Nicola Monaghan's news, events and general thoughts about life and writing.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Can't blog now, more heroes to meet...

I've not been a good blogger of late, I know that and I'm sorry. The thing is, I'm just not spending much time at all online at the moment. I'm reading loads, and writing plenty, but none of that writing has turned out to happen online (until today). My third novel is coming along and I'm also working on a script for The Killing Jar, which looks like it's found a producer, so all that's keeping me busy, busy, busy, as well as quite shiny and excited.

I've also had some fun this summer meeting my heroes. They are all heroes I've met before, but that doesn't take the shine off for me, they're still heroes. Chuck Palahnuik (one of said heroes) says in something I read once that you shouldn't meet your heroes, that they're bound to let you down by farting or belching. Well, I haven't heard any evidence of the above and, as I don't have much of a sense of smell, I wouldn't notice otherwise. So far, I've lucked out.

Of course, one of the biggest events of the year has been the 80th birthday of Alan Sillitoe, which has been celebrated in style. For the latest tribute, catch the next issue of Left Lion. They done 'im proud.

Most recently, I interviewed Irvine Welsh at the Broadway Cinema, where I used to work. I was quite nervous; I heard somewhere that he could be quite prickly in the wrong hands. Nothing could have been further from the truth. He was friendly, chatty and asked me about my books on more than one occasion! (Not during the actual interview - that would have been just wrong lol). I'd say you couldn't meet a nicer man. An editor at Random House once suggested to me that they felt the nastiness of someone's fiction had almost an inverse relationship with the personality of the writer. ie Nice guys write grim. So far I'm finding this adds up.

If you want proof of this, I'm interviewing Chuck Palahniuk soon. He's about the nicest guy who writes the grimmest stories. He comes so close to defining cult fiction, that's what his fans call themselves. If you fancy checking this out for yourself, it's 6pm, at the Broadway, Broad Street in Nottingham on Thursday 14th August. See you there. Don't fart!


Thursday, 26 June 2008

Lowdham Book Festival - this Saturday

I'm at Lowdham Book Festival this Saturday, 1pm, in the Fiction Marquee, launching my new crime express book The Okinawa Dragon with Clare Littleford, who has also published one called The Quarry. Be nice to see you there.

And don't forget about Irvine Welsh at the Broadway. If you have any ideas for things I should ask him, post em here.


Friday, 20 June 2008

Finding a voice and Irvine Welsh

I'd just like to point you here, in the direction of the anthology from my new students. They've worked very hard and I'm really impressed with what they've achieved. I definitely recommend it. Make sure you buy from the 'new and used' available part, so that you go direct to the publishers and don't need to pay a sourcing fee...

Also, I'm interviewing Irvine Welsh at the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham on 10th July. To book tickets and for more information see their website.

Alan Sillitoe reviews to come soon :)

Toodle pip xx

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Missing May

This May, I've been too busy living to blog. Too busy living to write very much even, though I've had lots and lots of inspiration recently and I am working on a script and a couple of stories, as well as what I hope will become novel number 3. I'm hoping to tie up some loose ends in the next week or so then get into some serious writing...

Meanwhile, Alan Sillitoe was made a Freeman of the City of Nottingham in celebration of his 80th birthday. Apparently, this does not mean he can walk into Squares or Yates's and demand a free pint, but that he has the right to herd sheep or cattle freely through the city without charge. I think he should do it. Just for the craic.

As a celebration of Alan's new status, as well as his 80th birthday back in March, I am re-reading his book of short stories The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, the title story of which inspired the name of this blog. I'm going to review each story as I go and post those reviews here.


Friday, 4 April 2008

The Verb

Catch me tonight on Radio 3's The Verb, together with other writers Aravind Adiga, Ardashir Vakil, Sinead Morrissey and Willy Vlautin, who also happens to be lead singer of Richmond Fontaine. It's a great show, with some insights on the portrayal of India in fiction, and on the relationship between music and words. If you're too cool for school and out on Friday night, you can listen again for up to seven days after the broadcast.


Wednesday, 26 March 2008


There's a lot going on right now. Like Frankie, I am in Seattle, a business trip of my husband's that I've come along to help with. Meanwhile, I was on the radio today without even being in the country. How clever is that? You can listen again here as long as you get there in the next six days.

Someone pointed out to me last week that all the events going on should be up here and he was quite right, although I have been rather too busy doing them to have time for that blogging thing, you see. Anyway, here goes nothing...

I have a very interesting piece going out on Radio 3, the show called the Verb on Friday 4th April at 21.45. When I was commissioned on this piece, the producer suggested I may want to do something dramatic, or experiment with sound, so I set myself the challenge of writing a piece to be read with a piece of music. I'd already had a bit of a go at this, with the opening prologue to Starfishing, but I'd done that quite loosely because it was for print publication rather than recording, so didn't need to be an exact science. I chose a longer piece of music this time, seven whole minutes. It was the most challenging piece of writing I've undertaken in a while and took a whole day's work, with lots of reading aloud to check the timings. Finishing it was extremely satisfying and exciting.

Thursday 3rd April I'm at the Bookcase in Lowdham for my Notts launch of Starfishing. Frankie is coming along, and will be writing about it afterwards. She's having fun with this postmodern side she's discovered in herself and has no intention of crawling back into her book anytime soon.

Saturday 12th, I'm hanging out at the New Street branch of Waterstone's in Birmingham to chat to customers and sign some books from 11am till 3pm. Thursday 17th, 7:30pm, I'm talking and signing at Waterstone's Nottingham. Nottingham Central Library are having me on Monday 21st April at 2pm. 26th April is my appearance at the Cuirt festival in Galway, 5pm.

I also have a piece in this month's Left Lion and next month's Marie Claire so watch out for those.

I'm off to give in to my jetlag.

Nicola x

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Happy Saturday...


(aren't I clever? Lol)

Starfishing is officially launched into the big, wide sea and it's slightly scary and very exciting, like most voyages out in the big waves of the book industry. I had my party on Wednesday in the City, at an old haunt, Browns on Old Jewry. I used to attend said establishment on a regular basis when I worked for Trading Technologies, as our office was around the corner on the Poultry. It was odd to be back there in that it didn't feel strange at all. It felt like coming home. It was the best kind of party. Just the right amount of alcohol, and friends from all the different times in my life. One from sixth form (my husband Chad), a couple from University, some from my time in the City, others who studied on the MA with me, and yet more who are more recent acquisitions, as well as quite a few people I'd never met before. It all made for a very pleasant evening and a good number of books sold, even though many of the people who came had already bought a copy ahead of the event. I'm now looking forward to pushing the book out into Nottingham waters via The Bookcase in Lowdham.

For the first time in a long while, I've been inspired to get out some canvas and a paintbrush. Part of this is to paint a rather special piece for a friend of mine, an 'in' joke of a picture, you could say. It was something I said I'd do in a less than sane moment but now I really want to. I'm also painting a Peppa Pig for my niece. Perhaps a less ambitious project but it's her birthday and I wanted to give her something a little bit different. Peppa Pig and her friends look easy to draw, but once I got started I began to realise why these little characters are so appealing. They're not that easy to get right - an exercise in the art of perfect proportion. I haven't drawn anything for years and this was a good way to get back into it.

I feel at a bit of a crossroads creatively. I'm not about to give up writing and try to sell my Peppa Pigs, but I do have all sorts of ideas running off on their own without my permission! I want to write a script for The Killing Jar, then I think that Starfishing would be easier, and make a great movie. I'd love to start my next novel; except I don't feel quite ready. There are so many ideas washing round and round my poor little head it's like a spin cycle in there and I feel slightly sick. Also, for the first time in a long while, I can feel my hair on the back of my neck. Yes, indeed, for those of you who thought I still looked like this, I've grown it all back, as you will see from my launch pics.

Maybe I will just stop and chill for a little while, and enjoy the parties.

Pictures from the launch toot sweet I promise... See the slideshow over here ---->

Nicola xx

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Alan looking dapper at 80...

I went to the Broadway Cinema for the Alan Sillitoe 80th birthday event last Thursday. It was 6th March, exactly halfway between Alan's birthday and mine. (Another Nottingham writer, Jon McGregor, is also a Pisces. Isn't that odd? I don't really believe in that stuff so it sometimes confuses me when I notice things like this.) It was also World Book Day and the release date for Starfishing.

It was the perfect way to celebrate, to listen to the great man of Nottingham literature talk about his life and writing. He was looking dapper, in a leather waistcoat and smart jacket and trousers. He had grown a beard, which took me by surprise and meant I almost didn't recognise him as he walked on stage. He was looking well too, with a spring in his step and a wave to the audience. The interviewer set him off asking how he got into writing and Alan didn't really need any help or questions after that. And it struck me again how brilliant it was that he still spoke proper Nottinnum.

And he had a lot to say. He reiterated the views he expressed to me at the Betty Trask Awards on the place of the editor, although he was somewhat more careful about how he expressed his thoughts on that in front of the large, fairly typically polite Broadway audience.

He talked us through the making of the movies, Saturday Night and Sunday morning and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, as well as describing his time in Majorca (with a j) after being pentioned off and aspects of his friendship with Robert Graves, who pointed him in the right direction when he told him to have another look at his stories about Nottingham. He discussed the censors back in the 1960s, and how he'd hated compromise. I get the impression that compromising, when it comes to his art, is something Mr Sillitoe is quite unprepared for. He was explicit about the imagery of Loneliness, how it's really about his experiences as a novelist and the borstal represents the censors. Although this wasn't exactly news to me (HELLO? My blog title?) it was still interesting to hear a writer talk so openly about his imagery. Most are guarded and somewhat mysterious about these things.

A friend of mine was reading Saturday Night and Sunday Morning recently, in preparation for this talk, and I borrowed it from her to have a peek at some of my favourite quotes. It struck me again just how perfect it is as a book. Just how simple, how well written, how there's not a spare word. It's amazing to think that he wrote this and insisted on it being published as it was, without being edited. It's clear to me from this piece of work that he is quite right; he does not need an editor. Being a lesser mortal, I think I do.

We were lucky enough to catch Alan down the bar afterwards, and Chad asked if he could take a photo of us together, which he was allowed to do. Look how I smile! I cannot help it. I am still starstruck by this man, whose words I answered questions on when I did 'O' level English. As Chad put it, he is a living legend.

I also got the chance to meet Alan's son at last, someone I've been in touch with by email and MySpace and so on for a while but never met in the flesh. Like his father, he is a gentleman of the first order.

Chuck Palahnuik (another of my heroes) says you shouldn't meet your heroes. I've ignored him too many times to count now and I beg to differ. Sometimes they are even better than you dare to hope. Sometimes, they are living legends and they'll pose for a picture with you.

Happy Birthday to us!

Nicola x

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Starfish Soup

Well, it's been a long road, but we're here at last. Starfishing is out this week. I've been down the shops and seen it on the shelves. It's up and listed as 'in stock' on Amazon. It's officially the end of the process, at least, as far as Random House and the UK are concerned. Now I just have to look at my American editing :)

And to go with the new book, I have a new blog. Do go check it out , where you'll find Frankie escaped from the book! I'm going to be blogging there regularly, so subscribe to the feed or something. It's gonna be tasteh soup, I promise.

I saw something amazing on Friday night. The police in Nottingham City Centre arrested a bunch of drunken losers dressed as superheroes. We had to hang around to listen to the radio action; you couldn't have written this. I've found Superman, but Mr Incredible's still on the loose. Batman wouldn't talk, but we nicked him, and suddenly he started coughing. He's given us the identity of the Incredible Hulk. I bet they had fun all night. Police are looking for a GREEN man... You wouldn't like him when he's angry.

LOL. Only in Nottinnum...

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Crazy, mad, exciting times

I'm not talking about when I first met my husband, which this title could describe just as easily, but about the last few weeks.

I think people split quite neatly, sometimes. Those who like marmite, those who don't. Those, like me, who make lists, and those, like my husband, who don't. Actually, the hubby does have a 'to do' list on his iGoogle page. It has two items on it. 'Make a million pounds' and 'Sort out photos on computer'. I love this difference in scale. Personally, I am a total sad list making person, and my lists have recently exploded, what with articles and press and events, a new blogging project and all the other things associated with the release of Starfishing. But it's also partly because I keep setting myself extra things to do. It's like I can't sit still.

The National Academy of Writing has been interesting recently. We've had a good number of masterclasses but, possibly the climax, was when our president, Melvyn Bragg, received an honorary doctorate from Birmingham City University and put some time aside to speak to our students afterwards. It was a small, intimate session, and Lord Bragg had a definite message about the editorial process, and the need for some real, honest voices to help you grow and improve as a writer. I'm hoping it hit home. Our students are doing well, with lots of publication and competition credits, but there's always room for one person to say 'find someone you can trust who will be honest with you.'

Sometimes it seems like it's the most crazy, mad, exciting times that bring out the writing in me and now is no exception. Despite it being the most crazy, mad time to do it, I have also started my next big project. And that's exciting.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

A little advert...

My new novel, Starfishing, is out very soon indeed, the beginning of next month, and is available on pre-order now. If it's the same as The Killing Jar, it will be out and in the shops, as well as being sent out from online places, very soon indeed. Read more about it here or order it here, here or here!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Happy New Year

So it's 2008. I can't quite believe it, really. I remember looking ahead at my life as a child, and thinking how I'd be soooo old in the year 2000, twenty-eight! I could hardly imagine it. And here we are, eight years into a new millennium.

More surprising still, the publication date for Starfishing is almost here. Being involved in publishing means you end up living ahead of yourself somewhat. I've been working towards March 2008 for nearly two years now. When I first heard the date, like y2k, it seemed a long way in the distance. I soon got used to it. And now it has crept up on me, unannounced.

I've been very busy with all the usual stuff since the year set out, so nothing has changed so far. I don't feel too much older. It was my niece's birthday today. She told me 'I don't feel eight yet. I still feel seven!' I know what she means.(She was a millennium baby, in case you're struggling with the maths.)

I saw my agent a few days ago. He came to speak to my students at NAW, which was jolly decent of him. We managed to get twenty minutes or so in to talk about what I might write next and it was quite an inspiring conversation. I have all sorts of ideas floating around my head now, and a few fastened down tight inside my notebook too. No! I'm not going to tell you here. You will have to wait and see.

And I need to overhaul my website. My current one is a good example of something that looks pretty, but has been designed with totally no regard for scaleability. And I should know betterer, with my background in software design! This is going to be a big job, and needs to be done soon, to accommodate all the changes for Starfishing. Oh the joys of self-employment!

Still, I got my PLR statement and the library service are going to pay me some money because people have been borrowing my book. Like a special kind of new year bonus.

Happy 2008 y'all!