Belinda McKeon considers Leitrim for new novel

County Leitrim is being considered as a background location for award winning author, Belinda McKeon’s new novel.

County Leitrim is being considered as a background location for award winning author, Belinda McKeon’s new novel.

Best selling Irish author Belinda McKeon was awarded the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in London last Wednesday, July 18 for her first novel Solace. This award joins McKeon’s Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book of the Year 2011 as well as the Sunday Independent Best Newcomer award. Belinda is THE new Irish author to be reading.

The Leitrim Observer caught up with this very successful young woman in Ballinamore library last Tuesday, July 17 for her reading of ‘Solas’ - an event tied to the Cross Border Readers’ Symposium to be held in the town in August.

Belinda has huge Leitrim connections, she is married to Aengus Woods from Drumshanbo, son of well known Nancy Woods. And her grandmother was Heslin from Cloone.

Belinda and her husband are home from New York at the moment, so the Drumshanbo area is where she is currently working on her new novel. Belinda would not be drawn out on what the new novel is about, she gave away no themes, no clues to characters but she did let something very big slip: “It maybe partly set in Leitrim.”

She quickly said, the location has not been decided and it may change, but as she is currently writing in Leitrim, and the location seems to be fitting in nicely. She noted the “lack of internet” connection is helping her focus more on her writting. Towards the end of the brief interview she indicated that novel may have a dark or indeed unsavoury theme

Solas is a novel about the conflict between old rural Ireland and contemporary Dublin, and although Belinda insists the book is split 50/50 between urban and rural, it has become loved as a book about rural life.

It took Belinda six years to bring Solas from conception to print, but it was worth the wait as it has been an overwhelming success, nationally and abroad.

Despite the success and awards Solas received, Belinda said none of that plays on her mind when writting her second novel. The 32 year old always wanted to be a writer and was churning out creative writting from the age of seven.

She said she never goes looking for an idea, they all come to her. Every day the author receives emails, tweets or other forms of compliments about her book, about how people have connected with it - she said this has been a great boost to her confidence.

Belinda read two passages from Soals to the crowd in Ballinamore library who were made up of members of local reading groups and of fans of Solas. She took questions on the book afterwards and chatted tot hose present about writting and how she develops characters.

Belinda started her career in the Longford Leader as a journalist, she now writes for the Arts Section of the Irish Times, and is also a play wright while also taking in a role as an art curator and lecturer

Advice to those thinking about writting a book “Stop thinking and write.” Belinda said all you need is a pen and paper or a computer - she told first timers to get the ideas down - you don’t need to know the whole story before you start to write. Belinda herself goes on an adventure journey with her characters “sometimes they surprise me” she admits.

Belinda McKeon was invited to Ballinamore by Ruth Moore, Cultural Coordinator as part of the Dialogues through Literature programme. Sean O’Heslin GAA park will hold a Cross Border Reader’s Symposium from August 2-4 offering readers the opportunity to meet together across cultural backgrounds and the border to hear authors read and to engage with speakers about literature. The event will host readers groups from across Leitrim, Fermanagh, Cavan and Tyrone.

This three day event which will take place in a large marquee presents a wonderful opportunity for rural and border readers to hear authors and writers read and talk about their work as well as have the opportunity to discuss literary themes and approaches.

Some well known names that will speak at the symposium will include Joe Brolly (Former Derry footballer), Seamus O’Rourke (local play wright and actor), Theo Dorgan, Mary O’Donnell, David Park, Susan McKay, DBC Pierre, Christine Dwyer Hickey, Tony Mc Auley and Gearóid Mac Lochlainn. They will discuss writings but also the influence of the border, sport and rural life on their work.

The event will also include a tour of McGahern Country and some Irish language events.

Registration is free, and has been extended to Monday 30th July. To book your place at this unique event call Caroline McCartin, Ballinamore County Library on (071) 9645546.