Moynihan, Maura 1957–
Moynihan, Maura 1957–
PERSONAL: Born July 25, 1957, in Albany, NY; daughter of Daniel Patrick (a politician and diplomat) and Elizabeth (a writer) Moynihan; children: Michael Avedon. Ethnicity: "Irish." Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1980. Politics: Liberal Democrat. Religion: Hindu. Hobbies and other interests: Music, dance, languages.
CAREER: Writer. Founder of a multilingual radio program; cocreator of a comedy duo; also worked as a journalist, rock musician, and clothing designer. Moynihan Station Citizen's Group, director; consultant on refugee issues, especially regarding India, Nepal, and Tibet.
MEMBER: Asia Society, Alliance Français.
Some writings appear under pseudonym Maya Smith.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Covergirl.
SIDELIGHTS: Maura Moynihan told CA: "I wanted to be a poet from the time I could speak, move, and think. I wrote my first poems when I was five and left them at my parents' bedside. Of course, when you grow up and discover that there really is no place, no role, no status for a poet in modern American life, you have to find ways to survive and keep writing. We don't have royal patrons in America, just agents and publishers.
"I write because that is the only way I can make sense of living, and because in writing I elevate my own life from a random, banal series of events, hazards, rituals, and transform it into a pilgrimage, a quest for purpose. I still think writing fiction is important, even though the American public doesn't read new fiction—fiction feeds Hollywood, which is now the purveyor of what is supposed to be culture. There's no sense in complaining about it; that's just how it is. Writers have always had to struggle against convention and apathy.
"I write fiction because fiction is the only way to tell the whole truth. In fiction I can examine people's motives, not merely their actions. I can be humorous, which allows me to show a character's hubris and pretense and cunning while feeling immense compassion. I love all my characters, especially the villains. At some point, all villains end up miserable and alone.
"I've been influenced by the Victorian novelists (who hasn't?) and by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mary McCarthy, Ruth Prowler Jhabvala.
"I always write my first drafts in longhand. Sometimes these are the sharpest, clearest drafts, but I have to rewrite and rewrite. A writer has to write all the time. There is no such thing as writer's block if you allow yourself to write badly and throw it out. Just move your hand across the page, or the keyboard, and try to know when to stop. Sometimes you can write a piece to death. Make sure the characters tell you what to do. Don't impose a story line on them—they should reveal to you what will happen. If you know your characters well enough, they will write the story for you. It's sheer magic when that happens, and we writers live for those moments.
"I write about the years I spent in India, about westerners in India and the ancient conflict of cultures. I love to write about conflict, people in conflict, whether it involves class, sex, money, religion, or race—as long as it clashes. Then the story line is going to follow the qualities of the characters, whether they are brave or cowardly, weak or stubborn, kind or selfish. A writer can test the characters, put them in unpredictable situations, and let them tell you what they will do. It doesn't always work. Some characters never develop; in that case, you can let them go and find new ones.
"Other professions may rise and die. Other jobs may pay a lot more money, but writers will always be working."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2003, review of Yoga Hotel, p. 984.
Library Journal, June 15, 2003, Lisa Rohrbaugh, review of Yoga Hotel, p. 103.
People, September 22, 2003, review of Yoga Hotel, p. 58.
Publishers Weekly, July 7, 2003, review of Yoga Hotel, p. 51.