Jeff Glor talks to Kevin Maher about, "The Fields."
Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?
Kevin Maher: How long have you got? I'll try and be brief, but there were two interconnected moments of inspiration: One, in the year 2001, when I started the book, I was then the film editor of a style magazine called "The Face," had seen roughly 2,500 movies (I counted!) and was going ever so slightly nuts at the daily roll call of reviews, trend features, and fascinating 20-minute interviews with Hollywood stars in London hotel suites. I basically needed to write something personal, for me (I know, cringe). So I started "The Fields" -- a quasi-autobiographical tale about a boy growing up in mid-1980s Dublin under the shadow of the Catholic Church but in the heart of pop culture. I put it down, however, after about 60 rollicking pages, because life had inevitably intervened upon my writing schedule (family priorities, relocations, new job). Eventually, I picked it up again in 2010 when, after nearly a decade, once more, of writing about film (this time for The London Times) I decided that I REALLY needed to write something for me. So I raced through it on this occasion, with nothing but the need to entertain myself as the guiding principal.
JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?
KM: Ideas, sometimes, very occasionally, and if I'm really lucky, seem to appear from the ether -- as opposed to my conscious brain. Seriously. Sometimes I'd find myself marching through the story, imagining that I knew exactly where all the narrative threads were going when, boom, all of a sudden, a character (in my case, particularly, a dubious priest) would take the entire narrative off in completely different directions. Call it what you like -- the muse, the source, the subconscious brain (or, to be totally pretentious, the so-called "Circus Animals" from Yeats). Whatever, it's a very handy tool when it works.
JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?
KM: A waiter. I was a waiter for years when I first moved to London. And, contrary to the general cliches about life in the hard knock service industries, I loved it. Great hours -- stay in bed till midday, hit the restaurant at 4 p.m., set up tables, endure crazy crowded central London interpersonal mayhem (Oh, the stories I could tell!) until 1 a.m., then staff beers and social-life till 4/5/6 a.m. Repeat. What's not to like? (Obviously, it's a young person's game -- now, married with three kids, I think I'd probably opt for something tamer, say, professional tennis player [I used to be quite the tennis whiz, in my day]).
JG: What else are you reading right now?
KM: "The Flamethrowers" by Rachel Kushner. Depressingly brilliant second novel by a harrowingly brilliant writer. Not the sort of thing you should be reading while you're in the midst of writing your second novel (i.e. me), but, hey, I'm a glutton for punishment.
JG: What's next for you?
KM: See above, writing my second novel (about a man and his wife and their child in pre-Millennial London, set against the backdrop of an apocalypse that never came). And am trying, religiously, to stick by the original guiding principal, of entertaining myself alone, and yet somehow being open to handy narrative hints from the muse. So, basically, dead easy.
For more on "The Fields" visit the Hachette Book Group website.