Jennifer McCartney - in love with literary Glasgow

Staying afloat

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Debut novelist Jennifer McCartney tells Suzanne Black why she fell in love with literary Glasgow.

The photograph on the cover of Jennifer McCartney’s first novel, Afloat, has the author sitting on a bench holding two small oranges. ‘I needed a picture and only had six to choose from,’ she says. ‘It was taken in Rome in the Vatican Orange Garden. We picked oranges from the tree and 30 seconds later saw this big sign that says “these are the Pope’s oranges - don’t touch”.’ Defying the wrath of the Catholic Church to procure what she hopes is a ‘bizarre’ and ‘enticing’ picture, her choice of visual representation matches her fresh, energetic and genuine approach to writing.

Drawing on her own summer as a Canadian waitressing on the ‘strange and lovely’ American island of Mackinac she narrates a tale of lost love and lost youth. Approaching the events from the present and 50 years into the future, it is reminiscent of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time-Traveller’s Wife.

McCartney earned a distinction on the University of Glasgow creative writing course (aligning her with Louise Welsh and Zoë Strachan).

She recalls, ‘We’d all go to the pub and talk about our characters like they were real people’. Enthused by the literary scene in Glasgow and what she sees as a renaissance in Scottish writing, she is moving back to live in Glasgow permanently on the day she appears at the Aye Write! festival.

Jennifer McCartney is at Aye Write! on Wed 21 Feb. Afloat is published by Hamish Hamilton on Thu 22 Feb.

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