[Flash Fiction] Joyriders

JoyridersThat night me and Jen took a green Starlet out the Naas Road. We’ve a great spot near Saggart for burning doughnuts. I was driving, Jen telling me to slow the fuck down. The spliff kept hopping off her lap and she didn’t want it all over the floor. I pulled back, and thank Jaysus I did, cos next thing there was a fella in the middle of the road, on the white line, pushing a pram. One of them big, black, bouncy yokes, ancient as God. And your man was strolling along as if he was off to Spar, like it was the middle of the day or something.

‘Pull over,’ Jen said.

‘What?’

‘Just stop, will ya?’

So I pulled in and we got out of the Starlet and I was bricking it in case your man knew the car, or us.

Jen said, ‘What’s in the pram, Tommy?’

‘Nothing, Jennifer. I’m only out looking for the baby. We must have left her somewhere.’

‘Maybe go home, Tommy. Rita will be worried about you.’

‘Yeah,’ he said. And he turned the pram around and wandered back the way he came, into the night.

In the car we shared the spliff and Jen’s tokes were a bit long, you know, but I said nothing cos she was gone real quiet and all.

‘Who’s your man?’

‘Me Uncle Tommy.’

‘Is he all right?’ I was wondering if he copped the Starlet.

‘What do you think? Drive.’

So we cruised as far as Kill, passing The Dew Drop and the industrial estate and all the houses with their lights off. Jen said to keep going and she got me to stop outside a graveyard on a real lonely road.

‘That’s where Tommy and Rita’s daughter is,’ she said, flicking her head.

I looked past her at the graves standing like black teeth around the church and thought it was an awful place for a little baby.

We lit up again and opened the car windows to let the smoke out; it was mad dark. The windmills on the hill behind the graveyard cut through the air, I could hear the shush-and-hum of them.

Jen told me to get into the back seat and I did and she got in too and straddled me; her mouth tasted like barley sugar not dope. When we finished, Jen cleaned the seat with a baby-wipe and fucked all our butts out onto the ground, so the car would be all right when we left it back. That’s the way Jen is, decent as anything.

***

(Nuala Ní Chonchúir)

Emma Donoghue – DWF Preview Event – A Review

Emma DonoghueEmma Donoghue has been on my must-read list since her début novel Stir-fry (which interestingly she tried to have pulled just before publication) in 1994. She is a fantastic writer, full of surprises in terms of subject matter and setting and that is what makes her such an enduring author. Who wants to read the same novel written ten different ways? I know I don’t.

frog musicEmma’s eighth novel, and twelfth book of fiction, Frog Music, has just been published and it is a delicious prospect: in the sweltering summer of 1876 in San Francisco, a young woman called Jenny Bonnet is shot dead. The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Blanche determines to bring Jenny’s murderer to justice provided the killer doesn’t track her down first. The blurb says: ‘The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women and damaged children. It’s the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.’ This is classic Donoghue territory; as The Guardian said, her historical novels ‘kindle imaginative worlds from the embers of forgotten lives’.

On Saturday in Dublin Castle’s Printworks, in a preview event for the Dublin Writers’ Festival, journalist Edel Coffey interviewed Emma Donoghue about Frog Music and about the writing life. Donoghue is a wonderful interviewee: pleasant, intelligent, articulate and interesting; she has plenty to say and has no difficulty in saying it. She has an open honesty about her that makes her compelling to listen to.

The author read first, a passage from Frog Music, featuring Blanche’s less than motherly relationship with her baby son. After her hugely successful novel Room, Donoghue said she wanted to write a truly awful mother and she has done that with Blanche. She says the novel asks the question: ‘Can mother-love bloom under difficult circumstances?’. She also described Frog Music as ‘a murder mystery’ – a genre new to her and, she said, ‘in some ways the most appealing genre’.

She spoke with enthusiasm about the research process: ‘It’s your job to take the research and turn it into living material. The process is fascinating – facts are suggestive and stimulating.’ She said in her research she is always looking for ‘oddity’ and that the move back and forth between being researcher and historical fiction writer is ‘very fiddly’. But she also said she gets a ‘forensic excitement from using fact’.

Donoghue described Blanche as a terrible mother – ‘She is irresponsible, slutty’ – but that she wanted the reader to empathise with her nonetheless. She posited that Blanche ‘proves the power of perspective’ in that the reader is ‘forced to empathise once other characters start shooting at the main character’. Donoghue said she was inspired to write unlovable characters by Baltimore-set TV series The Wire. ‘It’s about lowlifes but we care about them.’

Donoghue said she began her career wanting to ‘put women back into fiction’ but now she is more inclined to take ‘long forgotten nobodies and give them a name again’ and it just happens that many of them are women. She said her publishers ‘never quite know what I am going to throw at them’ but she is in a happy position because they are ‘very tolerant of that’. She went on to say that the idea for Room ‘fell into my lap’ and that it was ‘the easiest book I ever wrote because it was high concept’. Edel Coffey pointed out that it has sold 2,000,000 copies to date.

Donoghue is currently working as executive producer and co-screenwriter with Element Pictures on the film version of Room, telling us that director Lenny Abrahamson flies out to her home in London, Ontario in Cananda, and they ‘sit around swapping ideas’ about the film adaptation of her novel. She said that Abrahamson is ‘very brilliant and tasteful and his films always have heart in them’.

Film of course is very different to novel writing and Donoghue said she is deliberately working with a small Irish company because she wants the collaboration that Hollywood might not offer. Of the process she said: ‘You draw on the director’s knowledge and you try to think visually.’ She also said: ‘I love the discipline of seeing which lines from the novel can stay and which don’t need to.’

She told us a little of her life in Canada – a country that ‘suits her very well’, she said – because it is ‘diverse and civilised’. When asked by Edel Coffey about her writing process, she revealed she has, for the last 18 months or so, been writing while walking on a treadmill because she realised she sits too much. It’s working for her but she said she sits at her desk if a scene requires a slow pace. She is also writing a children’s book which she is nervous about but is enjoying. ‘I have to be fascinated by a topic in order to write it.’ She also said she allows herself, to quote Ann Lamott, to write ‘shitty first drafts’, a relief to many writers there that day, no doubt.

When asked in the Q&A to give advice to writers Donoghue said: ‘Take it up at 70 or 12. You only need yourself. Go ahead and do it. Don’t let any paralysing self-consciousness get in your way. Plunge in and have a go.’ Down to earth advice from a very down to earth Irish writer. If she is appearing anywhere near you, go and listen. Emma Donoghue is a wonder.

For more on the new novel, please go to www.frogmusic.ca

 (Nuala Ní Chonchúir)

Introducing our newest contributor

 Nuala Ní by Emilia KrysztofiakCLOSET COVER 91KBSay hello to our newest contibutor Nuala Ní Chonchúir. Born in Dublin in 1970, Nuala now lives in East Galway. Her fourth short story collection Mother America was published by New Island in 2012. A chapbook of flash Of Dublin and Other Fictions was published in the US in late 2013 by Tower Press and Nuala’s second novel The Closet of Savage Mementos appeared spring 2014 from New Island. Penguin USA and Penguin Canada will publish Nuala’s third novel in 2015. She has been lit blogging since 2007, you can also visit her website or find her on Facebook.