It’s lunchtime in the beautifully refurbished Aberdeen Music Hall and we are welcomed into an intimate side room to hear writer and festival programmer, Lee Randall interview author, Jess Kidd as part of the Aberdeen Performing Arts Big Sky, Big Horizons series, which brings bestselling literary authors to the city.
Randall opens by listing some of Kidd’s literary accolades, which include being chosen as a Simon Mayo Radio 2 Book Club pick and appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row. Her quirky piece, Dirty Little Fishes won the Costa Short Story Award in 2016.
Kidd reveals she is part of a large Irish family and was taught to read by her sister, using Mills and Boon novellas. As a child she longed to be a playwright but having taken a circuitous route, completed a Masters in creative writing, going on to gain a PHD. It was whilst studying for her PHD that she completed her debut novel, Himself.
Whilst Himself and subsequent bestseller The Hoarder are both contemporary novels, her latest, Things In Jars, sweeps readers to Victorian London, introducing her unconventional detective, Bridie Devine and the case of a missing child. It’s crime but with humour and a supernatural twist. All three of her novels have been described as modern Gothic with a touch of magical realism, happily blurring reality with the ghostly.
Throughout the hour we are treated to two readings from Things in Jars; both are poetic and lilting. Kidd admits to wanting her readers to experience something, having been influenced by the writing of Wilkie Collins, by Perfume by Patrick Süskind, as well as Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. Irish folklore and in particular the Irish mermaid known as the Merrow intrigue her. She wanted the stolen child in her novel to be special, as the Victorians were drawn to spectacle, lovers of collections. Think of the cabinet of curiosities that gentleman liked to fill.
What’s next for Kidd? All three of her novels have been optioned for television and she is currently working with a production company developing more stories for Bridie Devine, as well as working on a children’s novel.
To become immersed in Bridie’s world, Things in Jars is available in hardback from Canongate Books. Literary enthusiasts will also be pleased to learn that more events in the Big Sky, Big Horizons series are planned for the autumn.