I’m still over in Merry Olde England this week although I’m sorry to say I didn’t get to see the Queen
while visiting Windsor. I did have a lovely time looking at a bunch of crypts though which makes me think that seeing dead royalty may actually be more interesting than seeing live ones. Now, I’m up north in Nottingham visiting Sherwood Forest and Major Oak where legend has it a dude in green tights used to hang out. I had no idea this is where Peter Pan actually lived. Wait. Wrong dude in green tights. The sign here says Robin Hood. Ah well, I knew it was one of them. At any rate, after visiting Major Oak which is definitely worth seeing if you like big old trees, I going to pop into this local pub, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem for some afternoon refreshment. It’s a little dark in here but I see tending bar is author Kirsty Fox. Kirsty has written a new book called Dogtooth Chronicals and while she pours me some ale we’ll have a little chat about it.
Naomi: Let’s start with just a brief synopsis of your book. In 20 words or less, tell me what it is about.
Kirsty: Small apocalypse, shades of dystopia. A reflection on a hopeless generation. Chronic chaos, magic realism & hair of the dog.
Naomi: Excellent. It’s got everything we’re going through now except for that dog hair thing. By the way, what kind of ale is this?
Kirsty: Morland Old Speckled Hen. What do you think?
Naomi: Well, it’s not bad if you like old spotted chickens that have been fermented and malted. Back to your book though, who is your favorite character and why?
Kirsty: In terms of main characters Wolfgang, because he’s completely nuts but at the same time quite brilliant. He was a lot of fun to write. I wrote most of his P.O.Vs when feeling peculiar – either over-caffeinated, slightly drunk or suffering insomnia! I have a favourite small part character though who only appears early on called Rufio. He’s just such a genuinely funny, loopy human bean, I wish I knew him in real life!
Naomi: Sounds like half the characters sitting around this bar. Sorry, don’t mean to insult anybody. Don’t mind me, I’m just an American. Go back to your beers. If Wolfgang called you up tomorrow and said, “Hey, let’s go do something.” What and where would you go with him?
Kirsty: We’d go to the Red Deer pub in Sheffield, as that is where the friends meet post-apocalypse. We’d just have a few pints and chat, nothing extraordinary, just good fun.
Naomi: Yes, post apocalypse I couldn’t imagine doing anything other than going to a pub. What’s the hardest part about writing your book?
Kirsty: Cutting it down to the right size. It’s a big book even now, I had to be quite brutal at times during the editing process. Luckily I managed to find and awesome editing team (Flourish Editing) who really understood my work and what was needed to make it that bit better.
Naomi: What’s the easiest part?
Kirsty: I found much of the book easy to write as it was just there in my head, the things that I’m passionate about, the people I spend time with. It was just a matter of getting it on paper & making it work. Non-writers tend to say ‘How do you come up with ideas?’ but I agree more with the writer Chuck Wendig who says it’s more like ‘How do you make them stop?!’, or how do you pick the right ones. It took me half a decade to develop this book because I wanted to get it right, for my writing to have matured.
Naomi: Yes, well I waited two decades so it could all sufficiently age. Now my writing is approaching geriatric. If you had to pick one object to represent your story and one color to paint it in, what would it be and why?
Kirsty: The statue of a wolfish dog howling at the sky. It would be patterned in dogtooth, black & white. I hope I can get away with that as white is sort of a non-colour?!
Naomi: It’s your world, love. You can get away with anything you want. Do you do anything else besides write and if so what is it?
Kirsty: I studied Fine Art, I’m a big film-addict & I’ve worked as a bartender for many years. I’m now trying to set-up my own business in niche publishing and running a database of creative freelancers. I would like to write for films & television as well as novels, I’m working on some projects. I like to keep things fresh & interesting.
Naomi: Speaking of fresh and interesting, what’s the ugliest thing in your closet?
Kirsty: Metaphorical or real?!
Naomi: Your choice. I’ve heard everything from monsters to sweaters from Christmases past, way past.
Kirsty: I like shopping for second-hand clothes, but I think I have great taste (it’s my taste). Everything is quite arty but not eccentric. I have a paisley tea-dress that my ex-boyfriend hated. There is also a handsome skeleton called Derek who tells me secrets about the future.
Naomi: Isn’t a handsome skeleton an oxymoron? Does Derek wear the paisley tea-dress? What’s in the bottom of your purse, backpack, attaché or whatever you carry?
Kirsty: A bar blade, various pens, creams, lipsalve. Bartender vs creative. I just got a tablet but it was a business-related purchase, I’m an analogue/paperback kind of woman at heart.
Naomi: Does Derek know that? Name one character in your book that reminds you of a real person and tell us who it is and how they are similar.
Kirsty: I take bits and pieces of people from real life. None of my fleshy well-developed characters are based on one real person. There is a scene where they find a dead body trapped under ice, that dead character was a bloke called Hugo I worked with briefly. He could tell I didn’t like him very much, so he asked me to kill him off in the book I was writing, as a joke. So I did! (I don’t genuinely wish people dead of course.) It’s a cameo, really.
Naomi: I imagine you’d have a lot of material being here every day. What’s your favorite game? Would your favorite character play it and be any good at it?
Kirsty: My sister was the game person, I never liked set games, I just liked to pretend stuff and make up stories (surprise, surprise). Wolfgang would be good at the game of pretend, but nothing competitive that requires common sense. I used to play sports when I was younger, Wolfgang would be terrible at them.
Naomi: What about the Derek dude in your closet? I imagine he’d be terrible at sports too. I bet he’d be good at hide and go seek though? Did you ever wonder if you were a little crazy for writing fantasy/fiction?
Kirsty: Dogtooth Chronicals isn’t proper fantasy, but it has strong fantastical elements.
Naomi: So it’s improper fantasy?
Kirsty: I think some people think the stuff I write is crazy but they’re too polite to say. You have to forget about friends and family when writing, otherwise there wouldn’t be any swearing, drinking, drugs, violence, sex. Not that the book is full of these (well, maybe the first two). Also those POVs that go to a very dark place in a character’s head, I think you need to be able to identify, understand how the human brain fits together with their life. You need to identify without being cursed with the same darknesses. Otherwise ‘bad’ characters appear one-dimensional.
Naomi: Whoa. I don’t get a word of that. Do your friends understand you when you talk like that? I’m sure these characters around the bar don’t.
Kirsty: I think my current friends understand why I write what I write. Would I have said the same back in my school days as a teenager? Hell, no. I was very quiet at school to avoid people thinking I was bat-shit mental. When I started to paint a lot of dark, brooding things that was when it all started to come out, but it was more frustration at not being able to say what I wanted to.
Naomi: Well, it certainly sounds like you can say whatever you want now. I’m just going to try one of those pickled egg things you’ve got in that jar. By chance are these egss from an old speckled hen too? In the meantime, the rest of you can find out more about Kirsty and Dogtooth Chronicals by going to the following links: