Article published on June 16, 2016.
The day I received my copy of newbooks magazine with the retrospective of Maggie O’Farrell’s work was also the day I received an email letting me know she would be appearing at Mainstreet Trading bookshop. So I obviously had to go and see her.
She was delightful – it was a very entertaining evening. She was skilfully interviewed by Stuart Kelly, literary editor of Scotland on Sunday, who obviously admired her work. Many of her comments and answers were prefaced by her own laughter and followed by the audience’s answering laughter. For instance, when she related how her toddler daughter presented her with a semi masticated handful of post-it notes, which had previously been carefully arranged on a cork board, detailing the plot of ‘This Must be the Place’.
She explained that she’d wanted this new novel to be more global than ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’. She saw the central story of Daniel and Claudette’s marriage as the skeleton of the book, with the other multi-layered stories fleshing it out but also creating schisms and gaps when events were seen from different perspectives.
Although she has tackled many big issues in her novels, she says is more character led. She has been inspired by short story writers such as Alice Munro, but doesn’t write short stories herself – they need different skills. Though Stuart Kelly pointed out that the chapter about Rosalind in Bolivia could stand alone as a short story. She did start off trying to write poetry but soon realised that she preferred writing prose. However, she still remembers what she was taught ‘that every word should be justified’ and tries to do this with her novels. I would say that she has succeeded.