Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Nude not Naked Tour Arrives at TaniaWrites!

I am delighted to be hosting the second leg on my great friend and writing colleague Nuala Ní Chonchúir's Nude Not Naked virtual book tour for her stunning short story collection, Nude, published on Sept 1st by Salt Publishing.

Young though she may be (the same age as me, so very very young!), Nuala, who lives in Galway, has already published 4 books: two short story collections and two collections of poetry, with a third forthcoming from Templar Poetry in November. Shortlisted for the European Prize for Literature, the Irish Times included her in their "People to watch this year" feature in January. Watch her? You'd better concentrate, she is so prolific and active, you are liable to miss something if you don't! (Did I mention that she gave birth to her third child, Juno, this year too?)

Before we start chatting, I thought I would give you a taste of Nuala's latest collection, in which all the stories have some flavour of nudity, but it is never what you expect. I tried so hard not to read it in one sitting, to savour it over time. But I couldn't put it down. It is clear to see that the writer is also a poet who loves language and rhythm.

Here is an excerpt from Unmothered:

The outflow on the bath is like a keyhole; you stopper it with your toe and let the water lap in your ears, to block out the house. If you were key-shaped, you wouldslither into that hole and slip down the pipes, away from here. Away from the women who breed women; the women who have cried lavishly for three days, though your daughter was an embarrassment to them and you all knowit. When you called your baby Angelica, your sister said it was a waste of a good name.

There is no name for you now.
Welcome, Nuala!

Tania: This is your third book of short stories. How do you feel this book is different, in terms of the writing style, tone, voices, subject matter, themes - any of those or other things?

Nuala: I think the style is pretty much still me; style is such an innate thing – an extension of personality – so I don’t think that’s changed in my work. I hope maybe it’s more comfortable now though, more honed. I feel like I’ve learnt so much over the years about what story is and hopefully some of that is apparent in my work. I’m a fan of stylistic, poetic writing and I hope I’ve achieved a better version of that in this book than in the others.

There are less children’s voices in Nude, as there are in To the World of Men, Welcome, my second collection; the themes are more adult in both. They deal a lot with broken relationships and sex. Nude has a lot of visual art in it from different POV’s: the artist, the model, the painting. If I was any good, I’d like to have been an artist.

The Wind Across the Grass, my first collection, mined a different seam – there were children’s lives in it. I do enjoy writing from a child’s point of view – I remember my own childhood vividly – but it can be a relief to write as an adult sometimes. I prefer being a grown-up!

T: For me, publishing my short story collection drew a line under all the 27 stories that were in it: it meant that they were done, dealt with, I didn't have to worry about them anymore and could move on. What does it mean to you as a writer to publish a book, whether it be poetry or short stories, both of which you write? What does having a book do for you personally?

N: Oh yes, I agree with that – the stories in Nude are now finished and I have a fresh canvas. It’s a relief in one way to get the book out there and nerve-wracking in another. I don’t show my fiction to anyone before it’s published (not even my Peer Group) so the first reading it gets is in magazines or a collection. I never know what people will make of the stories. I guess I still never do afterwards – it’s hard to discuss stories with the writer of them – but friends and other readers etc are generally quite positive. To my face at least!

I love having a new book – it’s the reward after years of writing.

T: Did you write with the "nude" theme in mind or did you just wake up one day and realise that you had a set of stories where nudity was, if not a theme, then something that is glimpsed in each story?

N: It was the latter, really. I’m fairly obsessed with visual art and I’ve collected postcards of the nude in art for years – people send them to me from their hols and I buy them in galleries. I made a notice-board of nudes for my wall and began to write poems and stories around some of them. It wasn’t deliberate but I think it works well as a linking motif. in the book. Not all of the stories feature art so it’s not some sort of false imposition of a theme. Some of the nudes are lovers and their unclothed bodies are incidental; some – like the boy modelling as the young Jesus in Jackson and Jerusalem – are more central.

T: You say, "If I was any good, I’d like to have been an artist." I say: you are an artist, a word artist. What draws you to the visual image that you don't think you can get from words, either writing or reading them?

N: "Word artist" – that’s cool! I’m pretty awed by people who can paint or sculpt well. I love the way they can have an idea and translate that into the visual; I’d like to have that gift. I can get a lot of visual stuff from words but a beautiful painting is a different thing. Plus it doesn’t feel like stealing to write about a painting, whereas it can to write about/from someone’s words.

T: Also, I am intrigued that you don't show your fiction to anyone until it's published. Why is this? Were you burned by bad or useless critique? Or is it just a part of your process? Does this mean that publication is the tool you use to gauge if your story is "done"?

N: I just don’t feel the need to show it; I am fairly confident in my abilities in fiction and don’t really want input from others. Though I do attend the odd workshop or master-class and they can be fun.

I have a note on my notice-board: "The story you’re writing is a secret." I think I picked that up from a Jack Heffron book. I’d consider it good advice – if you constantly let other people into your story before it’s finished it could get messed around and muddled. I’d hate that. I have enough trouble trying to figure out what’s going on myself without other writers fiddling with my story.

Poetry is different – I like to get critique and feedback on that and I find it helpful. It’s easier to critique poems, probably because they are short and ‘visible’. My first writing group was a poetry one, so I guess it just became my modus operandi to keep my stories to myself.

I usually know myself when a story is done; it’s when I’m happy enough to send it out.

T: Thank you so much, Nuala, it was an honour and a privilege to have you stop by on your way around the (virtual) world. Best of luck with the book.

N: Thanks a million, Tania, for having me at your lovely blog. Next week, on my virtual tour, I'll be stopping off at writer Colm Keegan's place, Uiscebots Blog. Do stop by to eavesdrop on a little chat between two Dubliners.

For more on the virtual book tour, visit Nude Not Naked. To buy Nude, click on the link. You won't regret it, it is a moving, entertaining and vital addition to every bookshelf. A writer to watch, but more importantly, to read.

Reminder: today is the last day to win one of three signed copies of my book in my First Birthday Giveaway! Leave a comment on the First Birthday Giveaway blog post to win!


Miss_Úna said...

Fantastic interview Tania. Great questions revealing more into the workings of you "word artists"!
I love that snippet from Unmothered. I am desperate to read Nude at this point! Do I wait until the Nov launch or not??! Nuala, you must be blushing reading that intro, your fabulous dharling!

Kar said...

Hi Tania,

Thoroughly enjoyed reading the interview, brilliant questions and I really liked your description of Nuala as a ‘word artist’.

Loved ‘The White Road’ also.


Group 8 said...

Ah thanks, Una! I am blushing - scarlet!!
Thanks so much Tania, for a lovely introduction and great questions. It's a pleasure to be here!

Sarah Hilary said...

Terrific interview, thanks Tania and Nuala. And hi from Bristol!

Elizabeth Baines said...

Great interview! Thank you both. I'm really interested to read that you never show your stories until they're finished for you, as I do this too. I love that quote about the story you're telling being a secret.

Group 8 said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. I quite dread the idea of anyone poking at my story before it's done and yet I enjoy doing it for others (?). I missed a vocation as an editor, I sometimes think.

Tania Hershman said...

Una, thank you! Thanks for stopping by.. and I am sure you could get your hands on a copy now, and then get another one at the launch ;)

kar - it was inspired by nuala herself. I rather like it, actually! And thanks for your kind words about The White Road.

Nuala - my absolute pleasure! This was my chance to ask those nosey questions I've been wanting to ask!

Sarah, thank you!

Elizabeth, I was pretty intrigued by that too, it also speaks to me.

N - you could still be an editor too...If you have time!

Rachel Fenton said...

Brilliant interview Tania - Nuala, I love the bit about you not liking people 'fiddling about' with your stories! And that you would like to be an artist - because you are: a word artist!

Nik Perring said...

Great interview, you two. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right about keeping current writing secret. So often people have taken what I have written and treated it like a gigantic bouncy castle to jump on.
It breaks down then and needs a major puncture-repair kit!