the world"

Madeleine D’Arcy will be appearing at the West Cork Literary Festival on Thursday, July 14th at 5pm in Bantry Library.

TELL us about yourself;

I worked as a solicitor, mainly in the UK, but I’m a fiction writer now. I began to write late in life, at 45.

My first short story was published in 2008 and I won the Hennessy Award for First Fiction and the Hennessy Writer of the Year Award in 2010, when I was 49, going on 50.

My short story collection Waiting for the Buttet (2014, Doire Press) won the Edge Hill Readers’ Choice Prize in 2015. My second book, Liberty Terrace was published in October, 2021, by Doire Press.

My first novel, Feeling Savage, set in Cork and London, is not published as yet; I hope it will find a suitable publisher soon. I have begun a second novel, set in France with an Irish protagonist.

Where were you born?

I was born in St Finbar’s Hospital, Cork city, and I grew up in Macroom. I now live in Cork city, near Fitzgerald’s Park. I love Cork city. It’s neither too big nor too small and the people here have a warmth and wit and loquaciousness that is unique in all the world.

Where do you live?

When I was young, I couldn’t wait to leave Ireland. I zipped off to Paris immediately after my Leaving Cert, when I was 17, to work as an au pair and learn French. I came back to study Law in UCC and subsequently qualified as a solicitor.

1980s Ireland was a very different place to the Ireland we live in today. I despaired about legal rights for women, gender equality, nepotism, etc. I admire those who stayed and who helped to change Irish society for the better, but I couldn’t bear living here.

My then partner, a singer/songwriter, moved to London to further his career so I went there after I finished my studies. In London, I worked as a criminal legal aid solicitor and subsequently as a legal editor.

In 1992, I ended that relationship, took over the mortgage and kept on working. By then I was working as a Senior Editor for Butterworths Legal Publishers. Little did I know, back then, that in 1999 I would return to Ireland with my husband Andrew Lane and our son, Cass, and that I would become a writer. 

I’m very glad that we moved back to Cork city. We are privileged to live here among brilliant friends and wonderful neighbours.

Family?

My husband, Andrew Lane, is an architect, Co-Director of Hogan Architecture, and also lectures part-time at Cork Centre for Architectural Education. We have one son, Cass.

My father, Michael D’Arcy, a Clare man, died in 2017. My mother, Sally, still lives in Macroom; she’s originally from Galway. My older brother Seamus lives in Macroom also. My brilliant sister Mary divides her time between Dublin, Clare and Macroom.

My younger brother, Mike, is the proprietor of The Friary Bar, North Mall, Cork city, where myself and the wonderful Danielle McLaughlin co-host Fiction at the Friary, a friendly and inclusive fiction event which takes place on the final Sunday of each month. All are welcome to this free and fun event.

Best friend?

My best friend is my husband Andrew Lane. He was my friend before we became otherwise involved. It probably sounds corny but we are still the best of friends.

Person you most admire?

I admire the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is doing an amazing job in horrendous circumstances. I also admire Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, and the American politican Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.

Favourite TV programme?

At the moment it’s Better Call Saul.

Favourite radio show?

Movies and Booze with Moncrieff on Newstalk every Friday at 3.20pm.

Favourite restaurant?

Paradiso (16, Lancaster Quay, Cork city) is my favourite restaurant, even though I’m not vegetarian. 

Denis Cotter, the founder, has conjured up some kind of culinary magic here and the food is always amazing.

Last book you read?

I’ve recently read a wonderful linked short story collection called McMullen Circle by Heather Newton. I’ve also finished reading All Along The Echo by a great Cork author, Danny Denton.

Best book you read?

I’ve read heaps of brilliant books, too many to mention here. One of my all-time favourites is Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. I would like to mention many books by all the brilliant Irish writers I know too, but there isn’t enough space here.

Favourite song?

Dronning Maud Land by Nick Kelly.

One person you would like to see in concert?

I saw Bjork when she was with The Sugarcubes, a long time ago in London. I thought she was uniquely brilliant and I’d like to see her in concert again.

Morning person or night owl?

When the pandemic began, my sleep pattern became completely fractured. I worried about Covid issues, Brexit, Trump, family emergencies and about completing Liberty Terrace on time for my lovely publishers at Doire Press, I didn’t know whether I was coming or going.

Just as I thought things were improving, war broke out in Ukraine and here in Ireland the issues with the Nothern Ireland protocol continue and children have been killed in their own classrooms in the U.S and I’m still not sleeping properly. I wake up at 4am, then go back to bed at 6am. It’s ridiculous. 

I really hope I can begin to get a full night’s sleep soon.

Your proudest moment?

I was astonished but very happy in 2010 when I won two Hennessy Awards. I was also very happy when I won the Edge Hill Reader’s Choice Prize.

I’ve just heard that I’m getting a medal of some kind for Liberty Terrace, which will be presented at the Florida Authors and Publishers Association’s Annual President’s Book Awards on July 30.

What makes you happy?

Good food, good wine, good company, and good stories.

How would you like to be remembered?

A friend of mine posted this quote the other day: ‘One of the greatest feelings in the world is not owing anyone anything. This includes money, explanations, apologies and excuses’. So I want to shuffle off this mortal coil not owing anything to anyone.

Apart from that, I do have a hankering for a small bench in Fitzgerald’s Park or in the Lee Fields with my name on a little brass plate. 

Nothing fancy. Just a bench like all the other benches, where a tired person can sit down and rest and take a few deep breaths and look at the flowing river and the swans and the ducks and the herons and take it easy and let the cares of the world slip away for a while.

What else are you up to at the moment?

I’m looking forward to reading at West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry Library on Thursday, July 14, alongside poet Nithy Kasa. The event will be chaired by Matthew Geden, poet and County Council Writer-in-Residence.

I plan to facilitate a couple of writing workshops at Cork City Library during Heritage Week (August 13-21).

Apart from that, I hope I’ll sort out my sleep pattern, breathe a little easier, and spend the rest of the year putting my words down line by line, page by page, until I get them just right – and live for another couple of decades, if I’m lucky.

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