, for which he wrote the screenplay, is slated to be released later thisyear, but he says he prefers writing fiction to other mediums.
A CONVERSATION WITH RODDY DOYLEMuch of the praise for your last novel,
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
, was directed at youruncanny portrayal of a ten-year-old boy. Now you've chosen the perspective of amiddle-aged woman, and she may be one of the most fully realized characters of allyour novels. How did she develop? What resources do you draw from? How does itfeel to write from the point of view of the opposite sex?
The story originated about five years ago when I was invited by the BBC to write atelevision series about a struggling Irish family. Each installment was presented from theviewpoint of a different character: the father, a son and daughter, and the mother. What Ifound was, when I wrote the character of the mother, I realized she had much more to say,that the story lay with her. And so I set out to write the novel about her. I did a fair amountof research about biology and psychology, of women's erotic fantasies, and about theissue of spousal abuse. I'd done research for other novels, but this was the first time I felt itwas really imperative, the first time I'd really relied on research. I've always been a readerof women's fiction and that has helped. But it was very slow going writing from the point ofview of a woman. You sort of take on the role of an actor. I had to be very careful.
Many of Paula's memories of Charlo are happy ones, yet he really does come acrossas a cruel, irresponsible bum. How do you feel about him? Do you perceivegoodness in him?
Well, the series started out from Charlo's point of view, and he really was a brute
in fact itcaused quite a controversy. But when it came to shaping his character in the novel, Iwanted to make it clear that he really had loved Paula. I think the scene from their weddingday shows that. It seems that society wants to find a scapegoat in these situations:unemployment, alcoholism, and of course abusive husbands. But there's a reason whythese marriages happen and I wanted to show that, show why Paula stays with him for aslong as she does. Of course, the distance of time helps her see things more clearly, evenhelps her forgive him. I also tried to inject a bit of humor into his character. The way hedies, in a car, when he doesn't even know how to drive.
Popular music plays a pivotal role in some of your earlier work. It has a different,more subtle effect in this novel, setting up a kind of background against whichPaula spins her fantasies and replays her memories. Obviously, music is veryimportant to you, but how—and why—does it find its way into your writing?
I think I'm no different from most people in my appreciation for music. I think everybodyhas a soundtrack to their lives. For Paula most of this music occurred in the late '60s andearly '70s, during her adolescence
which she remembers rightly or wrongly as a happytime. And the music sort of matches that. It's pop music
very upbeat and romantic. Shecan't remember much music from the '80s, but that was a very unhappy time for her, whenthings with Charlo were going badly. I also used music as an ironic accompaniment. For