Arts Q&A: Writer Louise Kennedy on Elvis Costello, Edna O'Brien and starting to write in her 40s...

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

Author Louise Kennedy

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

I came to it by accident, when a friend cajoled me into joining a writing group in 2014, when I was 47. I'm not the kind of person who joins things, but must have been curious.

The first meeting was utter hell but, to save face, I agreed to try to write a short story. By the end of the first paragraph I didn't want to do anything else. Before I started writing, I was held together by anti-depressants and prone to lying in bed watching Homes Under the Hammer. Writing has given me so much it is mad to think I could very easily never have started.

2. Best gigs you've been to?

The Smiths, National Stadium, February 1986: I loved that band so much and it was a great show, but the best thing about that night was the angsty young fellas in Dunne's Stores jumpers who kept climbing onto the stage to throw their arms around Morrissey and had to be pulled off him by the bouncers.

The Pogues, Olympic Ballroom, December 1986: I became separated from my friends and got stuck at the front, which was both terrifying and outrageous craic. I left looking like Alice Cooper, with a rivulet of molten mascara and eyeliner on each cheek.

Elvis Costello and The Attractions, Olympia Theatre, July 1994: A brilliant gig, but the best thing about it was that I didn't have to go to Féile to see them – I hate muck, queueing and portaloos.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?


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

Nancy and Lee by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood. It's my happy music, even though some of the songs, like Elusive Dreams, are devastating. On a desert island, I could sing along at the top of my voice without people telling me to shut up, like they do in this house on Friday evenings.


5. And the book you'd take to a desert island?

I know I should be saying Anna Karenina or Ulysses or the Bible or something, but I would probably only want to take a big fat blank notebook. And a black Pentel Energel pen.

6. Top three films?

On the Waterfront: I love everything about it; Brando stumbling into work after his hiding, Karl Malden running around distraught, trying to stop the inevitable.

Manchester by the Sea: That tiny scene with Michelle Williams nearly killed me. As did all of it.

School of Rock: When my children were small we wore out two DVDs of that film. It was the first film everyone in the house could bear to watch. We all still remember it by heart and randomly roar lines from it at each other.

7. Worst film you've seen?

Marriage Story: That pair were the least sympathetic characters I've had the misfortune to see on screen in my entire life. The dialogue was diabolical and when Adam Driver leapt across that room to sing a wee number for his sycophantic troupe, I nearly boked

8. Favourite authors?

Edna O'Brien, Edna O'Brien and Edna O'Brien.

9. Sport(s) you most enjoy and top team(s)?

I'm happy to watch most sport on TV. I do not have particularly strong feelings about teams, but am partial to Down and Sligo Rovers.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

Rome. Or anywhere that's more than five km from this house.

11. Pet hates?

Fussy eaters, bigots and cleaning behind the toilet.

12. What's your favourite:

Dinner? Mackerel grilled within a couple of hours of being caught, brown bread and butter and a simple green salad.

Dessert? Cheese. Ideally French, runny and minging with bacteria.

Drink? Guinness, but only in pubs. Wine, ideally a cheeky wee Cotes du Rhone Villages.

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

Sligo writer Una Mannion. I knew her a little for over 20 years, but since we started writing together in 2014 I have spoken to her every day. In fact, I have just phoned her to ask if it's okay to say she's my best friend. (She said it is.)

14. Is there a God?

I bloody hope not.

:: Louise Kennedy's The End of The World is a Cul de Sac is an engaging short story selection published by Bloomsbury Publishing, and is out now.

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