Brought to Book: Martina Reilly on ‘Lovers’, Anne Tyler and Irish Olympians
‘I never put out a novel that I’m not proud of, so I’m not easily knocked by a bad review’
Martina Reilly: “Sometimes books that are easy to read can be dismissed a little too comfortably. Books are easy to read because there is a rhythm and a lightness to the prose.” Photograph: Conor Healy
Martina Reilly’s new novel, Things I Want You to Know, (Hachette Ireland) is out now. When a tragedy tore his life apart, Nick Deegan left his wife Kate and their two young children. When Kate dies, Nick moves back home to raise Emma and Liam. He discovers a book she left for him containing the dos and don’ts of raising their children but also the details of five dates, with five very different women, Kate has arranged for Nick in the months ahead. It’s not romance Kate wants him to find, but something far more important.
What was the first book to make an impression on you?
Enid Blyton’s books – I devoured everything she wrote and I loved the worlds she created from enchanted forests to child detectives. I knew from reading her that I wanted to write stories too. Either that or solve mysteries. Writing was easier.
What was your favourite book as a child?
The Silver Crown by Robert O’Brien. It was first printed in 1973 and I’d never read anything quite like it before. Very much an early Series of Unfortunate Events. It taught me that anything can be made believable if the writing is right.
And what is your favourite book or books now?
A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, On Beauty by Zadie Smith, What is the What? by Dave Eggers. There are loads more I could mention, but these are the ones I still think about and reread.
What is your favourite quotation?
“Easy reading is damn hard writing” – Nathaniel Hawthorne. I like this because sometimes books that are easy to read can be dismissed a little too comfortably. Books are easy to read because there is a rhythm and a lightness to the prose.
Who is your favourite fictional character?
As a teenager it used to be Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, but now it’s Barnaby Gaitlin in A Patchwork Planet. I love character-driven novels especially when the character in question is an outsider. Anne Tyler is an expert on mining the ordinary and finding what is extraordinary. In Barnaby, she has created a wonderfully complex anti-hero.
Who is the most under-rated Irish author?
Oh, don’t get me started....a lot of perceived “chick-lit” authors are seriously under-rated by the media. The public know better, though. Rant over.
Which do you prefer – ebooks or the traditional print version?
Print version every time. Nothing like the smell of a new book, or the feel of a new book. Nothing like wandering into a bookshop and seeing the massive choice laid out before you.
What is the most beautiful book you own?
It’s a children’s book – Night and the Candlemaker by Wolfgang Somary. Illustrated by Simon Bartram. The prose and the pictures are beautiful. And of course, a copy of my own first ever published book, a teenage tale – Livewire.
Where and how do you write?
I write in an office in my house. I write mostly when my children are in school and give myself weekends off.
What book changed the way you think about fiction?
Aside from Robert O’Brien’s The Silver Crown it was actually the play Lovers by Brian Friel. It excited me to see the way he structured it so that the audience knew the future before the characters did. It freed me up to play with narrative structure in my own novels.
What is the most research you have done for a book?