I was really saddened to learn that best-selling Irish author Maeve Binchy has died aged 72 after a short illness.
In 2007 I was lucky enough to meet her at the launch party in Dublin for Abby Green's very first Mills & Boon novel. She was a lovely, warm-hearted and welcoming woman and I really enjoyed talking with her. She invited me to visit her with Abby when I was next in Ireland but sadly she was never well enough to fulfil that invitation.
Maeve Binchy, born in Dalkey, Co Dublin, has sold more than 40 million books. Her works were often set in Ireland and have been translated into 37 languages. They include The Lilac Bus as well as Tara Road and Circle of Friends, which were both adapted for screen.
She trained as a teacher before moving into journalism and writing, publishing her first novel. Light a Penny Candle was written in her spare time from her day job as a journalist at The Irish Times - in 1982.
Maeve Binchy was renowned for her generosity and support of others, writing in a guide for aspiring writers: "The most important thing to realise is that everyone is capable of telling a story. It doesn't matter where we were born or how we grew up".
In a 2001 interview with the BBC after she had won the WHSmith Book Award for fiction, she described the five rejections she received for her first novel as "a slap in the face". But she said she was glad she persevered and sent the book to a sixth publisher.
|Maeve Binch and Abby Green|
at the launch of Abby's first book
The author said that her secret was to write the way she spoke.
"I don't say I was proceeding down a thoroughfare, I say I walked down the road. I don't say I passed a hallowed institute of learning I say I passed a school. You don't wear all your jewellery at once - you're much more believable if you talk in your own voice," she said.
In 2000, Maeve Binchy was ranked third in the World Book Day poll of favourite authors - ahead of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.
She received a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Book Awards in 2010, the same year her last novel, Minding Frankie, was published.
I remember a warm and vibrant personality who sadly is no longer with us. My deepest sympathies go to her beloved husband and her family.