Friday, November 26, 2010

How To Put A Book Together - Interview With Garret Pearse

Garret Pearse, editor and compiler of the Pint And A Haircut collection, has dropped by today to chat for a bit about the process of putting a book together. A Pint And A Haircut, which features true Irish stories (including contributions from some of our favourite bloggers!) is on sale in all good bookshops or directly from the publishers, with all royalties going to Concern's Haiti fund. You will notice that I ask horribly hard questions so extra kudos to Garret for having the guts to pick favourites!

Garret, welcome to Pink Tea and Paper! I know you got the idea for A Pint and a Haircut from Paul Auster's collection. Once you had the idea, how did it all come together?

I figured I’d have to get stories before I could approach a publisher. The first thing I did was set up a blog website called to explain what it was all about.
I then sent out a pleading email to everyone in my contacts list looking for stories. I’d naively thought it would be a case of sit back and watch the stories flood in but alas things are never that simple. I did get a few stories in the first week but then realised I’d have to chase stories more aggressively. I targeted writers groups and got fantastic help from Eimear Rigby, one of Concern’s Press Officers, who got me a lot of local newspaper and radio coverage. That was the turning point and after that, the stories started to come in at quite a pace.

How did you choose the charity?

I’d always admired the work that Concern did overseas and we have a family friend who has been working all over the world with them.

What was the easiest and most fun part of making the book happen?

Most of it was actually a lot of fun from the challenge of getting people to send in their stories to getting to read such a variety of stories when they came in to getting to meet so many of the authors at the launch.
I suppose if you were to add up all the time I’ve spent on it, it may add up to quite a bit but it was always very varies and nicely spread out over the 8-9 months I’ve been working on it.

What was the most difficult thing?

Without a doubt, having to select 70 stories and leave out another 70.
I spent a week of sleepless nights wracked with worry and guilt about the choices I’d made and the many great stories I had to leave out.

How long did it take from the initial idea to the book being in your hands?

I had the idea in the middle of February so it took about 9 months from idea to book launch.

Was there anything unexpected about the publishing process, anything that surprised you?

I hadn’t a clue to be honest about any of it so I had to learn as I went along through the process. God know's how many mistakes I made as I went.

Are you a writer yourself?

Besides keeping a journal, I’m not or certainly wasn’t at the start of the process.
I just enjoyed reading a good story and the Paul Auster compiled book just gave me the idea. I’m probably the least qualified person to compile a book so I was incredibly lucky to have so many people trust me with their stories. Funnily enough, the book has spurred me to write a bit more, mostly personal memoir but I do feel I have a story or two in me, whether anyone would like to read them or not!

Do you read short stories much? Any favourite short story writers?

Again I’m not a huge short story reader – I tend to bury myself in a novel more readily. Having said that, I can think back to a number of short stories that have stuck with me over the years from some of those on the old school curriculum like the Confirmation Suit by Brendan Behan or most recently JD Salinger’s For Esme, with Love and Squalor collection which I got to read last year. I must say that I love Salinger’s apparently effortless style of writing.

What's your favourite Irish story of all time?

Uuuggh – that’s a tough one.
It’s so hard to compare all the different stories you come across over the years. I’m not even sure I can answer that one. I loved some of Frank O'Connor's stories. Guest of the Nation sticks has always stayed with me as a very powerful story.

Who is your favourite Irish writer?

Thanks for another easy question!
I really can't say I have a favourite. I loved Roddy Doyle's Barrytown trilogy when they came out. Recently I've read a couple of Colum McCann's novels and really admire his writing and also love JG Farrell's writing. But as for a favourite? I just couldn't bring myself to say I have one without having to change my mind next week! Sorry!

Thanks a million to Garret for stopping by - and keep this great collection in mind for the Hibernophile in your life this Christmas!


  1. Interesting interview, Ellen. Garret was brave to tackle the project and learn how to do it as he went along.

  2. Good interview!

    I like that Garret's got a good opinion of Doyle's Barrytown books.


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