A Lovely Blog Hop... Lovely? Really?
James Everington, I'm finally responding to your kind invitation to become part of a A Lovely Blog Hop started by Sue Moorcraft, and which James and other writers have dragged from the starry heights of romance writing to the slithery pits of horror. James, completist writer that he is, went above and beyond the call of duty and dotted his own blog entry with complimentary, additional dinosaurs. You can read and enjoy it here.
I'm also tagging some fellow female writers of hororr and slipstream fiction to carry on this blog journey. (That may seem like an onerous job, but as any writer knows, these invitations offer the beautiful gift of procrastination). And in doing so, it's nice to reflect on the amount of quality women writers out there, a sisterhood of terror, brewing up all kinds of terrifying and disconcerting tales...
But now on to my (only-intermittently-lovely) Blog Hop...
I think my first memory is of being wheeled about in my pram, listening complacently to murmurs of appreciation. (Apparently I was a sedentary baby, but very conversational, in the condescending, visiting-princess manner of an eldest child. My first sentence, uttered in my pram, was the clearly untrue 'I'm exhausted') But for this post, I'm going with my memory of my first scare. It was the Giant from Jack and the Beanstalk. In my head, he'd wandered far from the confines of the Ladybird book-cover. He lived outside, in the bog of bulrushes outside our house. At night he would emerge from the bog, and come closer to the front door, so close that I would have to run in as fast as I could...just in case his giant hand would thrust through the door and grab me.
He's still pretty scary, to be honest.
I love books. I relish them, rhapsodise about them, wallow in them. I collect books in all forms and their presence brings me a quiet comfort and joy. At all times. Brought up in a home without TV, books painted worlds of the imagination that I felt I could almost touch, smell, experience; created vivid set-pieces in which I enacted and reenacted beloved narratives. In my mind, I've survived The Long Winter side by side with the Ingalls girls, watched Anne Shirley grow and travel from Avonlea to Windy Willows to Ingleside, and thrilled to the romantic escapades and daring adventures of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
In my adult life, three books have formed my benchmark for excellence in my favourite field of Gothic fiction; The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (which I've blogged about here), The Secret History by Donna Tartt and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. Beatuiful, macabre and elegantly written, these books intimidated the hell out of me. In fact, they almost stopped me writing altogether...
When I think of libraries, there's one archetypcal library for me, the old library in Dundalk. It was a dignified building that smelled of cold stone and old plaster (as libraries should). It was dark, silent, slightly grim, but stuffed with wonderful books. I visited the new library recently, a charming red-brick restoration of an old mill. The reference library was a mezzanine through which the endless noise poured upwards from the children's library below. Looking down I could see a colourful combination of bean-bags, fairy-mushroom tables, DVD collections and bright rugs. There were books there, alright, but they'd become the lesser focus. The curmudgeon I've become offered silent thanks that I'd been privileged to enjoy the old, traditional library filled with quietness and a reverence for books.
What's Your Passion?
It's easiest to list them here - Writing. Being published. The Gothic, in all its forms (especially that part of it that deals with domestic terrors). Being at home. Books. Travel. Prints. My students. Running new projects with my art collective (the next, Death Cafe Limerick will take place in November 2015).
Learning is more of a complulsion with me than anything else. The desire to learn new things niggles at me constantly. At the moment, in the throes of finishing my thesis, I've signed up for an online creative writing progamme to kick-start my creativity. I plan on doing a set of printmaking classes during the summer. God knows what I'll have cajoled myself into doing by autumn. In short, I police my own learning like a particuarly strict warder.
Writing is something I always planned to do. But somewhere along the line I became too deadened by work and too intimated by others (that's you, mesdames Carter, Tartt and Jackson). I lost my confidence and didn't write; I didn't have the time, I told myself, I didn't have the energy or the imagination. And then, in December 2010 I almost died. I lay in a coma, returning to earth to realise I had undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes; that I was now, essentially, a different person. Everything I'd taken for granted in life - eating, exercise, self-care - became incredibly different, complex and terrifying. And I hated it. I still do. But after a time of anger, regret and depression, I came back to myself. Now I look back and see that my chronic illness acted like a life-filter. It let me see clearly what I wanted to do and achieve. (If you're interested in reading more on this, there's a fictonalised account of the transformative power of illness in my story 'Coming Back' in the 2014 The Girl at the End of the World (Fox Spirit Press)).
Since then I've started an art collective, a PhD, a research centre. I've travelled further than ever before - New Zealand, Hong Kong, the US. And I took a deep breath and started to write. I started to write my thesis, and that opened the gateway for more writing; for journal articles, book chapters and fiction. I wrote my first story for the Impossible Spaces anthology (Hic Dragones Press) published in 2013, and since then I've had another ten published, with a book proposal currently in the ether. Writing is what I do now. I write because it gives me great, quiet pleasure. I write because life is short. I write because I need to.
And I leave you here, another hop on the blog-post.
The next hops will take you to: