For the past ten years or so I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing various authors and discovered many magical insights into the writing process. One question I often ask is; why should people read your book? Answers to this have varied but none has been quite as enjoyable as that given by A L Kennedy at the 2011 Edinburgh Book Festival to the Guardian: “Because it’s not shit”. When I heard this on a YouTube clip I immediately booked a place for her Reading Group session on Saturday 16 February at the Festival of Words.
Kennedy won the Costa prize in 2008 for her fifth novel Day, though I suspect her motivation wasn’t for the £25,000 cheque as she appears to live a relatively simple life: “I have sex about once every five years. I’ve lived alone since I was 17. I am slightly tired. My life is not comfortable to me. But I am philosophical.”
Day tells the story of a World War II veteran whose work as an extra on a war film forces him to confront his past. It’s a difficult read, though, as it shifts between three narrative modes and has led to comparisons with James Joyce.
At the Festival Kennedy will be discussing her novels and writing life with particular focus on Day and The Blue Book. The Blue Book sees Beth, the novel’s highly sensitive narrator, board a luxury liner with her dull boyfriend Derek in what turns out to be a particularly rough journey for various reasons. On the cruise she encounters fortune-telling, stage magic and mind-reading and we see how these ancient arts feed on the desperation of lonely and suggestible people.
It’s an event I would highly recommend to studio members because it’s not often you get the chance to spend two hours with a such a prestigious author and is a great opportunity to discuss her complex narrative techniques – something which is growing in popularity once more with novels such as Tom McCarthy’s C making it onto the 2010 Booker shortlist and Jon McGregor winning the Impac prize for Even the Dogs. The Booker also has a new rival in the Literature Prize which will see one author receiving a £40,000 prize in March 2014. The prize was created after the 2011 Booker was criticised for daring to value ‘readability’.
One of the great successes at the studio this year has been the various subgroups that have formed, enabling poets, fiction writers, journalists, YA authors and scriptwriters to workshop ideas with like-minded professionals. Kennedy’s reading group session is a unique opportunity to advance these debates and learn more about narrative and technique. We hope that members (and the public) will take advantage of this two hour session to enable them to develop their craft further.
By James Walker (NWS Chair)
Saturday 16th February
3.00pm – 5.00pm
NTU Newton Arkwright Building
£10 from Lowdham Festivals Box Office
0115 966 3219