Danielle McLaughlin: ‘I think we need different books at different times’
Our Book Club author on Eimear McBride, Maud Gonne McBride, Elena Ferrante, Wide Sargasso Sea and why dead people, naturally, are her dream dinner party guests
What lessons has Danielle McLaughlin learned about life from reading? “To question. To see things from different viewpoints. That there are as many versions of a particular story as there are people involved. That some stories don’t get told at all”
What was the first book to make an impression on you?
I recall being terrified as a very small child by the Ladybird version of Rumpelstiltskin so that definitely made an impression on me, albeit not a happy one.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Anne of Green Gables.
And what is your favourite book or books now?
Earlier this year I discovered Elena Ferrante. I love The Lost Daughter.
What is your favourite quotation?
‘It’s always shit until it isn’t’ – which I’m attributing, rightly or wrongly, to Kevin Barry.
Who is your favourite fictional character?
Girly Hartnett in City of Bohane.
Which do you prefer – ebooks or the traditional print version?
What is the most beautiful book you own?
Issue 1 of Winter Pages arts anthology.
Where and how do you write?
In the mornings, I like to write longhand in a cafe. In the afternoons and evenings, I write at home on the computer.
What book changed the way you think about fiction?
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.
What is the most research you have done for a book?
The story in the collection that required the most research was The Art of Footbinding where I had to research Chinese foot-binding practices.
What book influenced you the most?
It’s difficult to pick just one, but Wide Sargasso Sea was a big one for me.
What book would you give to a friend’s child on their 18th birthday?
That would depend on the child, and what they most needed from a book at that particular time. I think we need different books at different times.
What book do you wish you had read when you were young?
I read lots and lots when I was young. I really loved reading. Looking back, I have no regrets about not reading any particular book.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Keep going. Advice given to me once by Valerie Trueblood at Cork International Short Story festival.
What weight do you give reviews?
This is my first book, so I have limited experience of reviews. I do read them and it’s always a joy when someone says they like the stories.
Where do you see the publishing industry going?
I don’t think about that too much.
What writing trends have struck you lately?
Writing that blurs lines between forms, writing that innovates with structure
What lessons have you learned about life from reading?
To question. To see things from different viewpoints. That there are as many versions of a particular story as there are people involved. That some stories don’t get told at all.
What has being a writer taught you?
That it’s possible to change your life at any age.
Which writers, living or dead, would you invite to your dream dinner party?
I’m not good at dinner parties. Possibly I’d communicate better with the dead people, so I’m going to say Maeve Brennan and Flannery O’Connor
What is the funniest scene you’ve read?
That’s so difficult to choose. There’s a scene in A L Kennedy’s story, These Small Pieces, where the protagonist is in church reflecting on the reading (God commanding Abraham to kill Isaac) which is hilarious.
What is your favourite word?
I don’t have a favourite.
If you were to write a historical novel, which event or figure would be your subject?
Perhaps Maud Gonne MacBride.
What is the most moving book or passage you have read?
I was very moved by Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing.
If you have a child, what book did you most enjoy reading to them?
Where the Wild Things Are.
Danielle McLaughlin’s stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Irish Times, Southword, The Penny Dreadful, Long Story Short and in The Stinging Fly. She has won various awards for her short fiction, including the William Trevor/Elizabeth Bowen International Short Story Competition, The Willesden Herald International Short Story Prize, The Merriman Short Story Competition in memory of Maeve Binchy, and the Dromineer Literary Festival Short Story Competition. Danielle was awarded an Arts Council Bursary in 2013. Her debut collection of short stories, Dinosaurs on Other Planets, was published by The Stinging Fly Press in 2015. She lives in Co Cork with her husband and three young children.