Writer Merryn Glover, author of A House Called Askival, chats to our Highland correspondent Barbara Henderson about publication, unexpected hiccups – and appearing at the Ullapool Book Festival next month.
Hi Merryn, and thanks for taking the time to chat to The Wee Review. First off, you live in the Highlands of Scotland, and yet your debut novel A House Called Askival takes us away to the mountains of the Indian subcontinent. Could you explain what drew you to those settings?
I was born and brought up in South Asia and attended a boarding school in the hill-station of Mussoorie where the novel is set. It’s a strikingly beautiful place full of history and character and I am continually drawn back there to work or visit. Perhaps the novel was another way of returning.
A House Called Askival has earned a fair bit of critical acclaim. What has been your personal highlight of the publication journey?
Getting a publisher! It was a long road to that point, but it forced me to re-write the book several times, which it needed. Having said that, I think launch week was the best, with events in Glasgow, Inverness and Aviemore, where I was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic support of so many lovely people.
You are set to appear at the Ullapool Book Festival alongside Fiona Rintoul. Have you met her before?
No, but really looking forward to it, and to reading The Leipzig Affair which is nestling on my bedside table.
Some writers shun the performance aspect of the role, preferring to hide away at their desks and laptops. How do you feel about appearing at Ullapool?
Excited. With a theatre and teaching background, I’m comfortable being up the front and I really enjoy the buzz of interviews, readings and festival chat, from whatever side of the stage I’m on.
Would you let our readers know what you are working on at the moment?
I’m writing a novel set where I live in the upper Spey Valley and it’s about the land: the ownership and use of the land, the history and the hopes, the ways the people have shaped the land and been shaped by it. As with the last book, I am lost in endlessly fascinating research.
Travelling to promote your first book must have seen its fair share of hiccups. Go on! Tell us about a moment when it all went wrong.
I organised a DIY tour of four cities in the US and Canada last summer, and despite extensive communication with the distributor there, over many months, they still failed to order enough books in time. I went into a tailspin finding friends and friends of friends who could help me get 75 books over there at the last minute. People were incredibly helpful and we pulled it off at the last minute, but I really didn’t need that stress!
You have had some recent success with writing for radio. As a writer of literary fiction, what attracted you to this?
I’ve been an avid radio listener for years and when BBC Scotland Radio Drama ran a course through Scottish Book Trust in 2005 I jumped at the chance. Out of that course, I’ve continued to work with the producer David Ian Neville and we’ve made three plays together. I love writing for radio and the best bit is the recording process in studio where I get to meet the cast and be a part of it all taking shape. I’ve also had several short stories on Radio 4, which is also a great pleasure
What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your writing journey?
How difficult it would be. Both the writing and the getting ‘established’, whatever that means. (I’m not there yet.) But if I’d known that, I may never have committed to it, so perhaps it’s just as well I was so deluded.
What is your next writing goal? Tell us about some of things you may still want to achieve.
Having admitted to being delusional, I may as well go the whole hog and confess I want to write a bit of everything: children’s books, poetry, film and – wait-for-it – a ranting tome on everything that’s wrong with the educational system. That’ll be a hit, won’t it? More seriously, at some point I would like to explore the Australian side of my heritage and psyche in my writing, but not sure what shape that will take.
As you know, The Wee Review is Scotland’s online arts & culture magazine. As a consumer rather than a creator, what would be your arts event of choice?
I love it all! But that, I suppose, explains my enduring passion for theatre; it’s the art form that can have it all: language, music, dance, visual art and the potency of the performer/audience connection. But creating theatre is all-consuming, so in the juggle of family life, part-time work and writing, I’m happy to enjoy it from the stalls. One day, though, I might get back in the director’s chair…
Many thanks for this, Merryn. And good luck for your appearance at Ullapool from all of us at The Wee Review!