Arts Q&A: Writer Henrietta McKervey on Wham, Rufus Wainright and The Wizard of Oz

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Belfast-born author Henrietta McKervey

Irish writer Henrietta McKervey whose new novel A Talented Man is published this week

1. When did you think about a career in writing and what were your first steps into it?

I’d always wanted to write, but never thought I could. I’ve no idea whose permission I was waiting for. My own, I guess. In 2010 I decided to try, knowing I’d regret it otherwise.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

Bjork at Brixton Academy, about 1995; Rufus Wainright at Iveagh Gardens in 2012 and Damo Suzuki with Julian Hayman, Euros Childs, Richard James, Ed Mugford and Stephen Morris at Laugharne weekend, West Wales in 2019. Improvised genius.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

On the basis that George is still alive and we can go back in time, it’s Wham, circa Everything She Wants.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island and why?

Rufus Wainright, Want One. Beautiful and sounds great outdoors (see best gigs).

5. And the book?

See What Can Be Done, Lorrie Moore’s 2018 collection of essays and criticism.

6. Top three films?

The Wizard of Oz (1939). I’ve watched it every few years since I was five and find something new to love every time. Charade (1963). Cary Grant was reluctant because he was 25 years older than Audrey Hepburn, but oh boy does the chemistry between them work. Funny, stylish and well written. Can You Ever Forgive Me (2018) starring Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel, famous forger of American letters. Great performances from her, and Richard E Grant. My new book A Talented Man is about literary forgery, which gave this an added interest.

7. Worst film you’ve seen?

Plenty of contenders. I was terribly disappointed by Top Cat a few years back. I loved the cartoon when I was little.

8. Favourite authors?

Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, David Lodge and Lorrie Moore.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team?

Does my son’s under-16 football team count? I go to a spin class, but was never into team sports.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

I love visiting foreign cities, but not as our family holiday. We went to a village near Sesimbra in Portugal last year and it was so lovely. I have lovely memories of a hot day on a beautiful, quiet beach, with ever-so-slightly chilly water and huge waves.

11. Pet hate?

Rude people.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? I’m vegetarian and love Indian food.

Dessert? Cheese board please.

Drink? A dry white wine if I’m drinking alcohol, a very cold water if not.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

Michael Foley. We met 25 years ago when we worked together and have been close ever since. Even though I mightn’t see him for months, we can pick up in seconds and it’s always great.

14. Is there a God?


:: Henrietta McKervey’s latest thriller A Talented Man is published tomorrow by Hachette Ireland.

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