Elizabeth Baines, author of the novels The Birth Machine and Body
Cuts, and writer of O'Leary's Daughters, in the Corner house, Manchester.
It was an early summer afternoon. She was dressed in light blue
with a matching necklace. We sat in a quiet corner on the first
floor. Elizabeth talked about her life, her children, and her work.
She has written several radio plays and novels and has even published
a short-story magazine - Metropolitan.
has the talent to understand other people. Her eyes have the ability
to look into your heart.
you have a theatre background?
I have acted in the past, before I had children. I studied English
at Bangor University and was in the dramatic society. So I've been
always involved in theatre. Actually, when I first started writing,
I wrote short stories and novels. And then for many years, I wrote
radio plays. This is my only theatre play, my first real play. It's
already had a production in London and was initially showcased by
the Writers' Guild.
did you start writing?
I had a short stage play workshopped at Contact Theatre by North
West Playwrights, but I found it very difficult to move on from
there. It was at the start of a long period which has been very
difficult for new writing in the theatre, and I found it especially
hard as I had very small children and couldn't get out and about
to make the right contacts. I just decided at the time that it wasn't
worth the effort. Instead I took one of the characters in that short
theatre play and wrote a radio play around her. After which, I had
a radio career.
do you work now?
I stopped doing radio plays. Presently I just write. Well, I teach
as well. I teach play writing. My main occupation is writing. I
have to teach to earn money sometimes.
is O'Leary's Daughters about? What inspired you?
I've always been very interested in identity and the images people
have of themselves and the way they present themselves to the world
- and how much of that is simply constructed. The idea, too, that
identity is fluid: you can be a different person under different
circumstances. In the play, 'O'Leary's Daughters', three sisters
have cultivated their different identities as a way of overcoming
childhood abuse. Two of the sisters think they are very strong,
but the constructed nature of their identity in fact makes them
vulnerable, and they discover they are not quite who they have thought
there anything in the play local or specific to your experience?
There is not really anything there related to my personal life.
In order to write plays, you have to be able to get inside everybody's
head. That is the interesting thing to me about writing. Obviously,
everything you write has to be grounded in experience, but it doesn't
have to be your own. The trick as a writer is to put yourself inside
the heads of other people just as if it is your own experience -
that's the exciting thing to me about writing.
did you get to know about 24:7?
I heard about 24:7 from the Writers' Guild newsletter and got in
touch. 24:7 is a brilliant idea. We are short of a sustained structure
for fringe theatre in Manchester.
What do your children think about your writing?
My children give me a lot of support. One of them is an artist himself.
So he understands.
is your next project?
I am working on a long novel at the moment. It's about a family
and deals with a similar theme to that of the play, but as well
as looking at the effects of abuse it tackles the psychology of
the abuser and the personal and social history which led to his