Marie Quirke-Smith has a mischevious sense of humour and rapid response to atmosphere and character.
As a writer this leads her into explorations of society, a potent sense of place and an incisive insight into people. Her book A PLACE IN THE CHOIR has been published as a paperback and is now on Amazon Kindle. It traces the life of Ellie and her Catholic upbringing, spicing her expriences with humour and trenchant domestic detail.
Marie, who comes from Ireland and now lives in Crete, explains, ” The idea for this book developed when issues arose about scandals within religious institutions. I wondered why this happened. How were the entrants to religious life chosen and how were they trained?
“I write about nuns in particular but I must emphasise that the nuns who educated me in boarding school bear no resemblance to a couple of unpleasant characters in my book. My teachers were dedicated holy women, highly educated, caring and forward-looking.
“The novel is to some extent semi-autobiographical – it’s difficult to write without shadows from one’s own life intruding. But the book is essentially fiction and whatever may ring true to life within the pages is purely coincidental.”
What are Marie’s current views on Catholic education? She says,” I think Catholic educaion continues to have much to offer even though the church itself is on a learning curve and its influence has waned. Education is an ongoing process and any eductiona institution needs to re-evaluate its role from time to time. Each has its own ethos which will influence how people interact and affect the way they live.
“I had an idea in my mind at the beginning of the book but the story took on a life of its own as I wrote. Since the paperback edition was published I undertook a acomplete revision of the novel. Now I feel I have a more authentic offering.
“I began to write the book in Ireland. When we moved toCrete I didn’t have time to continue on a regular basis.”
But it was finished and she is now writing a sequel. “This has suddenly taken off,” she admits, “The main character faces huge challenges which will have to be tackled. It’s an interesting story based in Ireland and Israel in the 1970s and 1980s.”
She shares a common dilemma with many writers: “I want to write when Ican’t. Sometimes when I’m having a meal with friends I want to be at home writing. Often I’m not mentally present because I’m coming up with ideas which I go crazy trying to recall later.
“I have a problem too – that all the odd jobs must be completed and the house tidy before I sit down to write. So I’m often tired by the time I sit down, then it’s time for a cup of tea – even lunch – any excuse to put off the inevitable.
“But the urge to write is relentless and a day doesn’t go by without writing a few sentences. It’s often some scene which ignites me – like watching the simple contentment of a man quietly drinking, then joined by friends in a cafe.”
Now she is writing a novel about Crete. She says,” Crete is an influence beyond price. The slow pace of life, the hospitality of the people, the freedom to have the life you desire, the beauty of the mountains, the tranquillity and sometimes power of the sea. Sheep bells and birds song in the early morning. The sound of olive trees rustling in the wind. The valleys, villages hanging onto rocks, wild flowers, sandy beaches and sun umbrellas. The ever changing colour of the sky, those little churches on the hillside, the friendships formed, care for the elderly, love for the children, lights on the night ferry leaving for the mainland, old cities with their harbours, forts and fishing vessels. Village festivals in August – food,wine and raki. And the value of family ties; weddings, baptisms and name days.”
She has come a long way from her first writing as a child when she was given a pencil of her own and wrote about the animals on the farm where she lived. She has responded to social situations, delved the motives of those involved, vividly absorbed a sense of place and infused her characters with convincing traits and intriguing behaviour.
It is these qualities born of a natural talent that will render her books timeless.