Léan Cullinan on learning to love rewriting
This week, to mark the end of our How to Write a Book series, we have a daily Q&A with a debut author
Author Lean Cullinan. Photograph: Alan Betson
Léan Cullinan has been writing since childhood and is a graduate of the MPhil in Creative Writing at Trinity College Dublin. Her debut novel is The Living. She lives in Dublin with her husband and two sons.
What was the first book to make an impression on you? The first book I read all by myself was a one-volume edition of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I remember kneeling at the footstool in my grandmother’s livingroom, with the book on the upholstered surface in front of me. I finished reading the last page, closed the back cover, hefted the heavy hardback and flipped it over, then opened the front cover and started reading again from the beginning.
What was your favourite book as a child? When I was maybe eight my grandmother suggested I read a particular book from her well stocked shelves, and I solemnly told her, “No thanks, I only read magic.” I was quite the junior folklorist, for many years subsisting on a diet of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Book collections, Italo Calvino’s massive edition of Italian folk tales, and a volume of Russian fairy tales with pages as thin as onion-skin.
And what is your favourite book or books now? I love Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, and everything I’ve read by George Eliot. Maybe The Mill on the Floss especially. I also have an abiding affection for the work of Dorothy L Sayers, PG Wodehouse, Arthur Conan Doyle, Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula K Le Guin. For starters, like. I think I’m easy to please.
What is your favourite quotation? French journalist to Samuel Beckett: “Vous êtes anglais?” Beckett: “Au contraire.”
Who is your favourite fictional character? Reginald Jeeves. Sherlock Holmes. Granny Weatherwax. Apparently I have a weakness for infallibility.
Which do you prefer – ebooks or the traditional print version? I like them both for different purposes. Paper books are my first love, but electronic is handy for reading while eating or making notes, because I can prop the device up and leave both hands free. I don’t like when I’ve been reading an ebook and then find myself tapping the edge of a printed page to try and make it turn.