Bumper virtual book launch part 4: We chat to the authors with cancelled events across Scotland
- Lynsey May
- 19 May 2020
Our lockdown book launch series continues. Join us as we get to know more about the authors and the stories ready for our e-readers and postal orders right now
There is nothing like escaping into a book, so we're delighted that publishers, book shops and authors are continuing to get new reads into our hands. Pre-lockdown, a launch would typically involve a real-life reading at a lovely local book shop, complete with drinks, chat and hugs.
We couldn't quite recreate the same feel online, but we have put together this series to highlight one other thing that no author event would be complete without – awkward questions from the audience! Please join me as I quiz our latest crop of writers.
As your host for the morning/afternoon/evening, please first let me introduce our authors and their books.
First up we have Samantha Clark and her wonderful, lyrical memoir of art, family and mental health, The Clearing. Published by Little, Brown, it's out now.
Dugald Bruce-Lockhart is telling us all about his new book, The Lizard, an atmospheric thriller that's out right now.
Next we have both Heather Parry and Jules Danskin, editors of the exciting literary magazine Extra Teeth. Issue two has been delayed due to lockdown but is coming soon.
We also have Dr Golnoosh Nourpanah here to share news of her deft and nuanced collection of stories, The Ministry of Guidance.
Thomas Legendre is here to fill us in on his new book, Keeping Time, a rich and compelling novel with a time-travelling dual narrative.
What inspired you to write this book?
Samantha: The book grew out of an idea I had been fascinated by for a long time – the idea that a 'subtle ether' filled all the supposedly empty space between things, that allowed the light of distant stars to reach us, a gap that was really a connection. As I began writing the book, however, my father died, and then my mother, and so I was clearing out the family home during this time. I realised that what was also central to the book was the space in the house, the space between the people who had lived in it, and what remained now they were gone. The book became much more personal, and much more emotionally charged.
Dugald: I took a trip to the Greek islands when I was 20 – studying at St. Andrews Uni in 1988 – and went feral over the course of ten weeks. I always knew that there was a story in there somewhere. Just took me 30 years to write it!
Thomas: Many strange ingredients went into Keeping Time apart from a fascination with time travel. First, I became obsessed with the archaeological sites and landscape of Kilmartin Glen many years ago while working on Half Life (an immersive, site-specific performance which took place on the west coast of Scotland as part of NVA's environmental art installation with National Theatre of Scotland). Second, I discovered some wild and fantastic things about JS Bach that correspond to prehistoric material culture. I'm not kidding. The catalyst, though, was an unintentionally laughable guest column in the Business section of the New York Times called 'What's in My Briefcase,' in which a member of the one percent tried to show his human side by listing personal contents, including 'a photo of my wife in a bikini twenty years ago.'
Golnoosh: Lack of visibility of Iranian queers and queer characters and desire in general.
What's the one question everyone has asked you about your new book/magazine?
Golnoosh: Not being cheeky here, but … what inspired you to write this book?
Dugald: 'Is it autobiographical?' they ask. Yes – to the one extent. But no, I never committed murder.
Thomas: 'How much of it is autobiographical?' Answer: 100%
Jules: Probably how we managed to get such stellar line-ups for both issues! The pieces in Issue One were entirely commissioned while Issue Two was mostly submission-based so they've had quite different processes. I think we're just lucky that everyone we approached said yes – I think authors can tell when you genuinely like their work. And within over 500 submissions for Issue Two, there were so many amazing pieces for us to choose from!
Heather: For me, it's why we decided to start the magazine! We so often hear that print is on its way out, but this is part of the reason we started Extra Teeth: to prove that print magazines are unique, beautiful artefacts, and that printed work is something very different to digital. There is so much brilliant, inspirational writing and art coming out of Scotland (and beyond) and we wanted to provide a platform that brings both stories and essays together in a beautifully-designed and illustrated package, to send the best of Scotland out into the wider world. As our pals at Counterpoint reminded us when we started out, a magazine's role is to 'surprise and delight' – and I like to think we are doing just that.
Did you have first/second/third/fourth book jitters while writing?
Thomas: Every book feels like a first book to me, with its own logic and uncertainty. The key is not trying to figure out everything all at once, but instead trusting the accumulation of small solutions until you reach the end. Then revise, revise, revise.
What's the best thing about being a writer?
What's the worst thing about being a writer?
Does your book have themes you didn't notice until after writing?
Samantha: One theme that was always there, but that has certainly taken on new resonance recently, is that of finding space within confinement. My mother suffered a long-term mental illness and my father was her carer, and as they aged and became physically frail their lives closed down even further. So in some ways my father lived in lockdown for decades. His fascination with amateur radio and building model planes that he never flew seemed to me to be his way of opening his life up to a sense of spaciousness and air, even while confined to his basement room. This seems very relevant as we all continue to live within the constraints of lockdown and try to find a sense of space within that.
Dugald: I think I became aware of the themes very quickly as I wrote them, but surveillance was one I hadn't really clocked until two thirds of the way through. (Sex Lies and Videotape).
And did you find themes emerging in your submissions, Extra Teeth gang?
Heather: We do, and it's fascinating to see what comes through. We don't ask for work on a particular theme or in response to anything – we just ask people to send their best, boldest, most uncompromising work – so the themes that do appear are, to my mind, a reflection of the cultural moment the work has come out of. I love trying to psychoanalyse these themes and what they tell us about what's going on, or more accurately how people are reacting to what's going on.
There was a definite 'meat' theme in the first issue (hence our brilliant Issue One illustrator Maria Stoian going that direction with the cover and pull-out print as well as the spot illustrations throughout), which I took to reflect conversations about the body, our physical utility (as framed by political conversations around who is 'worthy') and our concerns about our owns desires; you really can't get away from environmental issues when you start talking about what we eat, so the 'meat' theme was all bound up with that. For the second issue, weirdly, we had a lot of 'milk and cats', which is less easy to psychoanalyse. Perhaps everyone was watching that series of Celebrity Big Brother with George Galloway and Rula Lenska.
I'm afraid that's all the time we have for questions, yes sir, I see you at the back there, perhaps you could follow this up on Twitter after the event? A big round of applause for the authors, whose books are out now or coming soon.
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