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

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...