The Next Big Thing is a means for local writers to connect with each other and share their current projects. Each writer answers some questions about their next big thing and nominates a few others to do the same.
I was asked by three lovely creatures to take part. The first was Sil Bar, who was a fellow Napier Creative Writing Masters student. She writes beautiful prose and shares similar interests in the freakish and macabre.
The second was Marianne Paget, who was a fellow 2012 Story Shopper at Edinburgh International Book Festival. Her brilliant piece on childhood in Leith has been included in the Scottish Book Trust My Favourite Place anthology.
And the third was Kirsti Wishart, who survived torture by voice coach Gillon, and emerged as Super Story Shopper extraordinaire, captivating everyone with her funny tale of Scottish Superheroes.
1. What is the title of your latest novel?
2. Where did the idea for the novel come from?
It came from a little known event that occurred in WWII. I’m going to be all mysterious and keep quiet about it until the novel is complete.
3. What genre does your novel fall under?
Literary, but with my usual dark and macabre elements.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie?
I’m a massive film fan. Film probably influences my writing just as much as other novels and short stories, so I can’t say I haven’t thought about the film version, but mainly out of fangeekness. It was more the Directors I’d thought about, one being Terry Gilliam (I love his films, and Tideland has influenced Goblin).
I would have loved Empire of the Sun era Christian Bale to play Goblin. Goblin is usually mistaken for a boy, so it would be a boy playing a girl playing a boy. I’m all for messing with gender, so that would be fun. When I was around nine I adored Empire of the Sun. Even as a kid, WWII interested me. I tried to get my mates to watch it, but they were bored to death. I must have watched it a million times.
5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your novel?
In London during World War II, lizard people lurk in the cavernous Underground as Goblin befriends the Crazy Pigeon Women of Amen Court, weaves tales of gruesome murders, and witnesses a terrible event that remains buried until now, sending her on a spiral back into the past.
(I might have stretched the definition of ‘sentence’ with that one!)
6. Will your novel be self-published or represented by an agency?
When the novel is complete I’ll look for an agent, but I am happy to pursue self-publishing too. I will consider all my options when it comes to that point. A few months to go first.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?
I’m still working on the first draft, but I have it all planned out, it’s just a case of bashing it out. I was doing NaNoWrMo just to get the first draft complete, but I’m a bit behind due to illness. I have to admit, I find first drafts really painful. They’re inevitably a bit shit, and a bit of a mess. I’m a control freak and that messiness of the first draft distresses me. I much prefer the editing part, where the real craft happens, so the best is still to come. Despite my first draft issues, I’m loving being immersed in Goblin’s world, so that’s keeping me going.
8. What other stories would you compare this story to within your genre?
Tideland by Mitch Cullen, though the influence is more the Gilliam film version. And Panopticon by Jenni Fagan. Not that I’m cocky enough to say that Goblin is anywhere near as brilliant as Panopticon, but it is an influence, and Goblin has that inner fire, like Anais.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this story?
Several things – an interest in WWII, the event I mentioned earlier, photography (this a central element in the novel), a love of horror and ghost stories (Goblin is a big fan of the James Whale Frankenstein films. These things influence the way she approaches the world, and the way she deals with the war), and the relationship between humans and animals. Animals are at the centre of the story, from Goblin’s dog, Devil, to the various animals she meets throughout her life, (including the time she spends working in a circus). Animals are a huge part of our society and I don’t think they’re given enough of a role in our storytelling. When animals do end up in stories, they are either sentimentalised or they’re nothing more than metaphors, which is fine to an extent, but they shouldn’t be reduced to that. Humans are not the centre of everything. The novel isn’t preachy in any way, it’s simply looking at what it means to decentre humanity, to remove us from our pedestal. As well as Goblin’s relationship with animals, there is a mystery that runs through the book; someone Goblin loves disappears, and this has a profound effect on her.
10. What else about your story might pique the reader’s interest?
Goblin is a wild thing, a raconteur, and her imagination alters reality, bringing with it a ghost who has a bloody heart pinned to her chest, and Goblin’s very own Frankenstein’s monster made out of taxidermy animals, dolls, worms, and bones. It’s not a straightforward tale of WWII. I don’t do realism. Realism never tells it how it really is. Life is never that boring.
11. What’s next?
A sci-fi thriller set in Edinburgh. There’s cyborgs, murder, political intrigue, and black humour Palahniuk-style. It’s very exciting, and horribly tempting, but I’m only making a few notes just now as I finish Goblin.
I’m now handing the baton over to:
Ariadne Cass-Maran, a fellow Napier Creative Writing Masters student, one of the Directors of Graphic Scotland, spoken word aficionado and writer of brilliant gruesome whimsy.
Ali Miller, a Napier Creative Writing Masters student who graduated this year. She specialises in experimental writing and enjoys blurring the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction (Ali doesn’t have a blog, but I will be posting her piece here).