Introducing Landing Author Caitriona Lally and ‘Eggshells’

Eggshells

Published by Liberties Press, 2015. Cover design by Karen Vaughan.

After quite a long gap, I am pleased to be hosting another Landing Author guest post. Over the last couple of years, I have had guest posts from some lovely writers, beginning with Andrés Neuman in April 2012 and most recently, Juliet Greenwood last August. As you can see, it has been quite a while… In looking back, I note that I have said the very same thing before so perhaps I need a better ‘Author Routine’ to keep me regular.

My impetus for (trying) to get into gear again with guest posts, was Caitriona Lally giving a talk at our Liberties Upstairs Culture Club event recently. In parallel, we read Eggshells for the Upstairs book club. I mentioned in my last post that I would like to ask her to contribute a Landing post, and she very kindly agreed. I will post up Caitriona’s piece on Friday 17 July and leave you with a taster for now.  As I have now declared my Liberties Press interest[i], I am not going to offer a review of Eggshells. What I will do however is to give you part of Sarah Gilmartin’s review in the Irish Times (6 June) to introduce you to Eggshells, and its unusual protagonist Vivian Lawlor:

 

Vivian is a self-professed changeling, left by fairies to compete with her parents’ human child, also called Vivian. With the parents dead, the two adult Vivians are all that remain. Human Vivian is married with children and uninterested in her sister’s strange ways. The narrator lives alone in her great-aunt’s house, filling her days with sugary treats, dressing up and a variety of bizarre pastimes as she seeks a way out of this world and back to her own.

It is an interesting set-up, with a clever ambiguity surrounding the narrator. The book is rooted in the natural world of contemporary Dublin, but to Vivian’s eyes this is a fairytale world, full of rules of threes and sixes, and potential gateways to supernatural lands. How much of her changeling status is fictional, the delusions of a severely disturbed character, is left for the reader to puzzle over. This question gives momentum to Vivian’s escapades. It also, somewhat unexpectedly, provides plenty of laughs in a book full of one-liners.

Much of the humour comes from the author’s preoccupation with language and wordplay. Vivian tells a social worker enquiring about her job prospects: “I am open-minded. Sometimes I wear my slippers on the opposite feet to change my worldview.” As she searches for portals across the city – St Stephen’s Green, Glasnevin cemetery, the canals, the Liffey bridges – her literal take on language brings about many absurd situations. The need for precision in language is a major theme, with Vivian constantly drawing attention to the gap between speech and meaning. “I wake on a damp pillow,” she tells us. “My dreams must have leaked.”

A loose plot develops out of this affinity with language when Vivian pins a notice to a tree: “I want a friend called Penelope. When I know her well enough, I’ll ask her why she doesn’t rhyme with Antelope.” The new friend, actually called Elaine, is another oddball character. Struggling herself with mother issues and an obsession with painting cats, Elaine/Penelope doesn’t judge. More importantly, she promises she’ll organise a vertical burial for Vivian, which is all Vivian has ever wanted in a friend.

The black comedy gives the book a jaunty quality that complements the dazzling trip around Dublin. From the “soot-streaked backs of the buildings at the junction of George’s Street and Dame Street” to the “fierce bang of hops from the Guinness factory, a smell somewhere between meat and toffee”, Lally uses Vivian’s otherworldly perspective to bring the city to life.

 

Caitriona, a lover of words who confesses to having no proper writing routine, has written a post for us about her obsession with other writers and their routines. I won’t spoil the blog post by telling you about any writerly habits that you may or may not wish to emulate (on Friday you can judge the wisdom of those mentioned).

I was delighted to realise that Caitriona’s post will be the 200th post on The Landing! See you on Friday…

Caitriona Lally

Caitriona Lally

About the author:

Caitriona Lally studied English Literature in Trinity College Dublin. She has had a colourful employment history, working as an abstract writer and a copywriter alongside working as a home help in New York and an English teacher in Japan. She has travelled extensively around Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and South America. Her essay about Grangegorman appeared in a recent issue of We Are Dublin. Eggshells was selected as one of twelve finalists in the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair 2014.

[i] Since I have been associated with Liberties Press, I have similarly featured the books of Bethany Dawson (guest blog post) and Daniel Seery (Q and A).

Picture credits: Liberties Press and the Irish Times.

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.

An Interview with Karen Vaughan…

This post from Daniel Seery’s blog is an interview with one of my colleagues, graphic designer Karen Vaughan. When I discovered from reading this that we share a liking for Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham, of course I had to give her a mention! It’s also worth checking out more of Daniel Seeery’s blog if you have the time. His first novel A Model Partner (Liberties Press) is being launched next week in Dublin. And it does have a great cover…

Daniel Seery

In 1925, an artist by the name of Francis Cugat was commissioned to design the cover of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ despite the fact that the novel had yet to be completed.  When the author saw the cover, he was so enamoured with it that he told the publisher he had written it into the book. This is the power a cover illustration can have on a book.

Gatsby_1925_jacketRecently, I’ve been working with a fantastic cover artist by the name of Karen Vaughan.  Karen is an illustrator and designer working with Liberties Press. She has a particular love for pen and ink and examples of her work can be seen on her website –

http://kvaughan.com/

She is an artist to watch out for in the future and luckily I managed to get an interview with her…and here it is…

Karen, when did you first realise you wanted to…

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