Arts Q&A: Writer Paul McVeigh on Al Green, David Bowie and Billy Wilder

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Belfast author Paul McVeigh

Belfast author Paul McVeigh is involved in organising this month's inaugural Jaipur Literature Festival Belfast. Picture by Roelof Bakker

1. When did you think about a career in writing and what were your first steps into it? I fell into writing for theatre from directing plays, then comedy while directing stand-ups in London. It wasn't until my 30s I started writing to be read rather than performed. It was a short story that would later become my novel The Good Son.

2. Best gigs you've been to? Glastonbury, any of the years I went. The atmosphere is unbelievable and I saw so many incredible artists. My other favourite gigs are Suede at the Brixton Academy and The Smiths at Ulster Hall (mainly because it was my first concert).

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band? For my wedding I think I'd like a soul singer. I'll take Al Green – it is fantasy on every level though because as it stands, I'm not allowed to get married here.

4. The record you'd take to a desert island? Hunky Dory by David Bowie because there's songs on there that make me sing and dance like a nutter. And no-one should ever have to see those moves or hear those sounds.

5. And the book?

An enormous anthology of short stories – I love that each one contains a little world and I'd like to have many little worlds to think about while being stuck on one little one.

6. Top three films? It's A Wonderful Life is my hands down favourite film of all time, followed by Some Like It Hot – you can tell I like the oldies. And another Billy Wilder movie, Double Indemnity – a classic thriller, with its murky world of double-crossing femme-fatales.

7. Worst film you've seen? Too many to think of. I'm the Grinch when it comes to enjoying books, comedy, films and plays – anything I've ever studied or worked in. It's terrible, I just see the flaws… never go to the cinema with me.

8. Favourite authors? Ernest Hemmingway, Maya Angelou and George Saunders for his short stories.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team? I used to love tennis – play and follow it. Now I do neither, so no sport at all. I feel like a failure.

10. Ideal holiday destination? Right now, a beach, anywhere, with a bar.

11. Pet hate? Time.

12. What's your favourite:

Dinner? Sunday roast.

Dessert? Panna cotta.

Drink? A good G&T.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other? You could start murder with that kind of question. So, I'll pick my NBF (newest best friend – is that a thing?). Tony. We both moved back to Belfast after being away 20 years and a mutual friend put us in touch. Happy 50th me aul mucker.

14. Is there a God? I wasn't one of those kids who had imaginary friends.

:: Writer Paul McVeigh has been involved in organising the inaugural Jaipur Literature Festival Belfast from June 21-23. He will take part in Being Both: Puzzles of Identity alongside fellow writer Salil Tripathi, Shannon Yee and Lucy Caldwell at Belfast's Lyric Theatre on June 22. For full JLF Belfast programme visit

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