Arts Q&A: Author Roisin Meaney on Imelda May, The Beatles and La La Land

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Irish novelist Roisin Meaney

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

I always loved books, but never considered trying to write one. When I was 18 I won a car by finishing a sentence that began "I would like to win a Ford Fiesta" with "because my father won't let me drive his." I won the car and then entered more competitions, and won more things. In the meantime I became a teacher but took a career break after 10 years and got a job as an advertising copywriter, and the seed was sown. Seven years later I wrote a book.

2. Best gigs you've been to?

I'm not a great gig goer, but I did go to a Janis Ian concert in Dublin donkey's years ago, and loved how intimate she made the big venue seem. The pal I went with climbed up on stage after the gig and took a paper cup Janis had been drinking from. I saw Imelda May in concert in Limerick a few years ago, shortly after she hit the big time. She was very late arriving and that annoyed me, but she gave a great night's entertainment so I forgave her.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

The Beatles, dead and alive. I'm not mad about all their songs but they'd get the crowd going, and they have a good mix of fast and slow so the oldies would be happy.

4. The record you'd take to a desert island?

Supertramp's Crisis What Crisis. I'm sentimentally attached as it was the first one I ever bought. I love every track. I have a CD of it now that one of my brothers gave me for Christmas a few years ago – hadn't heard it for years, it was a real trip down memory lane.

5. And the book?

Something long because I'm a slow reader with a crap memory, so by the time I finished it I'd have forgotten the start and could dive in again. Maybe Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, which took me forever to read but which was worth it.

6. Top three films?

1. The Remains of the Day for the performances, and the story and the heartbreak of it all. I'd read the book and loved it, so I approached the film with trepidation, but it didn't let me down.

2. Crazy Stupid Love. Just wonderful. Stellar cast, great interconnecting stories, big surprise in the middle.

3. La La Land. Such happy escapism. Loved the dancing and singing, although I wouldn't normally go for it. Thought Ryan and Emma made great fists of both.

7. Worst film you've seen?

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Hadn't a clue what was going on. Felt utterly stupid, as clearly everyone else followed it perfectly.

8. Favourite authors?

Anne Tyler, William Trevor and Kate Atkinson

9. Sports you most enjoy and top teams?

My blind spot – none.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

West Clare. I have a little secret cottage there – shhh. ?

11. Pet hates?


12. What's your favourite:

Dinner? A good homemade burger and fat chips.

Dessert? Rhubarb and custard pie. Drool.

Drink? Guinness. ?

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

Orla. I met her in primary school. We went to different secondary schools and met up again when we both went to teacher training college.

14. Is there a God?

Haven't a clue, but I kind of hope so.

:: Roisin Meaney's 17th book, The Restaurant, tells the story of Emily who after she is jilted at the alter swears off love forever and instead throws herself into her new business – a restaurant designed with the single diner in mind. It is published by Hachette and is available now.

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