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Arts Q&A: Eoin McNamee on Richard Brautigan, Thin Lizzy and Pat McCabe

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Kilkeel novelist Eoin McNamee

The author of seventeen novels, including Resurrection Man and the Blue Trilogy (The Blue Tango, Blue Orchid and Blue is the Night), Eoin McNamee will be hosting a creative writing workshop at The John Hewitt International Summer School

1. When did you think about a career in writing what were your first steps into it? I remember hitching a ride to New Ross (Co Wexford) when I was 16 with a copy of Richard Brautigan’s Stories. I walked down along the quay until I came across the old lightship. I climbed on board, found a sunny corner and opened the book. When I closed the book at the end I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

2. Best gigs you've been to? Thin Lizzy in the Ulster Hall circa 1977 and a small hall in Donegal a few years ago when the audience had long gone home and six Donegal fiddlers sat on stage playing into the night, into the music and into themselves.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band? The Donegal fiddlers above.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island and why? Danny Diamond’s Elbow Room. You'd never get tired of the fiddle.

5. And the book? Milkman by Anna Burns, for proving the cosmopolitan and universal aspect of life in Belfast.

6. Top three films? Picking three from the days of the Vogue cinema in Kilkeel, it would be The Good the Bad and the Ugly, The Godfather and The Exorcist.

7. Worst film you’ve seen? Darby O Gill and the Little People. I’ve never been so scared in my life.

8. Favourite authors? At the minute it’s Dermot Healy, George V Higgins and Pat McCabe.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team? All of them, except golf. A kindly young lad used to play soccer with me at the end of his paper round when I was little. I’m a writer and he is head of the local Schomberg Society, I believe, but we’re both still Everton supporters.

10. Ideal holiday destination? Cong in Co Mayo if I could go back 45 years and re-people it with the shadowy legends who walked the abbey grounds and fished the lake.

11. Pet hate? I think I don’t have any, but when I asked my wife Marie she laughed and walked out of the room.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Winter Sunday dinners with the four of us around the table – beef or lamb, rich dark gravy, roast potatoes and the fire blazing.

Dessert? I save them and eat them for breakfast.

Drink? My daughter bought me a bottle of 12-year old Redbreast whiskey for Christmas. Either that, or cheap cans of lager.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other? My wife Marie. We’ve known each other since we were four.

14. Is there a God? Frances Bacon said that the job of all art is to deepen the mystery. The closest I can get to God is a sense of the unknowable.

:: The John Hewitt International Summer School, taking place in The Market Place Theatre, Armagh, July 23-28. This year's focus is on Facing change: shifting borders and allegiances, with over 35 events from more than 60 writers, artists, commentators and lecturers, examining how changing circumstances affect how we think and behave. Eoin McNamee will host a three-day creative writing workshop on radio drama.

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