As I wake up this morning I seem to be accompanied by a green eyed monster waking with me. I spent yesterday lunch with York based writer, Gillian Firth.
Gillian wouldn't describe herself as having a enviable life, I'm sure. You see in 1994 Gillian got 'squashed' (as she puts it). Having been involved in a car accident, Gillian spent 6 weeks in a coma and when she woke up Gillian Mk2 was born. Gillian suffered a traumatic brain injury and despite having to relearn everything from walking to going to the bathroom, she is now the author of two self-published books about her life and has been approached about having her first book Gillian Mk2 adapted into a film. Wow or what!?
I have just finished reading Gillian's first book, Gillian Mk2, which covers the first four years after her coma. Leaving behind the fact that this is an amazing accomplishment for someone with a brain injury, the book is told in an amazingly strong voice with a probing honesty and sharp humor. I seriously cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you are yet to discover Gillian, please go grab a copy and give it a read. (Picture to the left will take you to the amazon site).
Gillian's second book is called Typically Gillian and continues the journey. I will be putting a coffee on and picking up my copy as soon as I have finished this blog!
I really hope that this potential adaptation comes to fruition, because this is a serious film in the making. I hope you'll join me in wishing Gillian the best of luck and in picking up a copy of her book.
My guest today is author Nick David, N.E.David as he is known. Nick is a York based writer, local to me and joins me to talk about his work as part of York's community of authors, his new book BIRDS OF THE NILE and his upcoming work.
Ben: So firstly Nick, congratulations on the publication of 'BIRDS OF THE NILE'. It's a very interesting read. Before we get stuck into the details, let's get a bit
of background. When we've spoken in the past Nick, you've told me that you
started writing sometime ago, but stopped and now you're on a pretty determined return to the art. What is it that draws you to writing?
Nick: Writing is important to me in that it gives me purpose, it helps me make sense of my life but most of all, it’s the stories and the characters. I have a whole host of them inside my head and they won’t go away until I’ve got them out and onto the paper. Now I’ve come back to it I’m driven, Ben, and there’s no getting away from it.
Ben: Nick, you're an author based in York and from visiting your website (http://www.nedavid.com/) it's obvious that you do a lot of work with authors in the area. Can you tell us a bit about your involvement?
Nick: Yes, I’ve been a member of York Writers Group for quite a while and more recently I became involved with York Authors. They were set up early in 2013 to promote the work of professional authors based in the city. I also appear regularly at Literature Festivals and open mics in the region so I meet quite a few fellow writers.
Ben: Am I right in thinking that you also have a part in York Literary Festival, which has just released its programme for this year?
Nick: Yes, thank you for reminding me! For my sins, I’m a member of the committee and we’re coming up to a very busy time with the programme just launched on 6 January. Last year we were lucky to get some big names, including the Poet Laureate. This year will be just as good, if not better, so keep an eye out for what’s on. The Festival runs from March 20th through to March 31st and the events are bound to be popular
so it’s best to book well in advance. You can get the details from the website, www.yorkliteraturefestival.co.uk.
Ben: So, your new book 'BIRDS OF THE NILE' is set in Egypt and involves the 2011 revolution, though it's more complex than a simple action or thriller. Can you tell us what drew you to setting a story in Egypt at this time?
Nick: The background to this is that my wife and I went to Egypt to celebrate an important wedding anniversary in 2009. Being a writer, I naturally took a notebook and a pen and kept a diary. At some point a plot occurred to me and when we got back I started to write it up. But it didn’t gel and l put the half-finished manuscript away in a drawer. When the revolution came along, it
reignited my interest and I realised that the power of those dramatic events could significantly enhance the story so I rewrote it with that in mind.
Ben: That is interesting. So what pulled you away from making it a more conventional type action plot?
Nick: It never started off that way and so it never became one. The focus was always on the relationship between the three main characters – the fact that it takes place during a revolution merely causes their actions and decision-making to appear more important.
Ben: Interestingly, the story is set predominately on a cruise ship, and you work with a fairly large cast of characters to create that feel. Did you find that challenging?
Nick: No, not at all. Apart from the three main protagonists, the other characters all serve an important purpose. Mrs Biltmore plays a key role in affairs, for instance, and it’s interesting that Blake begins by disliking her. I often think of the other (British) passengers as a kind of Greek chorus – they represent that section of opinion which is indifferent to the plight of the Egyptian people and concerned only with their own safety. This sets them apart from Blake and allows him to stand out when it comes to the crucial part of the
Ben: The lead character is Michael Blake. What gave you the inspiration for this character and could you sum him up for those who are yet to read the story?
Nick: I always had it in mind that the main character would be a retired bird-watcher who subsequently went blind. The idea that your greatest pleasure in life can be denied you by some random event fascinated me but it was the revolution that persuaded me to make him an ex-diplomat. It was then that his character fully formed in my head and gave me the impetus to pick the piece up again. As to summing him up, that’s difficult. If I could tell you about Michael Blake in a few short sentences, I wouldn’t need to have written the book in the first place! Because that’s what the book is really about - explaining Michael Blake - and he’s complicated. The point is that he’s just a fairly ordinary person who becomes caught up in events that cause him to do something exceptional.
Ben: Very true. You also have a back catalogue of novellas, though BIRDS OF THE NILE is your first novel. Can you tell us a bit about your other work?
Nick: Of course. I have three short novellas in print, none of them related except by way of length. They grew out of the fact that I began to find short story telling restrictive and I couldn’t express what I wanted to say in less than 20000 words. The stories didn’t need any more than that either, so they finished up as novellas. They’re each written quite differently too, and reflect the fact that I was subconsciously experimenting with alternative styles. I also have other, as yet unpublished, novels hidden away and when the time is right, my intention is to fetch them out and bring them up to speed.
Ben: Are you working on anything at the moment?
Nick: Yes, I spent the summer producing the first draft of a new novel set beside a lake in Sweden but I’ve had to set that aside for the time being as my typist broke her arm! In the meanwhile I’ve gone back to an earlier work and I’ve set myself the task of rewriting it with a view to bringing it out in 2015. The main protagonist is called Frank and in the same way that BIRDS OF THE NILE is about explaining Michael Blake, AS DAD LAY DYING is all about explaining Frank Johnson. AS DAD LAY DYING is a working title, by the way. I’m not sure I’m awfully fond of it but for the moment I can’t think of a better one. When it comes to the point of publication I’ll have to put my thinking cap on - but the rewrite and the story have to come first.
Ben: Thanks so much Nick and all the best with your 2015 deadline, we'll look forward to it.
Nick: Thank you for inviting me, it’s been a pleasure.
Ben Warden - Editor of the #SFFiction project and author of 'Life Without', which made the top ten literary fiction e-books on amazon.