Saturday, 3 March 2018

In conversation with... John Connolly

Irish mystery writer, John Connolly, has found himself in the middle of a great bromance. A friend’s chance meeting with Stan Laurel set the wheels in motion - wheels that nearly 20 years later have brought him to his latest novel, he. He spoke with Andy Hamilton.

There was something about Laurel and Hardy that struck a chord for the young John Connolly. Gathered round the Saturday morning TV, a bowl of cereal in his lap, it was the honest friendship between these two men that made them so compelling. A great bromance.
Years later, during his first American book tour, the spectre of Stan Laurel once again found John. This remembrance of the man and his friendship with Oliver Hardy planted a seed in his imagination, a seed that eventually blossomed into his latest novel, he.
“They were very much part of my childhood and I always had an affection for them, more so than for Chaplin or for Buster Keating. I think that there is something in the friendship between them that resonates with kids - kids get them,” says John.
Click HERE to read this interview in full as well as other interviews with Ann Enright, John Arden, Kevin Barry, Colm Tóibin, Julian Gough, Donal Ryan, Colin Barrett, Ian Rankin, Catherine O'Flynn and Danielle McLaughlin.

Friday, 19 January 2018

In conversation with... Ian Rankin

Dirty, divorced and often depressed. A stereotypical Scottish hardman, externally fierce and gruff, seeks willing companion for decades long bout of heavy drinking, detective work and self-destructive behaviour. Unwilling to make an effort.
Detective Inspector John Rebus does not make a good personal ad.
Yet, for the last 20 years, Ian Rankin has carried Rebus with him - in this work, in his heart and always, always on his mind. Is it any wonder that after spending 17 books in conversation with the Strawman of Edinburgh, a break-up would eventually have to come?
But a break can bring a lot of things. When Inspector Rebus was forced into retirement two years ago, there were fears that freed from the trials of the no-nonsense cop, the creator would find greener and happier pastures to roam in. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In  2010, I spoke with Scottish writer Ian Rankin about the recent retirement of literary muse, John Rebus. Perhaps the most interesting part of the interview however was when Rankin talked about the place of crime fiction in the broader world of literature and the subtle work that writers like Ian McEwan, John Bandville [as Benjamin Black] and himself were doing to make crime fiction and literary fiction one and the same. 
Click HERE to read this interview in full as well as other interviews with Ann Enright, John Arden, Kevin Barry, Colm Tóibin, Julian Gough, Donal Ryan, Colin Barrett, Catherine O'Flynn and Danielle McLaughlin.

Friday, 13 October 2017

In Conversation With... John Arden

In late 2009 I paid a visit to the Galway home of Man Booker Prize runner-up, John Arden. Less than three years before his sad passing, he was good enough to spare some time to speak with me about what turned out to be his last collection of stories Gallows - Tales of Suspicion and Obsession.  
There’s a man with a Palestinian flag on Shop Street. He’s 60 if he’s a day and when the rain falls on the happy shoppers of Galway, he usually gets wet. There are men and women who spend each weekend at Shannon Airport, counting airplanes as they traffic in and out and engage in uneasy staring-matches with guards through iron fences.
They are people who are placed, or place themselves, on the edge of what most people see as ‘normal’ society. People who sooner or later will pay some price for that placement.
For the last four decades, John Arden has lived in relative obscurity on Ireland’s west coast. After exploding onto the literary scene in the late 1950s, Arden was quickly hailed as one of the visionary playwrights of that era and was even christened Britain’s Brecht.
But all truths must eventually out and Arden’s unwillingness to keep quiet about his opposition to the British military machine and their presence in Ireland soon brought about a number of high profile falling-outs with the British theatre establishment. And that, as they say, was that.
Now, as he prepares to turn 80, he is about to release his most substantial collection of work in years. Set in Galway, London and Yorkshire, Gallows is a  collection of short stories that attempt to lift the carpet of polite society and peer at the goings-on in the underbelly of life.
“It’s not deliberate, you know. It’s just what happens when you write short stories over a period of years. The themes really are subconscious. It’s only after [the story] is written that I realise what the underlying theme might be,” he says.

Click HERE to read this interview in full as well as other interviews with Ann Enright, Kevin Barry, Colm Tóibin, Julian Gough, Donal Ryan, Colin Barrett, Catherine O'Flynn and Danielle McLaughlin.

Friday, 8 September 2017

In conversation with... Catherine O'Flynn

Way back in 2008 I spoke with Birmingham Irish author, Catherine O'Flynn, about her debut novel 'What Was Lost'. The novel, which won a Costa Prize that year and was longlisted for the Booker Prize, took a fascinating look and the birth of modern consumer culture in the 1980 - if consumer culture isn't an oxymoron. The novel was published right at the peak of the economic boom/bubble in Ireland and much of the world - and as such provides an interesting insight into the consumer driven excesses and loss of community that many of us are looking at today. Anyway, its been on my mind lately.

“It was never really my intention to play the old ways off against the new. I was growing up in the ‘80s and it just felt natural to include some of these things. I tried to avoid having rose-tinted spectacles about the past, but there was something that I wanted to say about these huge shopping centres and the impact they’ve had on lives and on the landscape. But at the same time, I didn’t want to idealise the idea of the local shops, because some local shops are rubbish.
“What really started me off writing the book was working in a shopping centre and seeing how many people seemed totally lost there. People came thinking they were going to find something but they just seemed to hang out for an inordinate amount of time, hoping that whatever it was would appear. I was never really quite sure what they were looking for, but I’m pretty confident nobody ever found it there.”

Click HERE to read this interview in full as well as other interviews with Ann Enright, Kevin Barry, Colm Tóibin, Julian Gough, Donal Ryan, Colin Barrett and Danielle McLaughlin.

Friday, 3 March 2017

In conversation with... Anne Enright

Irish literature was rocked earlier this month by the news that multi-award winner, Donal Ryan, was to return to his civil service job to enable him to make ends meet. It was a blow to many aspiring writers - if Donal Ryan can’t pay the rent through his writing, what hope is there for anybody else? Ahead of her appearance at the Ennis Book Club Festival, Andrew Hamilton speaks with Ireland’s first Laureate of Fiction, Anne Enright, about Donal Ryan’s latest novel, ‘All We Shall Know’, the finances of writing in Ireland and the surfing trip to Lahinch which provided the foundation for building ‘The Green Road’.
More than any other writer, Donal Ryan can lay claim to recession-time Ireland. His first three book, each of which are directly or tangentially played out against the background of boom and bust, are a window into normal Irish society and a time of gross abnormality.
Laureate of Irish Fiction, Anne Enright, believes that it is Ryan’s attention to the details of normal life which help him bring these stories of modern Ireland into full focus.
“All three books are very socially aware, very socially astute. I think Donal is distinctive for having a really strong idea and accurate sense of how people live their lives - and the differences between the city, the town and the country,” she said.

Click HERE to read this interview in full and other interviews with Kevin Barry, Colm Tóibin, Julian Gough, Donal Ryan, Colin Barrett and Danielle McLaughlin.

Friday, 25 November 2016

In conversation with ... Danielle McLaughlin

It took an sudden illness to divert Danielle McLaughlin away from a career in the law and toward creative writing and the short story. It was a change work making however, as in a few short years she has become one of rising stars of the short story - not just in Ireland but throughout the English speaking world. Andrew Hamilton find out more.
Danielle McLaughlin is the new It-Girl of the Irish short story. She has emerged as if from nowhere, and in a relatively short period of time has produced a body of work worthy of publications she has graced and the many awards she has won.
Usually, behind every literary rags-to-riches story, there lies an untold tale of a decades worth of unseen labour. Danielle however, served her literary apprenticeship as a solicitor, learning about the language from the surprisingly creative vantage of the legal profession. 
"Books were always part of life, I was always a big reader. Books were always there but writing was a more recent development. I'm not sure why this happened for me now and not earlier. I would have tried, I attempted stories at different times over the years but it never took off. I didn't have the same obsession to write that I do now. I am totally in to writing these days - it is a really big part of my life," she says.
"I think, maybe, it has something to do with the fact that I was practicing as a solicitor for a long time and I find the two jobs quite similar. I found law to be a very creative profession - it was giving me the drama, it was giving me the stories and it was giving me the working with language In great detail.
Click HERE to read this interview in full.

Friday, 20 May 2016

The One Hour Story Challenge [OHSC]

Welcome to the One Hour Story Challenge [OHSC] - a new element on Fighting Talk. Every so often a handful of writers will come together and attempt to write a short story or piece of flash fiction, based loosely on a particular topic or prompt, in just one hour. The OHSC is a bit of a call to action, more about getting stuck in and writing something interesting than spending too much time thinking about it. It's at least as much about the writing process as it is about the finished product.
The first OHSC features works from Alíona Hamilton [aged 13] and Andy Hamilton who created stories based around the title 'Freckles'. 

You can read the stories HERE