Shiver The Whole Night Through
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born and reared in Ireland. A little village in County Tipperary, which is in the South-Midwest, if you can follow that. School, hmm…loved primary, hated the first three years of secondary. It wasn’t the school’s fault, they were fine. I just hated pretty much all the kids! Including myself, probably. I grew up a bit and enjoyed the final two years though. Then I went to college in Cork for an Arts degree in English Lit and History. I’ve also done a certificate in Art & Design, and of course have learned some lasting lessons in both the School of Hard Knocks and the University of Life.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
Twelve: either play soccer for Liverpool or be some kind of intergalactic bounty hunter with cool blue skin and bluer eyeballs, toting a crossbow that fired lasers. This was because I read a LOT of comics at the time, mostly Roy of the Rovers and Champ (hence the soccer) and Eagle (hence the daft sci-fi).
Eighteen: probably to have my own grunge band. I’d moved onto an obsession with grunge by that stage. I still love those bands, the image, the sarcasm, the plaid shirts, everything about them – good guys who rocked like all-get-out. Sadly, I was too lazy to bother learning guitar…the dream withered and died.
Thirty: a writer! I’d decided in my late twenties that, yes, I definitively wanted to be an author; I finished my first novel at 29 and the future seemed – potentially? – bright. Didn’t quite go according to plan. That book and my next one (collection of stories) failed to sell. Finally, I was published in non-fiction at 34. And in 2012, a lifetime ambition was realised when AT LAST I had a novel released. Shiver the Whole Night Through is my third published work of fiction (though first Young Adult).
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That communism was both possible and desirable. I think most people, as they get older, move to a more meritocratic philosophy i.e. you should get out pretty much what you put in. (Obviously, this doesn’t mean not looking after those who need it – that’s just basic decency and kindness.) But my desire for a totally evened-out society is gone; I don’t think it’s remotely feasible anyway, even if it was a good idea. Maybe after another 10,000 years of human evolution. Funnily enough, not every youthful passion fades away; for instance, I’m probably more and more of an ardent feminist with each passing year.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc. – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
It’s not a work of art, as such, more a movement – but the aforementioned grunge music has been a seminal influence on me personally and my writing. I did a crime novel, Even Flow, which was basically the grunge ethos in vigilante form. Shiver the Whole Night Through takes its title and much of its tone from Nirvana (and Kurt is mentioned in the first paragraph). Another book, unpublished, called Pretend We’re Dead, is about a bunch of slackers whose lives and thoughts were profoundly shaped by grunge. As I said, I love everything about it: artistically, intellectually, emotionally, socially…maybe even metaphysically, who knows.
Twin Peaks was also huge. In fact Shiver was, to some extent, my attempt at writing an Irish version of the great David Lynch drama. Murder mystery, small-town weirdness, supernatural elements, love story…and of course, the forest. It’s a character in its own right, in the show and book. Just that sustained mood of dread and reverie that Lynch evokes…man, it’s stayed with me for decades.
Finally, I’d like to pick a book but there are just so many… I’ll go for Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, one of my very-favourite novels. (Incidentally, I consider it a great work of YA literature too: the core story is about a lad of 14 and his fraught journey to some kind of emotional maturity and adult responsibility.) I was blown away the first time I read it, especially by the language Burgess invented for his narrator: English-Russian-Cockney-Gypsy and who knew what else. It really showed me the limitless possibilities of fiction. Great, great book. Real horrorshow, oh my droogies…
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
God – good question! I should have been a musician or painter or movie director or one of those lunatics who mutilates their own body and videos the whole thing and runs the video in a gallery and… Probably I write because A) I’m reasonably good at it, B) I love reading anyway so why not read my own stuff, C) as I say, I was too lazy to learn an instrument, D) I’m colour-blind so visual art is out and E) films cost billions to make and I’m way too neurotic myself to be dealing with tantrums and egos of actors.
6. Please tell us about your novel, Shiver The Whole Night Through.
It’s a YA mystery – sort of a noir-style detective story, with paranormal/horror elements, set in a small Irish town. The basic plot is: after months of bullying and romantic heartbreak, seventeen-year-old Aidan Flood feels just about ready to end it all. But when he wakes up one morning to find that town sweetheart Sláine McAuley actually has, he discovers a new sense of purpose, and becomes determined to find out what happened. One night Aidan gets a message, scratched in ice on his bedroom window: ‘I didn’t kill myself.’ Who is contacting him? And if Sláine didn’t end her own life…who did? Now Aidan must hunt down Sláine’s killers, and unravel the darker secrets surrounding the town. And he’s about to find out that in matters of life and death, salvation often comes in the unlikeliest of forms…
Needless to say, it’s great! Seriously, the reviews so far are very positive, and Shiver is on the (UK) Daily Telegraph’s Best YA 2014 list. Think Twin Peaks meets Twilight meets Let the Right One In meets the teen-detective movie Brick meets old Gothic horror stories. Or don’t think that at all, and just go into it blind.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
This one specifically, a feeling that they’ve been thrilled, chilled, moved and entertained. For all the things we may say about our books, first and foremost you want to entertain the reader. Beneath that, I hope they get a sense of empathy and sympathy for bullying victims; it’s the scourge of society and always has been. Nothing worse than a bully. I hope they debate some of the themes with their friends e.g. is revenge ever justified? And I hope they’d have become as fond of Aidan, Sláine and Podsy as I am.
In general, I’d like to think people will put down one of my books and – whether they loved it or liked it or were indifferent or worse – at least they’d think it was authentic, distinctive, made with care and sincerity. I hope they’d think, “This guy’s writing isn’t like anyone else’s.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Oh wow, so many. Anthony Burgess, again: the man was just the most incredible virtuoso. Could write anything, any style and any genre, better than virtually anyone else. Jorge Luis Borges, because his ideas and technique were so unusual that he was almost an art-form unto himself. Margaret Atwood for being so witty and clever and making it look so easy. George Orwell for writing 1984, probably the greatest book I’ve ever read. Don DeLillo, for having the most unique literary voice I’ve ever read, and for somehow expressing the inexpressible in our existence, and illuminating the deep mysteries of it all… I’d better stop now or I really will keep going and going, possibly forever.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To write and publish a sequel to Shiver the Whole Night Through. To write and publish the several other ideas for YA novels that I’ve begun sketching out, plotting, pottering about with. To have my first novel and short-story collection published. To have that slacker novel published (dude). To write lots of screenplays and get filthy rich in Hollywood. To win an Oscar for one of them…and then refuse the Oscar. Ha!
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Everyone says this, but…read. Read, read, read. Not the internet or magazines; read books. All sorts of books, with a good smattering of classics. That can mean anything from Homer to Dickens to Graham Greene – whatever. Just something outside your comfort zone, outside your normal realm of thinking/reading (and they are, in a sense, two sides of the same coin). Something that stretches your mind. Read. Keep reading. Then start writing, but keep reading. Don’t ever stop reading! I cannot stress this enough!
Darragh, Thank you for playing.
About the Contributor
Having always been a compulsive reader and dedicated book hoarder, it took Sarah a lot longer than it should have to figure out that she wanted to sell books for a living. Since joining Booktopia, she has found great joy in unleashing the full capacity of her book obsession! She is filled with boundless enthusiasm and zeal for all things book related and also has a slight tendency to overuse exclamation points!!!!!
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