A lovely interview for me, with Fran McIlvey. I’ll be reciprocating soon.
Archive for June, 2014
Posted in Books, Dollywagglers, Dystopia, Micka, Reality, Thanks, Theatre, Writing, tagged Carlo Gébler, Cathi Unsworth, Dollywagglers, Feast of Bones, Kristin Gleeson, Micka, Neil Randall, Nichola Hunter on June 13, 2014| 1 Comment »
Kristin Gleeson has invited me to join her blog hop. I’m now a link in a chain of great minds, connected by our passion for writing – and, even more important, reading.
Kristin is a writer of intensely felt, meticulously researched, wonderfully evoked historical literary fiction novels, spanning her own territories of Ireland, North America and Canada. I recommend Selkie Dreams She’s also the world expert on the Canadian First Nation woman Anahareo, wrote the first biography of this extraordinary and troubled woman, Anahareo – a Wilderness Spirit, and this summer will be a keynote speaker at a conference on herself and her husband, known to thousands as ‘Grey Owl’, in fact an Englishman from Sussex called Archie.
We first met on an advanced novel writing course at the West Cork Literary Festival, run by the amazing Carlo Gébler, and we have remained friends ever since, beta-reading each other’s unpublished work, mutually being encouraging, and cheering on our publishing successes. As well as writing, Kristin is also a gifted musician, singer and painter; if you are lucky enough to attend one of her book launches, you may see her playing the Irish harp.
What Do I write?
I write plays and novels. Drama is in my blood, on both sides of the family – my Dad was the best theatre carpenter in the business, my mother acted straight out of RADA with Laurence Olivier – she was one of his daughters in ‘Oedipus’,. My father’s parents and grandparents ran ‘fit-up’ travelling companies; musical theatre was my grandmother’s field and she was one of the original ‘Tiller Girls’. So writing plays started early [I was five when my brother and I performed ‘Clever Fox’, a two hander, to an audience of kind parents and neighbours].
I write plays for children, mostly in Ireland, but have written puppet shows and TV dramas in the UK as well. Adult novels are where I let my shadow side out to play. Children deserve optimism and hope, but my novels pull no punches. I write with passion and from a perspective of people in our society many would rather not know about, about events and feelings we’d like to pretend don’t exist. My latest novel, Dollywagglers, published by Tenebrisbooks,is a dystopia set in England, after a flu pandemic has decimated the world’s population. I love reading dystopias, from ‘1984’ and ‘The Road’ to ‘The Hunger Games’, but I didn’t want an atmosphere of despair and gloom, so I made my central character a puppeteer with a wonky sense of humour.
My first novel, Micka, published by Picador in 2010, was a sad and brutal story, told in the voices of two ten year old boys. Neither of these books pleased a mass audience, but I feel joyful and privileged to be speaking to adults and children in a way that, I hope and trust, enters their heads and hearts in a truly reflective and gripping way.
What am I writing now?
I’m at work now on the sequel to ‘Dollywagglers’, a story with utopian threads mixed in with the darkness. Quite a challenge to write with the same black humour and not be too predictably liberal and socially aware as I construct a new society from the remnants of the old.
I’m also working on the second draft of a memoir, I suppose, it’s about fifty percent true and fifty percent made up, about a nine year old girl at boarding school in the 1950s. It’s far from being Hogwarts; it’s a place that tries to break her spirit and crush her imagination.
Two children’s plays I wrote last year had a great run in Ireland. Feast of Bones is set in 1918 Dublin, and loosely follows the fairy story of Henny Penny going to see the King. The sky fell on many heads during that war; it makes a powerful metaphor, and in some ways you can only tell the tales of war in metaphor, unless you were actually there.
The second play, which ran for three months earlier this year, was about an old man, alone with his radio and his memories, talking to an audience of 6 year olds and up. My challenge was to make his life, so removed from their experiences, into a story that they could connect with. A spider and a jackdaw helped, plus his tragic love of Gretel, a circus bareback rider. Mr. Foley – Radio Operator played all over Ireland this year., and will be at the Babaró Children’s Festival in Galway this September.
Why Do I Write?
It’s an addiction. If I don’t have a piece of work on the go, the sparkle goes out of my world. Three years studying English Literature at university dried up the flow of ink, partly because I was constantly deconstructing great writers and literature, and partly because that critical approach helped sharpen the teeth of my inner critic, so that I was too intimidated to create anything for about three years after I left. Maybe you share that experience? Sometimes, our formal education can be a serious handicap. Happily, the flow of thoughts came back and has never dried up since. I live an extremely eventful life, high with joy, elation and adrenalin, and low with massive bereavement at a young age, lack of money, and near despair at the awful start in life some children have. I worked on projects in Newcastle and Scotland with kids whom society forgot, and their resilience and cheerfulness was an inspiration to me when I started writing plays for them.
Tagging the next three:
Here are three more writers. You can follow the chain onward or backward to see all the other writers in this blog hop. Happy Hopping!
Nichola Hunter, blogging at http://nicholahunter.blogspot.ie
Nichola’s evocative novella, ‘Ramadan Sky’ about an Australian tourist having an uneasy, passionate romance with an Indonesian man, was one of the very first books to be talent-spotted and published on Kindle by Harper Collins after their editors read her work uploaded to their ‘Authonomy’ site. Find herbook on Amazon UK at: Ramadan Sky
Anyone who writes is welcome to join ‘Authonomy’, and if your novel gets voted to the top five by the reading community, it will be professionally read, and may lead to publication. You also have the benefit of other writers’ good critiques of your work, which, in my case, led to beneficial rewrites.
Neil Randall, blogging at http://narandall.blogspot.ie is a writer of dark and disturbing fiction, often with a Russian flavour. His most recently published work is The Holy Drinker; another novel set in Stalinist times is satirical, compelling and highly recommended by me; find it at: Amazon uk ‘The Butterfly and the Wheel’ – it will be published later this year.
Third in my list, but the most celebrated and consistently selling of all of us here, is Cathi Unsworth, the Queen of London Noir, as she was recently described by David Peace. Her novels expose the seedy underbelly of human desires and vices. Check out her website: http://www.cathiunsworth.co.uk and find her most recent book on Amazon UK at : Weirdo
Hope you’ve enjoyed my section of this hop. I welcome any comments! Thanks for reading.
The UK Government is consulting you and other citizens on its plan to make fracking under your house a right for private companies. to which you can no longer object. This process continues until August 15th.
I would urge any of you who are UK residents to write in response to a sad mindset that cannot conceive of any values other than material and financial, one that is willing to use an act of parliament to abolish our natural rights over our land and homes. It is as pernicious, as greedy and as unjust as the Enclosure laws.
And here is the substance of my reply – hope it inspires you to write with wit and sincerity.
3 What is your organisation?
I am an individual who works at home.
4 Should the Government legislate to provide underground access to gas, oil and geothermal developers below 300 meters?
Please elaborate on your answer above. :
No financial compensation or promise of material reward can influence me to change my mind; this is an unwanted invasion of my privacy and my right to enjoy my property and to bequeath it unspoiled to the next generation. Not everything has a market price. My peace of mind, my domestic security and serenity, my ability to enjoy my house and my land in the knowledge that nothing except acts of God or natural subsidence will change the place I have chosen to make my home, far outweighs any money you or anyone can offer me to forget the blessings I am being asked to relinquish. This is a deeply unpleasant attack on the rights of homeowners and any government should be ashamed even to contemplate it. Our feelings about our homes are more important than the business plans of any private company wanting to make profits. Wherever there is a profit motive, the safety and happiness of human beings is always placed second. I do not and will never agree to this ordering of priorities.
5 If you do not believe the Government should legislate for underground access, do you have a preferred alternative solution?
Please elaborate on your answer above. :
I would like us to look not at unlocking more sources of finite energy but at becoming more careful and thoughtful about our energy use. Fines and penalties for over-consumption of natural resources, a sense of public responsibility for the future of this land and our planet, could bring about the kind of change in consciousness that citizens had during WW2. It is you, the government, which must give the lead to a different way of using our resources. Shale oil and gas must be left in the ground. It is directly opposed to the Kyoto protocols on climate change. Until you take this seriously, you cannot expect your voters to re elect you.
6 Should a payment and notification for access be administered through the voluntary scheme proposed by industry?
Please elaborate on your answer above. :
I do not accept this premise. You are prisoners of outdated thinking. Money has nothing to do with the things I care about. Until you understand that, you are still living in the Victorian expansionist world. That world is doomed and unsustainable.
David Gaughan’s thought-provoking blog hits the nail on the head again.
Since the huge shift to online purchasing and e-books, a common meme is that there is some kind of “discoverability” problem in publishing.
The funny thing is readers don’t seem to have any problem finding books they love. Any readers I talk to have a time problem – reading lists a mile long and never enough hours in the day to read all the great books they are discovering.
The real discoverability problem in publishing is that readers are discovering (and enjoying) books that don’t come from the large publishers. What these publishers have is a competition problem not a discoverability problem.
Amazon regularly gets slated for purported anti-competitive actions, but it has done more to create the digital marketplace than any other company. It has also done more to open up that marketplace to vendors of all shapes and sizes than any other company. Small publishers and…
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