It isn’t easy to compete with glorious weather, the obligations of Mother’s Day and a Game of Sport that I am incapable of naming, so it came as no surprise that the third Fiction at the Friary was a somewhat smaller affair than the previous two. But the enthusiasm was great for what turned out to be another inspiring afternoon.
Guest speaker Danny Denton is an up-and-comer whose debut novel The Earlie King and The Kid in Yellow will soon be published by Granta. It’s a dystopian tale, set in an Ireland where it rains ceaselessly and the St Vincent de Paul are fire-starting vigilantes.
Danny spoke about his first novel, which took four years to write, then had 99 rejections and one acceptance, by an agent. Unfortunately, said agent was unable to place it with any of the London houses and subsequently dropped both him and it. But he learned some valuable lessons from the process. He had written the novel with one eye on the prospective market, wedging in themes he thought might appeal rather than writing from the heart. For his next novel, he would write the kind of book he wanted to read. The result was The Earlie King and The Kid in Yellow, which Granta’s editorial director Max Porter describes as ‘if Quentin Tarantino, Sean O’Casey’s ghost and Tom Waits collaborated on a medieval miracle play’. Danny said he isn’t wild about the Tarantino comparison because he doesn’t actually like Tarantino. He’ll take the other two very happily, however.
The knock back of that first novel also proved a turning point for him in realising that he was a real writer, because he didn’t give up. [Incidentally, this is a subject that was also touched upon during the Words Ireland Writers Series discussion I attended on Saturday.] That conviction seems to have paid off and, judging by the strong excerpt he read for us, the result is definitely something to watch out for.
The optional writing exercise this month focused on beginnings, using a first-line and visual prompt. The plan is to cover middles next month, and the following month it’ll be – well, that’s anyone’s guess, isn’t it? Organisers Madeleine D’Arcy and Danielle McLaughlin would ideally love for someone to see the challenge through to the end and then perhaps read the results during a future open mic section.
Speaking of which, the open mic was most enjoyable, as usual. I love the sheer diversity of the work presented, and this month was no different, touching upon the lure of Facebook, a mysterious tower, a mythical wolf tale, First Communion and rabies (yes, really), the horrors of war, a memorable reference to new spuds and the ‘art of escaping a shite pub’.
Fiction at The Friary takes place at The Friary pub, 62 Shandon Street (by the North Gate Bridge), Cork, on the last Sunday of every month. The next event is scheduled for April 30, 3-6pm, with guest speaker Susan Lanigan, author of WWI novel White Feathers. Entry is free. You can find out more via their Facebook page here, or follow them on Twitter @FictionFriary.