After a few years of working in the fast paced advertising industry in London, Hong Kong and New York, writing for a living has been a relief. Following the quiet success of my first novel, Becoming Strangers, which was shortlisted for the Dublin International Literary Award, I was ready to tackle something completely different from this modestly charming novel set in Barbados.
As a family we moved from Brooklyn to Provence, and as I started to think about the next novel, unexpectedly Belfast came calling for me. Quite quickly, I was one of the few people to take the EasyJet flight from southern France to Northern Ireland to get away from it all. (Anything rosé to drink, bowling after lunch on a Sunday, olive groves and swimming pools, it can tire you out.)
The story I wrote tells of the general protest both from the point of view of a Catholic mother, with a son in Long Kesh, and that of a former British soldier who was then a prison guard on H Blocks. , John Dunn. Dunn describes his relationship with Northern Ireland as “the love story that hurt him.”
I spent nine months researching, drinking lots of tea, and smoked a few cigarettes with those from both sides who had so much experience in common. When I wrote the novel, I was so immersed in it that when I put down my quill to write the ending one morning at dawn, I cried.
I tell the writers I teach now that as much as we write novels, they write us. But when they are finished, they are finished; like the love story which is bad for us, we have to come home to the family. I’ve always struggled to talk about the novel which garnered good reviews and praise from Nobel Laureate JM Coetzee and writers like Ali Smith. In fact, in a radio interview, when I was asked to summarize in less than a minute, I said no and left the studio. The book marked me, like all experiences, and life took its turn thereafter and in the years that followed, the writing alone became the lonely writing and I wonder in retrospect if the warmth of Belfast communities and their need to tell their side of the story, didn’t hold me back one way or another.
Ten years after the publication of this book, I had the impression that an old sailor’s junk was capsizing on the shore. Too many years in solo. I wanted a team, I wanted to travel to new places with other writers as opposite and curious as me. So I reached out to the industry’s leading magazine, The Bookseller, to let them know that I was going on a 90 day trip writing a novel and asked them to let the writers know that there was the place on board. So about 40 writers got in touch and a new company was born in 2017. We were writing together, and it was much more exciting and uplifting than any of us could have imagined. Knowing that you weren’t alone and sharing what is a surprisingly consistent process has been invigorating for thousands of writers since.
The Novelry is now a global writing school. We offer online writing courses with successful author tutors who write alongside our recruits and walk them through to the end. We have a recently recruited expert editorial team from the upper publishing circle of Penguin Random House. We work with the biggest literary agencies in the world to get our writers published. We’ve taken early novelists from idea to publishing deal, and we get a big bang out of every Cinderella story.
We love to work on stories. He reminds you daily that anything is possible in fiction. Storytelling is the super power we all have, whether it’s on the page or in the song. Preserving what moves us, what troubles us and rejoices us, is our reprieve against mortality. While this is a vital part of self-actualization for many, like eating and breathing, it is also an inherently community-oriented activity, although it may not seem obvious at first. on board. After all, when we write, we reach out to people of the past and the future. We cannot invent other people’s lives without appealing to our feelings for others. Our memories and experiences are woven into our stories, and when we write we honor the people who shaped us for the best.
When I started writing This Human Season, I only had one scene in mind: when John Dunn first met Catholic mother’s son Sean. Sean is, like most IRA soldiers, a very young man of 19. Having a failed relationship with his own adult son, Dunn is not so much provoked by Sean’s challenge to his authority as it is confused and touched. He handles this unfathomable connection with a small act of kindness, bringing music to the young men of Long Kesh on Christmas Eve. He played them Pink Floyd’s album The Wall that night.
When we write, we play a song for people, some of whom we know, others that we don’t know. But the difference between a song and a novel is that a novel never ends. Neither for us nor for the reader.
Because the investment every writer makes when starting a novel is of such personal value, we work one-on-one with our writers at The Novelry. We guide them with the support of a tutor author, our wonderfully warm community, and lessons with videos detailing my novel writing process and that of other writers step by step. The support and structure help stabilize the nerves.
Everyone is welcome to the party, the storytelling is ours. We focus on storytelling rather than beautiful prose. Readers, editors and agents want stories, not verses, and they are actively seeking new voices. So if you are reading this and think you have a book in you, we would be happy to be your guide. Writing doesn’t have to be lonely, in fact it is much more enjoyable when you write in good company.
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