Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Photos from the Launch: Paul Anthony Shortt's Locked Within

Locked Within, all set for its debut.
I have been to several book launches and contrary to popular opinion, no one smashes a bottle of champagne against a stack of books and announces 'God bless her and all who read her!'

Oh, no one else thought that? Just me? Excuse me while I take a moment to blush.

In spite of the lack of champagne-shattering, book launches are fun. Paul has said that they're probably the only moment of public recognition that a writer gets - which is a bit of a swizz, really, since musicians get to play gigs and impress everyone at parties, and artists get exhibition openings and can post photos of their amazing works on Facebook. But writers mostly work in private, so launches are extra-special.

"I am a proper writer with a pen and everything!"

I have been to several launches, and they've all been very special occasions, but this is the first time I had attended the launch of a book I had watched grow from an idea to a book. This is the first time that I've been involved every step of the way.

It was a great event. I knew Paul at college, so there was a mini-reunion vibe as people I hadn't seen in years reappeared. The book was officially launched by Dr. Ron Callan, deputy head of the School of English in UCD (both my and Paul's alma mater), who spoke eloquently and elegantly about the book and his relationship with Paul. Then Paul said a few words - I don't remember much of them, because he thanked me quite early in his speech and all I remember after that is pleasant but total embarrassment.

It was unique in another way. It's unusual to get the chance to honour our friends' professional lives, beyond a quick congratulations when they have an accomplishment. Bragging about your professional achievements (in Ireland anyway) is not culturally typical and we rarely celebrate our friends' professional successes. It was nice to have a chance to do just that.

Nathan and Paul on their big night. Paul clearly wants to kill me here.
Finally, I have to share my favourite photo from the launch. Paul was not happy with me, which may be obvious from his expression. Hint: he is the one on the right.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Guest Post: Paul Anthony Shortt on the Dark Side of Irish Literature

Paul Anthony Shortt's debut urban fantasy novel is released this month. Today he's joining me here to talk about how Irish literature has a darker side. . .

I am proud to have this post in my Locked Within Blog Tour hosted by fellow writer, and one of my dearest friends, Ellen Brickley. It was Ellen who first pointed me to the open call that led to my book deal.

When most people think of Irish writers, they think of Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Roddy Doyle, William Butler Yeats, etc.

A lot of our most famous authors tackle issues of what Irish life is like, the political, social and economic issues our country has faced through the years. And really, it’s understandable. As a nation, we’re incredibly young. The conflicts which brought us to where we are today are still fresh wounds for many, which sadly leads to continued violence even to this day.

But I feel in the rush to experience what these writers have to say, it can be all too easy to forget those writers who delved into even darker areas. Stories so dark and mysterious that they simply can’t be contained within the confines of the real world.

Fantasy and horror have been among the earliest widely-read works by Irish authors. The most macabre tales come from cultures where people have suffered and been unable to directly confront the cause of their suffering. Ireland has it pretty good now, even taking into account recent economic changes. But we were a third-world country less than 30 years ago. We were steeped in fear and tradition for generations. My own parents, who aren’t all that much older than I am, remember teachers lashing their hands with metal rulers as a form of punishment. We’re a people very much in touch with our own dark sides, and it shows in our art, our movies, and our writing.

From Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the sinister world of the supernatural has always had a strong place in Irish literature. This is a country where fairies aren’t to be trusted, and woe be to him who breaks ground in a fairy fort. We know to avoid black cats and to this day children warn each other about the house down the street where nobody lives, but if you walk too close at night, a light will come on or you’ll see something moving in the shadows.

It is this tradition of taking the mysterious and supernatural and pushing it into the light of day which makes me proud to be an Irish author. It is a tradition which lives on in the work of modern writers like Sarah Rees Brennan, Celine Kiernan and Ruth F Long. Readers young and old are taken on journeys into strange realms, in a way I think might be missed by readers in a more cosmopolitan country. Even in the 21st century, few Irish children can pick up a book about witches and ghosts without thinking of the old church that’s meant to be haunted, or the ghost who’ll scratch off your face if you say her name three times while looking into a mirror.

I think this might be why the Irish are so strongly drawn to such stories. Superstition and folklore are still a very important part of our culture. We still want people to take our hand and show us the things that creep through the night. I hope I’m up to the task.

About Paul:

A child at heart who turned to writing and roleplaying games when there simply weren't enough action figures to play out the stories he wanted, Paul Anthony Shortt has been writing all his life.

Growing up surrounded by music, film and theatre gave him a deep love of all forms of storytelling, each teaching him something new he could use. When not playing with the people in his head, he enjoys cooking and regular meet-ups with his gaming group.

He lives in Ireland with his wife Jen and their dogs, Pepper and Jasper. Their first child, Conor William Henry Shortt, was born on July 11th, 2011. He passed away three days later, but brought love and joy into their lives and those of their friends. Jen is pregnant again and is expecting twins.

About Locked Within:

The supernatural realm and the mundane world have existed side by side since the dawn of time. Predators walk the streets, hidden by our own ignorance. Once, the city of New York was protected, but that was another age.

Now a creature emerges from the city's past to kill again, with no one to hear the screams of its victims. The lost and the weak, crushed under the heels of the city's supernatural masters, have given up hope.

But one man finds himself drawn to these deaths. Plagued by dreams of past lives, his obsession may cost him friends, loved ones, even his life. To stop this monster, he must unlock the strength he once had. He must remember the warrior he was, to become the hero he was born to be.

His name is Nathan Shepherd, and he remembers.