Oscar Wilde and ‘The Woman’s World’

I am beginning the New Year rather late this year as you might have noticed. Clearly, either my body clock has taken a while to kick in or I have been in a state of denial about the existence of 2017 (note also that I am glossing over my blogging inactivity in December). However, I do intend finally to begin my blogging year and return to tackling my Landing Bookshelves Reading Challenge albeit with the usual digressions along the way. As you will know, said digressions tend to be frequent, so my TBR pile is not getting any smaller; and will in fact probably never shrink appreciably. I will just have to live with that, (it’s a hard life!). bookc cover: Wilde's Women

True to form, my first post of the year features a non-TBR book, Wilde’s Women by Eleanor Fitzsimons (Duckworth Overlook, 2016). The sub-title runs: How Oscar Wilde Was Shaped by the Women He Knew, and this was the part that particularly attracted my attention. Wilde is probably more widely associated in the public consciousness with the men in his life, rather than the women. The author has given both his mother and his wife their rightful due in this book. Eleanor Fitzsimons’ exploration of the female angle in Wilde’s life interested me because I have previously read Joan Schenkar’s fascinating biography about his niece Dorothy ‘Dolly’ Wilde (the daughter of Oscar’s older brother Willie and his second wife Sophia Lily Lees). As it turned out, Oscar’s enduring charisma and reputation cast a long shadow over Dolly’s frequently unhappy life. She bore a striking physical resemblance to her famous uncle and consequently spent her life trading upon it. As Eleanor Fitzsimons points out, this tendency caused awkwardness in her relationship with Oscar Wilde’s son, Vyvyan Holland when they finally became acquainted in adulthood. She was said by her mother to have inherited ‘a fair share of the family brains’ but Dolly was perhaps damaged by the weight of expectations put upon her so young.

Of course, properly speaking Dolly Wilde cannot be counted as one of Wilde’s Women (as defined by the terms of the sub-title) since she was born while he was imprisoned and she never actually met him and so represents a rather sad epilogue to the Wilde story. If however we do include Dolly Wilde in an account of the women of Oscar Wilde’s family, then it becomes apparent that his life and work was bookended by two striking and fascinating women. At Oscar’s genesis, we find his mother Jane Elgee Wilde (known by her pen name Speranza) and towards the end of his life, the birth of Dolly, bearing the Wilde mythology onwards. On the face of it, it appears that Speranza provided the seeds of the literary and artistic talent, which blossomed into Oscar and yet which failed to bear fruit in Dolly Wilde. No story is ever that simple however, but such a literary legacy would have been difficult to follow for any descendent. I wonder how Oscar’s sons coped with the pressure of his literary legacy, to say nothing of the effects of losing his presence in their lives after the trial.

Magazine cover: The Woman's WorldThe section of the book that intrigued me the most was the chapter discussing Wilde’s stint as editor of a women’s magazine, an episode that was completely new to me. In April 1887, Oscar Wilde was invited by the publishers of The Lady’s World to revitalise and generally to add celebrity lustre to the struggling magazine. This was an illustrated monthly magazine, on sale for a shilling, which was struggling in a busy market. For instance, The Ladies’ Companion was another illustrated magazine aimed at a similar audience at the same price. Wilde was interested in editing and writing for the magazine but he insisted on a name change, more in keeping with his progressive ideas, hence The Woman’s World. Wilde suggested that the latter was much more suitable for a magazine that wished to be, ‘the organ of women of intellect, culture, and position’. He wanted to create a magazine that talked about what women thought and felt and not merely, about what they wore. I was amused to note that fashion was pushed to the back of the magazine in this brave new venture. Some previously included sections vanished altogether under Wilde’s editorship, such as ‘Fashionable Marriages’ and ‘Pastimes for Ladies’. However, I cannot help feeling a vague curiosity about the nature of those suitably ladylike activities!Cover from The Ladies' Companion

Fashion Plate

From The Ladies’ Companion.

As Eleanor Fitzsimons makes clear, many intellectual and professional women liked and respected Oscar Wilde and were very happy to contribute articles to his re-vamped journal on various important subjects. One topic covered by The Woman’s World was women’s dress and its suitability, practicality and healthiness. Wilde, as well as his wife Constance Lloyd was an active supporter of the Rational Dress Society. In an article for The Woman’s World he wrote,

From the Sixteenth Century to our own day, there is hardly any form of torture that has not been inflicted on girls and endured by women, in obedience to the dictates of an unreasonable and monstrous Fashion.

As I am writing this, I wonder what Wilde would have thought of the current UK parliamentary enquiry into the issue of women forced by employers to wear high heels at work. I am sure he could have come up with a riveting deposition to the enquiry on the subject. His idea was that in time, ‘the dress of the two sexes will be assimilated, as similarity of costume always follows similarity of pursuits’. Sadly, it seems this has not yet happened; apparently, women still need to wear heels to do exactly the same job that a man does in flats. We certainly need a witty Wildean epigram for the shoe question.Cover of The Rational Dress Society magazine

As I said above, Wilde attracted many talented female contributors to The Woman’s World including trade unionist Clementina Black, feminist writer Julia Wedgewood, suffragist Millicent Garrett Fawcett and journalist Charlotte O’Connor Eccles. Therefore, not only was women’s dress debated within the pages of the magazine but also the extension of the suffrage to women and women’s right to be educated and to live useful and worthwhile lives. This range of content is what surprised me the most and Fitzsimons has added a great deal to my impressions of Oscar Wilde, with his support for so many radical women writers and activists. It is easy to think of Wilde in terms of witty epigrams and sparkling conversation, without stopping to think about what lay beneath the polished surface.

Sadly, Wilde’s stint as an editor did not last very long; the last edition bearing his name came out before the end of 1889, so he clocked up a mere two years. Fitzsimons makes clear that Wilde did much that was worthwhile in his role, but admits that,’ While his sincerity and sympathy were never in doubt, his suitability to deal with the day-today challenges of bringing out a magazine on someone else’s behalf was’. Turning up regularly to the office and dealing with the minutiae of getting a magazine to press proved to be beyond his capabilities. Tellingly, The Woman’s World did not long survive Wilde’s departure, having reverted to its original style of content without his dynamic input.

Because of reading Wilde’s Women, I am in danger of encountering many literary digressions; I plan to follow up ideas that I have gleaned from the wonderful range of sources used by Eleanor Fitzsimons. My hopes of acquiring a copy of one of the volumes of The Woman’s World was somewhat dashed however when I saw how much a dealer on ABE Books was charging. Perhaps I was naive in thinking that I might be able to buy one for only a few euros…

Credits: Many thanks to Eleanor and the publishers for The Landing’s copy of this book. If you wish to discover more about her work, here is a link to Eleanor’s blog:  https://eafitzsimons.wordpress.com/about/

Additional pictures: As ever, thanks to Wikipedia and also to the website of the British Library.

Landing Author: Caitriona Lally on Writers, Rituals and Routines

Caitriona Launch Reading

The launch of ‘Eggshells’

Here as promised on Thursday, is Caitriona Lally’s guest post for The Landing Book Shelves, marking my 200th blog post:

I tend to get obsessive about writers and read everything they’ve ever written as quickly as I can. I love writers who see things with fresh eyes, who write with ferocity and are fearless about telling fictional truths. I don’t need to like the characters, but I need to not completely hate them. In recent years, I’ve glutted myself on the works of Henry Miller, Anne Enright, Kevin Barry, Aleksandar Hemon, Lorrie Moore, W. G. Sebald, Mary Costello, Alice Munro, Rachel Cusk, James Salter, and Lydia Davis. When I read such writers, I soak up their gorgeous sentences, but to motivate me to actually write, I read books about writers’ routines. I have yet to figure out a routine of my own, and tend to stuff my writing into whatever time-gaps appear in my day, so I find the notion of a habit or ritual encouraging. When I’m asked about my writing routine, it’s very tempting to describe a rigid regime that makes me look highly disciplined and hugely prolific, interspersed with a few quirks to make me seem eccentric and interesting (I can only write on vellum from month-old Friesian calves using yellow pencils sharpened with a miniature cleaver.)

I love the book Daily Rituals, by Mason Currey, which gives details of the precise preferences of various writers, artists, and composers. Their eating habits in particular fascinate me: so many writers seem to focus on their brains at the expense of their bellies, which is beyond my comprehension. My stomach clenches in knots at the idea of such foodlessness – I can’t have a cup of coffee without cake or chocolate, and I drink a lot of coffee when I’m writing. According to Currey, Proust ate croissants, but far too few for my liking. Patricia Highsmith worked from bed with a doughnut “and an accompanying saucer of sugar” which makes me think she and I would be kindred spirits.

I like knowing that W. H. Auden and Graham Greene took amphetamines to help them to write; it makes me feel smug if I can get words onto a page with only caffeine and sugar for a buzz. It’s also nice to know that Proust needed caffeine tablets and barbital sedatives to keep writing his masterpiece, that Balzac may have drunk up to fifty cups of coffee a day, and that Truman Capote preferred to work from bed or horizontally at least. Reading about writers’ habits instead of forming your own ones can be a kind of procrastination, however, and it gets addictive.

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life are books I return to when I feel low on motivation. Both are meditations on why we write, and how to live and write. They’re full of wit and compassion and sheer bewilderment at why we do this to ourselves, this endless torment of trying to write the perfect sentence, when we could be doing sensible jobs with normal hours. I find Dillard’s almost monastic approach to food fascinating – she describes writing for a whole day with nothing in her belly but coffee and reheated soup. Lamott’s title refers to a family story: when her brother was ten and had left a school report on birds until the last minute, he sat at the kitchen table surrounded by unread books, overwhelmed by the task ahead. Lamott’s father put his arm around the boy and said “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” It’s a quote I love – any writer could substitute word or sentence for bird, and it’s the perfect advice. When I read these books, I feel like I’m not alone in my efforts to battle procrastination, to will myself to stick with it. Keep going, I tell myself, just another few hundred words; come on, bird by bird.

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I hope that Caitriona’s post has both given you some reading inspiration (there are writers mentioned that I haven’t got around to yet) and the impetus to keep on writing….word, by word….

Eggshells

 

Thanks very much to Caitriona Lally for taking the time from her Eggshells publicity round, to contribute to The Landing. If you want to hear about Caitriona’s readings and events, follow @CaitrionaLally. You can find out more about the process of writing Eggshells in Caitriona’s article for Writing.ie and also purchase a copy direct from Liberties Press.

Picture Credits: Liberties Press & Liberties Upstairs.

 

Culture Club at Liberties Upstairs

I have borrowed my post from the Members’ Blog on Writing.ie, in which I talk about a new venture that I am involved in organising for Liberties Press In Dublin. The main reason I want to mention the Culture Club venture here is that the first session features a previous #LandingAuthor, Daniel Seery (author of A Model Partner). Sometime soon I hope to include a guest post from Caitriona Lally (Eggshells) as well so that’s a another reason for borrowing my blog post. Of course, I’m also not averse to spreading the word about the Liberties Upstairs Bookshop’s Culture Club either!

A Model PartnerThis post sees me wearing my Liberties Press (Liberties Upstairs) hat, as I want to spread the word about a new venture that I’ve been involved in organising for the Liberties shop. Inspired by the positive experiences of organising the Liberties Upstairs Saturday morning book club (running since November 2014), I have decided to try setting up a monthly Culture Club. My aim is to have a varied programme, drawing on the resources of Liberties Press authors, publishing insiders and the arts and crafts contributors at Liberties Upstairs. The pattern of the sessions will be a talk and or reading followed by the opportunity for questions and discussion over wine or coffee. We might even rustle up a few biscuits to keep up our strength for the Q and A (well, what’s sauce for the book club….)

As the Liberties book group runs in a morning, we‘ve opted for an evening culture club, which we hope will be similarly supported by the local community. Indeed, some book club members have already expressed an interest in the new Liberties venture. The club will run on the last Wednesday of the month, with the inaugural event on 24 June at 7.30 pm. For this session, I am delighted to have debut authors Daniel Seery (A Model Partner) and Caitriona Lally (Eggshells), both alumni of the Novel Fair to talk about writing, pitching and getting a publishing contract. Both writers will speak and give a short reading, so it will be a packed evening to start our series of events. It should be a lovely beginning to our new programme; Daniel and Caitriona are looking forward to appearing, so I hope that a good time will be had by all.

Events and launches are an important part of any bookshop’s strategy in the ceaseless quest to increase footfall, that dread word. The Liberties Upstairs bookshop has hosted several events since setting up Liberties Upstairs in November 2013. However, this is the first time for embarking on organising a series of events. Initially I have planned a programme of six sessions with a further six in the pipeline for next year if all goes well. We plan to announce the first part of the programme at the June meeting. I hope that some people will be keen enough to sign up for the whole six sessions. My technology skills (!) have enabled a booking facility through our online shop (€5 euro per event) so I felt quite a sense of achievement when receiving the first confirmation.Eggshells

I’m looking forward to next week’s event; perhaps our author talks will inspire at least one would be writer to give it a go and aim for the Novel Fair. You never know what might happen…

Look out for a future post on The Landing from Caitriona Lally, and if you’re Dublin based, look out for future Culture Club events in Liberties Upstairs!

 

A new book from Landing Author Louise Phillips: Last Kiss

Regular readers of The Landing Book Shelves will know that Louise Phillips was a guest here after the publication of her last book The Doll’s House in 2013. She’s back with her latest novel which has been very well reviewed, with the Independent critic saying that “Louise Phillips goes from strength to strength…. Last Kiss is superior and takes her writing to another, more intense level.”  This all means that I’ve become distracted from whatever I was supposed to be reading from the Landing TBR Pile to get stuck into Louise’s novel. Many thanks to Louise and her publishers Hachette for my copy of Last Kiss; it’s always nice to answer the door to a postman bearing a parcel that looks as though it contains a book.

I admit that I did put this aside for a while before reading it as I was involved in school holiday activities and travel plans. Unfortunately I missed the launch of Last Kiss as I was away visiting my family. When I finally settled down to read my book, I became totally caught up in it to the extent of a couple of late nights when I didn’t want to stop reading. The only reason that it was over two late nights and not one, was that I didn’t want to do what I have done so many times before and crashed on reading, only to spoil the book by reading it too fast.

Last Kiss

Darkness awaits you…

Louise Phillips’ thriller Last Kiss is Dr Kate Pearson’s third outing as a criminal profiler with the Dublin police. When we meet Kate again, she is in the process of deciding (or more accurately delaying deciding) whether she and her husband Declan have a future together. They are separated and juggling childcare for their son Charlie, who misses his dad. Kate’s emotional struggle is complicated by the return to the force of DI Adam O’Connor to help in the hunt for the perpetrator of the ritualised knife murder of an art dealer in a Dublin hotel room.

The story begins with an eerie flashback to 1982 when a young girl called Ellen hides away in woodland to give birth to her child. The girl doesn’t feel as if she is quite alone as she labours in the chill of early morning but she sees nobody. The episode raises intriguing questions about what relevance Ellen and her baby will have to the events that will follow and it gives a chilling tone to the novel:

“The child wailed, scrunching its face like a piece of shrivelled rotten fruit, a primal instinct kicking in, telling it that something wasn’t right.”

The elements and motives of the murder case prove to be difficult to unravel and Kate’s work on the criminal’s profile suggests that the murder probably wasn’t the first one to be committed by this person. Will some research into cold cases reveal a similar crime that could provide a lead? Kate is intrigued by the ritual elements of the crime that indicate that the killer is using Tarot cards. But for what purpose? Revenge perhaps? I was fascinated by the details about the Tarot card readings as it’s not something I know anything about.

In her structuring of the novel, Louise Phillips takes the risk of presenting the murderers’ point of view, in alternating chapters:

“I have reasons for doing what I do. You may not know them yet, because I haven’t told you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It’s too early for judgement calls, far too early for that… I kill people. I could dress it up, say all kinds of stuff about it, but for now, all you need to know is that I do.”

I said risk, because for an author to try to create a murderer with whom a reader might feel some sympathy/empathy is a tricky manoeuvre to pull off. I think however, that Louise Phillips does so. I wanted to learn more about the killer and to understand the whys and wherefores of the elaborate crime. Why did the murderer feel driven to kill? Is the killer evil or perhaps terribly damaged? This plot device also successfully adds to the twists and tension of the action while building up the history of the murderer and a set of motives.

At the same time as Kate Pearson and Adam are working to solve this case, Sandra Regan becomes increasingly disturbed by a strange presence in her life. She has become convinced that her husband Edgar is having an affair and that the other woman is stalking her and moving objects around in her home, though her friends don’t believe her. The reader must figure out what connects Sandra Regan to the murder under investigation. Is this mysterious ‘other woman’ the Tarot killer?

I don’t want to say too  much more for fear of giving away vital clues. I’ll leave you to read the book and work it out for yourselves. I often feel a sense of dissatisfaction after reading thrillers, a sense of ‘so that’s it then’ when all the twists are over. However, I didn’t get that familiar feeling from the denouement of Last Kiss. The ending was a satisfying conclusion to the case and I have to say that I didn’t guess the killer’s identity before the plot revealed it to me.

As I mentioned above, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Last Kiss from the publishers, so thanks again for that. If anyone out there would like to have my copy (I’m not a heavy handed reader so it’s still as good as new) then drop me a line in the comment box. Deadline is midnight Sunday and then I’ll put names in a hat on Monday morning and pick  out a winner. Good luck!

Finally, if you want to read more on Louise Phillips, here’s a link to a re-blog from Rebecca Bradley on the question of first drafts that I posted recently

What’s Your First Draft Like? – Louise Phillips

I’m re-blogging this piece from Rebecca Bradley’s crime blog since I’ve recently finished Louise Phillips’ Last Kiss. You might remember that Louise was a guest on The Landing last year after the publication of The Dolls’ House. Last Kiss is another griping read featuring Dr Kate Pearson, who is helping the police to find a killer before she (Kate is convinced that the killer is female) strikes again. Lots of unease, darkness and twists and turns, but also compassion and empathy in the story. More on this book to follow…

Rebecca Bradley

lou_p (2)Today’s First Draft Guest is crime writer Louise Phillips.

Red Ribbons, the bestselling debut novel by Dublin-born crime author Louise Phillips, was nominated for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Book of the Year award at the BGE Irish Book Awards in 2012. Louise won the award in 2013 for her second novel The Doll’s House. Louise returned to writing in 2006, after raising her family. In addition to her three published novels, Louise’s work has been published as part of various anthologies and literary journals. She has won the Jonathan Swift Award, was a winner in the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform, and her writing has been shortlisted for prizes such as the Molly Keane Memorial Award and Bridport UK.Last Kiss is her third novel and she is currently working on her fourth.

 

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing…

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Daniel Seery: A Model Landing Author

As promised yesterday, and just in time to liven up a chilly Monday morning in Dublin are a few questions that I put to Daniel Seery, author of A Model Partner (Liberties Press). I was surprised to realise just how long it’s been since I had a guest post (my last was Louise Phillips in August) so I’m pleased to welcome Daniel to the #LandingAuthors club. I do feel compelled to mention that as I  now work for Liberties Press, any praise I give Daniel’s book might seem biased. Therefore, I will more or less let him speak for himself other than to say that I think Daniel has created a very engaging and sympathetic character in his main protagonist Tom Stacey.

CM: I was reading in your piece on Writing.ie that you have written and directed a play and been shortlisted in an RTE drama competition. Can I start by asking you how difficult you found it to direct your own piece?

DS: When I write a piece I tend to visualise the whole scene, the pace of the drama, the way a character will deliver a line, the tone they use, even their movement. Initially, it was difficult to let go of this and allow the actor to move forward with their interpretation of the play. And in this respect I had to stop myself from over-directing and trying to control every aspect. But I knew the actor very well. I’d seen him in plenty of plays and I trusted his judgement and his skill. In the end, a lot of the directing came down to the physical arrangement and other technical details.

A Model Partner

CM: Moving on to novel writing, how different do you find the creative process to be from writing for the stage? 

DS: I had a good idea of the themes that I wanted to have in the play so I approached it in the same way I’d approach a novel, in that I usually try to get a rough draft down as quickly as possible in an effort to capture the tone of the piece. The editing stage was very different though, imagining how everything was going to look from an audience perspective and adapting it for the stage. But it’s nice to take on a new challenge with your writing. I’ve a couple of ideas for screenplays and I hope to get the time to write them someday.

CM: In A Model Partner, you have thrown a lot of misfortune Tom’s way during his formative years. Did you plan this from the start or did events take shape as you worked?

DS: The first time I imagined Tom he was leaning against a wall, listening in on his neighbours. I pictured this character on the fringes of society and I wanted to delve into how he ended up in this situation. Because I wanted the character to have a lot of heart, it would make more sense that he was a victim of circumstance and the actions of other people. It also offers the notion that often the bad events in our lives can impact us greater than the good.  

CD: Assuming that Tom finds ‘the one’ do you think that she would be able to cope with Tom’s obsessive need to place his chair exactly so, or do you feel that he would no longer have a need to control his environment so closely?

DS: I think a large part of relationships is about understanding and allowing for a partner’s natural or emotional flaws, so Tom would need to meet someone who is patient and will give him time to change. I think there are some signs in the book that his behaviour is altering. Perhaps he just needs someone to have faith in him and to love him, just like everybody else, I guess.

CD: Following on from the last question, I wondered how much research you did in order to flesh out Tom’s psychological profile in a convincing way.

DS: I wanted Tom to have rigid mannerisms but I wasn’t sure as to what extent I could push this character. So I researched a lot of psychology and medical journals in order to find similar cases and articles relating to trauma and OCD and the unwavering need to control an environment. Once I had some understanding of similar conditions and that I wasn’t merely going on any engrained stereotypical ideas, I felt free to move forward with Tom and the book. Luckily, I work in a library so I have plenty of access to this type of material.

CD: Deciding to use a wax dummy as a model for a partner could have been tricky to pull off as a plot device for all sorts of reasons that it might be best not to go into here. Were you at all wary of introducing her/she/it into the story?

DS: I think writers can often have doubts about the avenues they are taking with their plot. There is certainly a risk when introducing a waxwork model as a character, the fact that it could turn out farcical or that it might weaken some of the themes you are building. But the positive outweighed the negative, like the humour it could add to balance out the book or as a tool to show that beauty runs much deeper than a culmination of perfect traits. It needed a lot of work to fit seamlessly into the book but I think it was a risk worth taking.

CD: This final question is out of simple curiosity: Tom’s friend J.P. carries On the Road around with him and of course, Tom and his grandfather have their own road trip. Were you inspired by a road trip of your own and are/were you a Kerouac devotee?

DS: I wasn’t inspired by a road trip but the back story was in some ways influenced by the fact that my father is a truck driver. As a kid I’d love getting the chance to sit beside him in the cab and go for a drive. If I’ve a natural talent at anything in life it is definitely the talent of being a good passenger. Although Iggy Pop’s The Passenger was released on the Lust for Life album the year I was born, I still think he must have written the song about me!

‘All of it was made for you and me…so let’s take a ride and see what’s mine’

With On the Road, I loved the novel but I wouldn’t say I was a devotee like J.P. Instead, I wanted to use Kerouac’s book as a symbol of a future that JP naively presumes he is entitled to. But with the likes of JP, their aspirations are only a mimic of someone else’s aspirations and they are reluctant to chase or work for their vision of the future. And in some ways they are forever waiting on an adventure that is never going to happen.

Many thanks to Daniel Seery for taking the time to answer a few questions about Tom Stacey and A Model Partner. I hope that you will now be intrigued enough to want to read the book for yourselves. If so, just follow the links to the Liberties Press site where you can order a copy.

Now, I’ll try not to leave it too long before my next #LandingAuthor…

Introducing Landing Author Daniel Seery

As I mentioned on Twitter earlier this week, I am due to host debut author Daniel Seery  (A Model Partner, Liberties Press) on The Landing. Daniel’s novel had a successful  launch last week at The Gutter Bookshop in Dublin by fellow Stinging Fly contributor Colin Barrett. As you will know from one of my previous posts, Daniel generously gave a guest spot on his blog in the form of a Q & A to his cover designer Karen Vaughan. This time it’s Daniel’s turn to go under the spotlight with a few questions based on A Model Partner. I’m going to post up the email interview on Monday but meanwhile here is a short introduction to Tom Stacey, whose methodical search for his perfect partner will lead him into some surreal situations…. But will he find ‘the one’?

A Model Partner

The bees are a buzzing…

Tom Stacey has moved into his neighbour’s bedsit. He wasn’t asked. It was just that the door was open and his neighbours have gone on holiday. And it is so much bigger than his own bedsit. Plus, he has a lot to think about these days. The bees for one. He hasn’t seen any but he keeps hearing them, buzzing in the fridge at work, in the overhead lights, in the test equipment in the factory where he has spent the last fifteen years of his working life. They seem to be getting louder and more insistent, and they are beginning to affect the way he goes about his business.

Then there is his search for Sarah McCarthy to worry about. Sarah was his first love when, as a teenager, he travelled around the country in the back of a horsebox with his grieving grandfather. But perhaps it is not the bees or the past which is the problem. Perhaps it is his on going loneliness. Twenty-two dates with Happy Couples dating agency and nothing to show – bar a dent in his bank balance and several complaints about ‘eccentric behaviour’. Relationships are all about the details and there are just not enough boxes to tick in the Agency’s personal profile form.

Armed with a wax model and a list of criteria, Tom sets out on a quest to create a personal profile to find his ideal match. On his journey, he meets people just like him, warm but unable to show it, lonely and unable to remedy it, the lost, the misplaced and the damaged.

Daniel Seery

Daniel Seery

About the author:

Daniel Seery is a writer from Dublin. His work has appeared in local and national publications including The Stinging Fly and REA Journal and he has worked on a number of public arts commissions. In 2012 he was the resident writer in the Axis Centre, Ballymun. He has also been shortlisted for an RTÉ drama competition, has recently been one of the winners of the Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair and he has written and directed a play The One We Left Behind which ran in the Irish Writers’ Centre in May 2012 and in the Helix in August 2012. A Model Partner is his first novel.

Credits: Book blurb and cover taken from Liberties Press website.
Author photograph taken from Daniel Seery’s blog.

Landing Author: Louise Phillips

Red Ribbons & The Doll's House

A Brace of Thrillers

Here as promised is Louise Phillips to add a touch of darkness to The Landing as she answers a couple of my questions about delving into loss and deeply buried emotions. I also couldn’t resist asking a question about Louise’s experience with her promotional video and if you click on the link below you can enjoy a chill down your spine.

I met Louise perhaps not surprisingly, through my job as a bookseller but I have dear old Twitter to thank for enabling us to keep in touch, thus paving the way for this opportunity to have Louise as a guest. Many thanks to the future ‘Grande Dame’ of crime for including me in her Blog Tour and for the thoughtful answers to my questions.

Now, on with the Q & A:

CM: In both of your novels you’ve dealt with the themes of lost children/childhood. Can I ask you what drew you to examine this kind of emotional and physical loss?

LP: I think the ‘who’ of ourselves is found in childhood. I had a challenging one, and it’s made me very aware of beginnings and how the past forms us. With Red Ribbons, I dealt with the loss of a child, and as a mother, this was particularly difficult for me to write. However, just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean you should back away from it. Being a mother certainly helped the writing, and many of the reviews focused on how the narrative dealt with the emotional bond between a mother and her child. I must have done something right, seeing as how it was shortlisted for Best Crime Novel of 2012 in the Irish Book Awards, and despite the difficult nature of the story, it was a story worth telling.

The Doll’s House is very different, and is a story which questions the notion that the past cannot harm you because it has already happened. In The Doll’s House, the main protagonist, Clodagh Hamilton delves deeply into the area of hypnosis and regression. The child and the adult Clodagh Hamilton get to meet via her fragmented recall of memory whilst under hypnotic regression – this was a fascinating concept to me as the writer, the idea that the child self and the adult self could meet. By and large, stories pick you, and it’s not surprising to me that I use a character’s childhood as the backdrop to the ‘who’ of themselves, and also, why they do the things they do. But a great question, and one I will reflect more on.

CM: Psychological thriller novels such as your own work can be very unsettling to read, leaving the reader somewhat less sure of his/her own world. How does the writing process affect you, as you are so involved in the material?

The Doll's House

Dare you enter…?

LP: In many ways, the fictional world is totally real to me when I’m writing it. It has to be, because if it doesn’t feel real to you, it won’t feel real to the reader either. Without wanting to sound over the top about it, I’m drawn to stories and emotions that force me to question and examine things. It nearly always starts with a question ‘why?’ and then ‘how?’, until I become utterly gripped. In some strange way, there are times when it feels like someone else is writing the novel. Despite being close to the material, I also have to separate myself from it. Readers want a great story that is well written, it’s not my opinion that counts, or what I feel about an individual character or what they’ve done. Maybe that protects me in a way, it certainly doesn’t frighten me. The only thing that frightens me about the writing, is first drafts – they are scary, but thankfully a long way from the finished story!

CM: Moving on to a different aspect of writing: You’ve been involved in producing a publicity video for The Doll’s House and I was just wondering whether you enjoy being a part of the promotional aspect of being a writer.

LP: It’s very different from the writing side of things, and I certainly can’t do any major promotional work while I’m writing. Do I enjoy it? Yes, in the main, but it can be hard work too. You have to put yourself out there, and that means taking risks. I was petrified the first time I was on radio, and then on television. When I did my first newspaper interview, it was the same. Now, I’d still be apprehensive, but I don’t let the apprehension stop me, and once I don’t make a mess of it, I’m happy enough. Things like making a book trailer or looking at other imaginative ways of promoting the novel are great fun. I write, so I love coming up with new ideas. The bottom line is that in today’s world it’s very difficult for a new author to get noticed, and the reason you look to be noticed, is that you want readers to read your book. If they do, hopefully, they will return for more. The recession has hit the book industry in a very dramatic way and readers when making their purchase will usually buy a novel by a writer they are familiar with and trust, namely the well-established names. As a new player in the field, it’s an uphill struggle, and anything you can do to encourage others to read your work, is a positive thing, even if it means asking your son-in-law to pretend to be a dead body in the canal!!

And here is that video….be warned…it’s rather creepy!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Louise Phillips

Louise Phillips

Born in Dublin, Louise Phillips returned to writing in 2006, after raising her family. That year, she was selected by Dermot Bolger as an emerging talent. Her work has been published as part of many anthologies, including County Lines from New Island, and various literary journals. In 2009, she won the Jonathan Swift Award for her short story Last Kiss, and in 2011 she was a winner in the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform. She has also been short-listed for the Molly Keane Memorial Award, Bridport UK, and long-listed twice for the RTE Guide/Penguin Short Story Competition. Her bestselling debut novel, Red Ribbons, was shortlisted for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year (2012) in the Irish Book Awards. The Doll’s House is her second novel.

If you would like to contact Louise Phillips:

http://www.louise-phillips.com

@LouiseMPhillips

http://www.facebook.com/LouisePhillips

Both Red Ribbons and The Doll’s House can be ordered by clicking: http://www.louise-phillips.com/index.php/books/order  or just pop into your local Easons (3 for 2 offer on at the moment) or Dubray branch, or indeed (as the saying goes) any good bookshop.

Thanks again to Louise for taking the time to answer my questions. If you want to join in the conversation, drop a note in the box below.

Credits: promotional material and images supplied by the author with thanks.

Landing Author Expected: Louise Phillips

In the next couple of days, The Landing is moving away from the foggy distant past and right bang up to date with a new #LandingAuthor guest spot. My guest this time will be psychological thriller writer Louise Phillips who has published her second novel The Doll’s House (Hachette Ireland) on the 1st August. If the reviews are anything to go by, The Doll’s House is looking to be as gripping a read as her first novel Red Ribbons.

Louise Phillips held a very successful launch party at Bob Johnston’s Gutter Bookshop on 7  August which I sadly missed as I was away on my hols. Arlene Hunt did the honours on the night and I gather a good time was had by all.

Louise Phillips

#LandingAuthor Louise Phillips

I am very pleased to be involved with Louise’s promotional blog tour for her follow-up to Red Ribbons and to have the opportunity to put a couple of questions to her. Look out for The Landing leg of Louise Phillip’s blog tour on Thursday 29th August.

Just to whet your appetite, here is the blurb for The Doll’s House as a little taster before Thursday:

The Doll's House

Dare you enter…?

PEOPLE SAY THAT THE TRUTH CAN SET YOU FREE.
BUT WHAT IF THE TRUTH IS NOT SOMETHING YOU WANT TO HEAR?

Thirty-five years ago Adrian Hamilton drowned. At the time his death was reported as a tragic accident but the exact circumstances remained a mystery.

Now his daughter Clodagh, trying to come to terms with her past, visits a hypnotherapist who unleashes disturbing childhood memories of her father’s death. And as Clodagh delves deeper into her subconscious, memories of another tragedy come to light – the death of her baby sister.

Meanwhile criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson is called in to help in the investigation of a murder after a body is found in a Dublin canal. When Kate digs beneath the surface of the killing, she discovers a sinister connection to the Hamilton family.

What terrible events took place in the Hamilton house all those years ago? And what connect them to the recent murder?

Time is running out for Clodagh and Kate.

See you on Thursday with Louise Phillips!

Landing Author: Bethany Dawson

Today’s post contains a guest piece from debut author Bethany Dawson with whom I first made contact via good old Twitter (@storiesbybeth). I was given a copy of her novel My Father’s House (Liberties Press, 2013) by the publishers earlier this year, and upon reading it, I was very impressed by its literary quality.

For those of you who haven’t read My Father’s House, the novel’s plot centres on Robbie Hanright’s return from Dublin to his family home in County Down when he learns of his father’s illness. Robbie turned his back on the family farm, his parents and two sisters to make a new life for himself a few years previously.

book jacket of My Father's House

An Evocative Image..

As the narrative unfolds we learn more about what he left behind and why he chose to do so. Time has moved on since Robbie fled to Dublin and things and people have changed back home so he has much to absorb and to reflect upon. Robbie meets faces from the past and has to come to terms with his actions. But will he learn from the past?

This is a deceptively quiet novel where the focus is upon relationships with family and friends. The reason I say ‘deceptively’ is because there is a huge depth of emotion conveyed within an ostensibly straightforward series of events. The effect builds throughout the novel to satisfying effect. The layers of the characters are gradually revealed and I found that the more I knew about them, the more I wanted to know. I don’t want to reveal too many of the plot details so I won’t tell you any more.

Bethany Dawson has written a piece especially for The Landing in which she discusses her characters and her readers’ responses to them:

Muddling through: characterisation in My Father’s House

I have found peoples’ response to the characters in My Father’s House very interesting. One reader said she finished the novel feeling sad that there hadn’t been a happier ending. Another said she wished the main character, Robbie, had just ‘grown a set’.

My fascination with people and how they relate to one another is the centre from which my book flows. Several thousand words into my original manuscript I felt as though I knew my characters pretty well. By the end of the three years it took to complete the writing of the novel, I had spent far too much time with them.

Robbie is the kind of man I hoped would be better but always left me feeling slightly disappointed. His relationship with his father, John, is complex, and both their Northern Irish identity and the shadow of sickness intensify the difficulties they have connecting. I found it wonderfully challenging to write scenes with the two of them. The culture of sweeping things under the carpet means so little is actually said and at times I found the tension unbearable.

Robbie’s mother is a refreshing example of someone who took the opportunity to change. A few readers found her transformation from dowdy housewife to a woman with a young lover who keeps ostrich feathers on her dresser quite amusing.

I wanted readers to see their brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and grandparents reflected in my characters. Although the story is a work of fiction, there are truths reflected in it with which most people can identify. In general, the characters muddle through a very difficult time and try, quite unsuccessfully at times, to work out how to relate to one another. By the final page of the novel some things are resolved but most are not, and in this way I hope I have been true to how the majority of real life stories come to an end.

BIO

Bethany Dawson

Bethany Dawson

Bethany Dawson released her debut novel My Father’s House last month. She completed a Master of Philosophy in Creative Writing at Trinity College, Dublin in 2007. She works as the Assistant Editor of The Zimbabwean, an independent newspaper produced in the UK. She currently lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland with her husband and son, but has spent time living in both Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Bethany blogs at http://www.storiesbybethany.blogspot.ie/ and if you want to take a look at the Liberties Press website, she has recorded a promotional video for My Father’s House.

Many thanks to Bethany Dawson for contributing to The Landing

Photo credit: Carl Whinnery

UPDATE – June 2013 –

Bethany Dawson is featured in this month’s edition of The Gloss magazine talking about living and travelling in South Africa. You can click on The Gloss website for an extract of the article.