Maeve Binchy, author of Minding Frankie, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |September 3, 2010

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Maeve Binchy

author of

Minding Frankie, Tara Road, Full House, Circle of Friends and many, many more…

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Dublin in 1940 the eldest child of a happy couple who told me I was the best girl in the world. My father was a lawyer, my mother had been a nurse but in those days women didn’t work after marriage. I had two sisters and a brother, went to school at The Holy Child Convent, and then to University at University College Dublin.

Life was safe and happy and we lived such a peaceful contented life that no one would believe it if I wrote about it. So no autobiography!

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve I wanted to be a Saint. The first Saint Maeve. I was absolutely sure that I would too. When I was eighteen I wanted to be a judge, not an ordinary lawyer but a judge. I was certain it was possible, but fortunately I realised that I would have been hopeless at any kind of law and changed to studying History to become a teacher.

When I was thirty I would like to have been a wife. I saw a lot of my friends with happy marriages and wondered should I have travelled less and concentrated more on finding a husband. By great luck and good fortune I found one not long after, and he is the love of my life.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

When I was eighteen I believed strongly that everyone was looking at you, and either criticising you or praising you. Later I discovered that nobody is really interested at all in what you are doing. It was a huge liberation.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

In the 1960s there was a great re-discovery of old Irish music and I was very moved by these ancient melodies, laments and songs which made me proud of being Irish and made me want to celebrate my own heritage. I loved the stories of Charles Dickens and the way he could bring you into the lives of so many people. I liked Great Expectations more than any other.

I liked the poetry of WB Yeats, it was simple to read and it flowed gently along but the more you thought about it the more you found in it.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I had written short stories already but always felt a little disappointed when I came to the end, I felt I wanted to follow the characters and know what happened to them next! This meant a novel, I found it hard to keep at it but eventually it was finished. Then everyone loved it and I was as pleased as anything and started the next one!

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The latest novel Minding Frankie is about a baby girl called Frankie whose mother dies in childbirth and whose father seems, to say the least, unreliable; he is a loser and an alcoholic called Noel. But Noel awed by the possibility of being a parent and therefore someone who might be admired and respected resolves to pull his life together. The social worker on the case doesn’t believe he will go the distance and she wants to take Frankie away and put the child in care. The story is about how the people on his street bond together to help Noel keep his baby. (Click here to read an extract.)

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I hope that people will take away from my books the belief that none of us live ordinary lives. We are all the heroes and heroines of our own dramas. They are not makeover books. Nobody necessarily becomes slimmer, richer or married by the end of the story. We have all met slim, rich, married people who live nightmarishly unhappy lives. Instead they become more confident and take control of their own lives. This gives us all hope. (BBGuru: Love this answer.)

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

I admire the writers William Trevor and Thomas Keneally. William Trevor because he is meticulous and exact, describing the lives of both the very rich and the very poor and gets right into the hearts and minds of both. Tom Keneally because he never writes the same formula, he goes for a different world every time and succeeds.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

My goals are to keep going and to be more disciplined about getting upstairs to work immediately after breakfast rather than lingering and talking and reading the newspapers! My head is full of ideas, I’d love to write a few more of these down as stories.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Believe in yourself. Take your work seriously but never take yourself seriously, that way you can become pompous. Try to enjoy it and not worry. It’s a lovely world to be in. You’re welcome to come and join it.

Maeve Binchy, thank you for playing.

Maeve Binchy’s Treasury

by Maeve Binchy

A collection of Maeve Binchy’s heart warming short stories, including some set in Australia, all showing her deep insights into family life.

Maeve Binchy is one of the world’s best loved story tellers. This collection from Australia and around the world gives us stories that are sad and happy, thoughtful and humourous, but always abounding with the author’s trade mark generosity of spirit. Families, friends, lovers and the lonely, all are drawn with affection and wisdom.

Elsa makes a Christmas wish at the Statue of Liberty which comes true in a most unexpected way. Amy opts for the simple life when Dan bites off more than he can chew. Frankie uses an unexpected trip with Robert to find out what she really wants from their relationship. Victor, a self-confessed hopeless romantic, accompanies a friend to Australia with no thought of love on his mind. Nick and Janet meet at the Sydney Fish Markets…everything seems perfect, what could go wrong? Victoria imagines what it would mean to her widowed father to join her in his beloved Paris for a weekend. Bran enters a competition to broaden his horizons.

Click here to buy Maeve Binchy’s Treasury from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

A Week in Winter

by Maeve Binchy

Set on the west coast of Ireland, a brand new book from No.1 bestselling author Maeve Binchy.

High on the cliffs of the west coast of Ireland, overlooking the windswept Atlantic ocean, is Stone House. Once falling into disrepair, it is now a beautiful hotel specialising in winter holidays. With a big, warm kitchen, log fires and understated, elegant bedrooms, it provides a welcome few can resist, whatever their reasons for coming…

Henry and Nicola are burdened with a terrible secret and are hoping the break at Stone House will help them find a way to face the future. Winnie, generally one to make the best of things, finds herself on the holiday from hell. Then there’s John, who arrived on impulse after he missed a flight at Shannon; eccentric Freda, who claims to be a psychic – and the silent, watchful Nell, who seems so ready to disapprove. But looks can be deceptive…

Click here to buy A Week in Winter from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Full House

by Maeve Binchy

Dee loves her children very much, but now they are all grown up, shouldn’t they leave home?

Rosie moved out when she got married, but it didn’t work out, so now she is back with her parents. Helen is a teacher and doesn’t earn enough for a place of her own.

Anthony writes songs and is just waiting for the day when someone will pay him for them. Until then, all three are happy at home. It doesn’t cost them anything and surely their parents like having a full house?

When a crisis occurs, Dee decides things have to change for the whole family…whether they like it or not.

Click here to buy Full House from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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  • June 29, 2011 at 4:44 am

    What a terrific, encouraging interview. I can’t wait to read ‘Minding Frankie!’

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