So…there are three Blog Hop questions for me to answer, and I’ll talk about the novel I wrote as part of my MA in Creative Writing at MMU. Here goes:
1. When and where is the story set?
Well, the clue is in the title: ‘Black Country’. The novel is set in my home town. Aside from the fact that I like novels set in real places, I just feel that the Black Country is such an evocative and unusual place (I’m allowed to say that, being a Black Country girl!). I am a big fan of the late Joel Lane, who set his short stories in the Birmingham and Black Country area, and I, like he did, love the grime and hellishness of the place, and the derelict factories amongst the patches of urban and rural areas – and there’s something about the canals that I find majorly evocative. So, maybe it was inevitable that this would be the setting for this novel. And it’s happening now – it’s set now. Much of the action takes place in a very confined area: in an ordinary house, at ordinary places of work, in a narrow-boat on a canal. The setting might appear ordinary, but the goings-on are far from it.
2. What can you say about the main characters?
Maddie and Harry’s relationship is stale. It’s deteriorating. There are secrets – on both sides. Harry is a teacher, and there’s a girl, Faith, with whom he has been ‘inappropriately involved’. The narrator is, I admit, an unreliable character (don’t trust that voice, at all!) and features as significant in the plot. Maddie, an estate agent, has a complicated and unhappy past, and there is a fairly shocking event briefly involving another character, the successful, if odd Jonathan Cotard, that links them all together. To tell more would be, well, telling as the characters are inextricably bound up with the plot…but I will say that there are aspects of each of these characters’ personalities that are unpleasant in the extreme. I specifically wrote them as flawed, having a believable dislikeability. I make no apologies for that. I set out to make readers feel uncomfortable. Does that sound odd? Probably…
3. What is the main conflict?
There are several conflicts: moral, psychological and physical. Readers, I suspect, will recognise the slow erosion of the relationship between Maddie and Harry, and the psychological tension created by that, but in terms of plot, when a car accident occurs, Maddie and Harry have to make some decisions, and this is the beginning of the metaphorical chasm that forms between them. The fragility of their apparently ordinary lives is something that is explored and I think I’ve tried to write sensitively about some issues that some readers might find unacceptable…like murder, lies, and, yes, paedophilia…(don’t say I didn’t warn you). The overall atmosphere is of a heaven-and-hell narrative about responsibility, love and hate, oh….it’s nasty, but, I hope, in a compulsive way!
Phew! So, who’s next on the Blog Hop? OK, well, I’m happy to introduce Emma Yates-Badley who takes the blogging baton next Monday (2nd June). She’s describes herself as a ‘Young Adult Writer. Creative Writing Graduate. Freelance Writer. Pug Lover. Hopeless Romantic. Biscuit Enthusiast. Book Collector. Eternal Wanderer. Music Fan.’ What more could you want?? I’m especially pleased to be introducing Emma, as we will be spending the next week together (along with twelve other writers) at the Arvon Centre in Inverness, writing lots, drinking lots and probably, if Emma has anything to do with it, eating lots of biscuits!
Emma’s blog is here: http://emmawritinganovel.wordpress.com/