Got your attention, haven't I?
Today, I am delighted to welcome Nuala Ní Chonchúir and her wonderful new collection of short stories, 'Nude' from Salt Publishing to my humble blog. I have to say, I've read them very quickly, because I was pulled into them very easily. Always a good sign, when you can't tear yourself away from a book.
Born in Dublin in 1970, Nuala Ní Chonchúir lives in County Galway. Her third short fiction collection Nude was published by Salt in September 2009. She is one of four winners of the 2009 Templar Poetry Pamphlet and Collection competition. Her pamphlet Portrait of the Artist with a Red Car will be published in November. Nuala's website is: www.nualanichonchuir.com
Pull up a comfy armchair there Nuala, here's a very large mug of strong writer's tea and some homemade scones & blackberry jam (freshly picked from the Cooley Peninsula on Sunday!). Tuck in!
Hi Barbara and big thanks for having me here at your blog. I know and admire your own work, so I’m honoured to be here.
Thank you Nuala, now down to questions: firstly, how and where do characters come from, for you? Do you find characters re-visiting you or is it the other way around, do you like to tease out other nuances of them in related stories?
Gosh, that’s hard to answer because, in a sense, there’s no one way that characters ‘arrive’ to me. Sometimes I have a sense of someone or a relationship between two people and I want to write about them. Take Magda and Jackson in the story ‘Jackson & Jerusalem’. She’s an older woman artist and he’s a teenager who models for her; I liked the idea of that dynamic – a friendship across generations/sexes. I based the physical descriptions on my own son when he was a bit younger. Magda isn’t based on anyone but she’s very real to me. She’s also featured in the story ‘Madonna Irlanda’ as a younger woman; if I like a character, it’s irresistible to write more about them.
Other times characters arrive like a voice in my ear – I hear their voices and I work from there.
How do you delineate so well between older and younger characters, such as Jackson and Magda in 'Jackson and Jerusalem'? Do you find it hard to switch between the headspace needed to make each character live and breathe in the rounded manner that they do?
I’m glad you think I do it well...I was one of those children who preferred the company of adults; I loved listening to their conversation. I had my poor neighbours plagued as a child, always in their houses talking to them. I find younger people harder to relate to but having kids myself has given me some understanding of what makes them tick. All of that knowledge gets ploughed into fiction, I guess – into my characters.
My stories are generally from one POV so there isn’t really a problem switching headspace. I’m not sure that I find it problematic anyway. It’s fun to get inside the heads of people who are nothing like you; I enjoy that escape thoroughly.
Have you ever experienced great difficulty with a story - say for example, getting the ending right, or losing your way through the story? I ask this, because I find your stories are so absorbingly complete and well-imagined, that I can't imagine difficulties!
Yes, lots of difficulties! I don’t plot so I never have a clue what’s going to happen next. I used to almost fear endings but I’m more relaxed about them now.
And I suppose only the stories that work get into the book. I start, and then abandon, lots of stories – some just don’t lift off the page. I’ve written plenty of what Richard Ford calls ‘minor aesthetic nullities’. I’m rarely happy with anything. There are a handful of stories in Nude that I really love – the rest I just like, in whole or in part. But it doesn’t matter what I think – it’s impossible to be objective about your own work – I just hope that readers enjoy them.
Are you compelled to write or can you save ideas for work, for later on when you get the chance? Which method works better for you?
Writing is a compulsion for some people and I’m one of them; I’m always in writing mode. Henry James said, ‘Be one of those people on whom nothing is lost’. I think I am one of them – I seem to notice a lot and, as I notice things, I’m writing a narrative in my head. I presume all writers are the same.
Lately though, with my new baby and with promoting Nude, I’m too tired and busy to write anything more than the bones of a few poems. I want to be writing above all else, but the headspace is just not there. So, instead, I take notes!
Thanks so much for having me here, Barbara, and for your great questions. Next week my virtual tour takes me to Petina Gappah’s blog in Geneva, via Zimbabwe, which is where Petina is from. Do join us!
Thank you for coming by, Nuala, it's been a pleasure and I hope that Nude garners the attention it deserves.