This much I know: Alice Taylor, writer

My advice to any would-be writer is to simply stop thinking about it and do it.

I’m not a disciplined writer. I’m a disaster really. I go through huge spasms of enthusiasm where I will write for hours until I’m exhausted and then I won’t do anything for months. But I’m like that about the housework too.

I used to be surrounded by people day-in, day-out. We ran a shop and post office and then a guest house. Now I live on my own.

My children are scattered around the place but there is always someone within shouting distance. I stepped into a different world, but I don’t mind. I enjoy solitary pursuits like my writing and gardening and painting.

Parent’s shouldn’t cling to their children as they get older. It’s important to have a life of your own and not to depend on your children to entertain you.

Community is hugely important to me, the people of Innishannon are like my extended family. We need each other or, as they say on the Blaskets, we live in the shelter of each other. I’m very involved in village life, up to my oxters in Tidy Towns committees, historical groups and our local magazine Candlelight which is now in its 29th year.

My first books were written with pencils on A4 pads. Eventually, my husband and children got me a computer and I taught myself to touch type, up in our attic.

I had no clue that my first book To School Through the Fields would be such a success. My children were always fascinated when I told them what life was like growing up on a farm with no electricity, running water, cars or TVs. So I decided to write it down, as someone who had lived through it, rather than leave it up to the academics of future generations to document.

There were not a lot of books in our house growing up. I remember going the 40 miles into Cork city, which was like going to New York back then, and seeing books by the Brontes and Louisa May Alcott in Woolworths; whole magic worlds that cost one and six each. I paid for those first books by pulling turnips.

My mother was very religious and believed that everyone was as good as they could be. My father wasn’t into that at all! He was very liberal for his time. He would tune into the Church of Ireland service on the radio — and those were in the days when a Catholic couldn’t even go to a Protestant funeral. He was a farming man and I think he found his God out in the fields with nature.

Sex used to be the no-go area in the media. Now it’s death. We have a such a strange attitude to death, as a society. It’s almost as if we think that if we don’t look at it, it will go away. But bereavement forces you to look death in the face.

My earliest memory is of coming down the stairs and going out into the front garden where my little brother Connie was sitting up in his pram. I was about four. He died from meningitis a few years later.

The biggest challenge of my life so far has been the death of my husband in 2005. Since then, there have been other bereavements. My new book looks at grief and how it cracks the ground under your feet.

There are moments of sadness, but it’s not a sad book. Whenever you suffer a bereavement there are also moments of indescribable beauty that make you more perceptive. So far, life has taught me to enjoy the now and the ordinary days.

Alice Taylor’s latest book And Time Stood Still has just been published by The O’Brien Press


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