Bookcase Focus: An interview with Patrick McGuinness

Bookcase Focus: An interview with Patrick McGuinness

Wales Literature Exchange interviewed our Bookcase author Patrick McGuinness, about his writing and his influences.

What first inspired you to become a writer, and where do your ideas come from?

I write about what I know, or think I know, and I can only really answer that question in the specific: my novel about Romania and the fall of communism, The Last Hundred Days, came about because I was haunted by the place and the time, and the sense that I wanted to communicate the universal moral greyness of life there and then; my memoir of my childhood in Belgium, Other People’s Countries, came about from a sense that the life there and then was worth preserving, if only in language.

I have no general rules about writing, and no sense of ‘being a writer’ as an identity.

How would you describe your writing?

I wouldn’t really describe it – I’d leave others to do that, if they wanted to.

Which authors have influenced you the most?

In poetry, Thom Gunn and in prose JG Farrell.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges that writers face today - and do you think these challenges have changed since you started writing?

It’s all a challenge isn’t it? Writing in the first place, getting published, getting read, getting reviewed… but people wouldn’t do it if there weren’t huge satisfaction to be had from it, which is why writers are lucky people. I say this as someone who isn't a freelance or full-time writer, for whom the challenge is obviously financial, and many extremely successful and terrific writers struggle to make ends meet.

What are the hardest and easiest parts of being a writer?

All the above.

Which writer(s) from Wales would you recommend to readers, and why?

I’d recommend two poets,  Lynette Roberts and John Ormond. Roberts was a wonderful, unbridled imagination, and a remarkable person. Her Collected Poems show one of the great British modernists at work, full of humanity, inventiveness, experimentation and warmth. Ormond, another undervalued writer, was a graceful and scrupulous poet capable of great beauty and great intellectual precision.

Other People’s Countries by Patrick McGuinness has been selected to the Wales Literature Exchange 2014 - 2015 Bookcase, our annual selection of recent Welsh literary works which we recommend for translation. Read more here.

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