Be glad in the Lord and rejoice! Psalm 32:11

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Five Questions With ... Aine Greaney, author of "Dancing Lessons"

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I'm so pleased to introduce you to my new friend, Irish author Aine Greaney.  Aine was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her busy schedule to share a little bit about herself and her writing.

Sharon: At what age did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

Aine:   I grew up on a remote farm in the west of Ireland. As idyllic and rustic as that sounds, I always had an eye on the horizon. So I read voraciously as a child. That was my escape. There were times when books were more real to me than the meadows or the house itself.  I always wanted to be a writer, but quite honestly, never really had the courage to try. Of course, I did the weepy teenage poem thing (the usual topics of gloom, doom, and self-pity), and I’ve always kept a journal.  Deep into the throws of a love affair (with James Joyce), I tried a few short stories while at college in Dublin (I had to walk past one of the houses he once lived in every day on my way to campus). But I never really wrote or sent anything out for publication until I moved to the U.S. in 1986.  Being away and across the sea gave me courage.

Sharon: At what point in your career did it finally sink in – “hey, I’m famous,” and did it make a difference in your writing?

Aine:  Oh, I’m not sure I will ever feel “famous,” even if I had 30 books and a huge blockbuster movie script and 20 personal servants at my beck and call (sigh).  If I were to get that famous, I know I would probably have all their servants put their feet up and I would be making them tea—and apologizing for the state of the house!  Seriously, I  would hope that fame doesn’t make a difference in the daily writing itself. I suppose having a few books published makes you place the bar a little higher for yourself, but honestly, every project is a whole new set of fears and joys and challenges.  Fame is only a good thing if it has made you a better person or earned you more money to donate to real causes and/or it has made you into a better artist.  Fame has no value in and of itself. Or it shouldn’t, right?

Sharon:  Who are some of your favorite authors? Who inspires you?

Aine:  I’m an eclectic reader. I love the British author Penelope Lively. I also like Joanna Trollope (here I go with British female authors again).  I like Colum McCann’s work (o.k., we’re edging toward the Irish here … this is promising …).  I also like an American novelist called Marcia Preston.  When I was young I was very influenced by Irish authors like John McGahern and Edna O’Brien.  I’m a big user of my local public library here in Massachusetts, so I often just pick up books at random, though I do tend to gravitate toward books by second-language or immigrant writers (file it under “birds of a feather” and all that).  

Sharon: What do you have coming up in the future?

Aine:  After the launch of “Dance Lessons,” I’m looking forward to getting back to long writing projects.  I have a few non-fiction essays about my early years and immigration to America that I want to tidy up and consider sending out for publication. I’m also in the very early stages of my third novel, which, like “Dance Lessons,” will move back and forth in time between the contemporary and the past.  I like books that honor the fluidity of time and how the past always leeches into our present lives. This is a major theme of “Dance Lessons,” and I can’t seem to get away from it. Even in our personal lives, I think it’s hard to talk about our present without acknowledging our personal and shared histories.  

Sharon: What advice would you have for anyone wanting to break into the writing biz today?

Aine: First, keep your day job. Really, I mean it! I work four days per week for a non-profit, and I teach writing workshops and I write.  A part- or full-time job gives the writer the financial stability to make you less obsessed with and vulnerable to the trends and fads and whims of the publishing markets.  Second, you have to read in the genre in which you want to write. Third,  I advise all my adult writing students to keep a personal journal. It’s a great way to build your writing muscle and your writing voice. Just write for 10 minutes or a few pages per day. When I teach writing workshops, I can always tell who is a journal-keeper; they’re just much stronger writers.  And finally,  while it’s important to pay attention to the personal and the introspective, I encourage my students to simultaneously start looking for ways to get published and build clips and confidence. It can be as simple as writing something for the newsletter at your church or professional association or social group. Or an Op-Ed for the local newspaper.  Whatever it is, re-drafting and polishing one’s work for print and publication helps a writer to transition from writer into reader. Over the course of a writing career, we are asked to do this over and over: to objectively assess our own work and make tough cuts and edits along the way.

About The Author:

An Irish native, Aine Greaney moved to the U.S. in 1986. She lives in the greater Boston area. Her short stories, personal essays and features have appeared in literary and consumer magazines. Her second novel, "Dance Lessons" will be released on April 1. In addition to writing, she teaches creative writing at various schools, arts and libraries. Her how-to writing book, "Writer with a Day Job" will be released in June, 2011.  Check out her website at http://www.ainegreaney.com/ for more information about her books and writing projects.
About The Book:
A year after her husband’s death in a sailing accident off Martha’s Vineyard, Ellen Boisvert bumps into an old friend. In this chance encounter, she discovers that her immigrant husband of almost fifteen years was not an orphan after all. Instead, his aged mother Jo is alive and residing on the family’s isolated farm in the west of Ireland.

Faced with news of her mother-in-law incarnate, the thirty-nine-year-old American prep school teacher decides to travel to Ireland to investigate the truth about her husband Fintan and why he kept his family’s existence a secret for so many years.

Between Jo’s hilltop farm and the lakeside village of Gowna, Ellen begins to uncover the mysteries of her Irish husband’s past and the cruelties and isolation of his rural childhood. Ellen also stumbles upon Fintan’s long-ago romance with a local village woman, with whom he had a daughter, Cat. Cat is now fourteen and living with her mother in London. As Ellen reconciles her troubled relationship with Fintan, she discovers a way to heal the wounds of the past.

Deeply rooted in the Irish landscape and sensibility, Dance Lessons is a powerful story of loss, regret, and transformation.  (Watch for my review of Dance Lessons on Saturday!)

My sincere thanks to Aine Greaney for participating in this question-and-answer! 


Mary said...

Wonderful interview, Sharon and Aine. I will look for Dance Lessons!

dollycas aka Lori said...

I am so excited, Jeff finally fixed my computer to run faster which gives me time to actually visit!!! Great post!!!

Booksnyc said...

I just finished Dancing Lessons and LOVED it -wonderfully complex characters against the backdrop of the rugged Irish countryside!

thanks for sharing these interview - its good to see the author's literary influences!