The schedule for this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival is out so I can share that I’m appearing as part of the Reading Scotland series. On the 19th of August at 5.30pm, there will be a screening of a short film based on the atmospherics of Bitterhall, directed by Bryan Ferguson, followed by a bit of chat about the novel. This is like EIBF events this year a hybrid online in-person event, so wherever you are in the world, you can come along! The online element is pay-what-you-can.
Come join in the launch of Extra Teeth vol 3 this saturday! I’m reading, along with Anahit Behrooz and Okala Elesia, and after that there’s going to be a bit of chat with the magazine’s founders, Jules Danskin and Heather Parry. It’s free, online and available wherever you are in need of strange, bold literature.
This weekend, a review of Bitterhall and interview with me appeared in the print editions of The Scotsman and the Times respectively.
Helen McClory is an extremely accomplished and intelligent novelist, which is what makes Bitterhall such a delight and a problem. At the very beginning the reader is slapped on the face with a silk glove: it announces itself as a challenge. “When exactly is this happening, and to whom is it happening, and who is making it happen? We begin to get tricky, don’t we, when I write in the first person. What tense do my intrusive thoughts manifest in?…. Everything is an aside. Except the centre. That is the centre. Find it”. Bold words indeed, and challenge duly accepted.
Over the past six years, McClory has developed a reputation as one of the most interesting young writers of fiction in Scotland. Among the fans of her work is Ali Smith, who said she was “completely unafraid”, while Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, memorably described her short story collection Mayhem & Death as “shiny, dark licorice, mind candy”.
Bitterhall, McClory’s new novel, is a more substantial meal, rich and gamey if one was to take linguistic liberties and extend Atwood’s metaphor before she could snatch it back and drive a dining fork through its now blackened heart.
Yesterday I was on The Afternoon Show with Janice Forsyth on BBC Radio Scotland, talking about Bitterhall and giving a wee reading. As always, Janice had great thoughtful questions – if you’d like a listen, check out BBC Sounds here. I’m on from around the 1:41 mark but the whole show is there for you.
Thank you to everyone who came to the launch – for those of you who missed it / require subtitles, the video will be up shortly on the Lighthouse Books website with captions. I’ll post a link on my twitter when it’s ready. Huge thanks to Mairi at Lighthouse and to Eris Young for hosting the event. And thank you thank you to Polygon for publishing the book and getting it out there. Ahead of the video being available, here is Roseanne Watt’s gloriously clear cold accompaniment to the launch:
That’s the book truly launched into the world, sailing off on its own, into your hands and minds.
This post though is to alert you to the fact that I’ve a folk horror/lockdown fiction on BBC Radio 4 this coming Sunday (the 4th of April). You can listen live at 19:45, or catch it later here.
Time to send Bitterhall out into the world, with your help. Thanks to everyone who has read and supported the book – and even to those who read and turned it down. The book is now a real book, a haunted house, a blue mood, a drifting thought landing on the shoulders of beloveds.
You can still catch a ticket for the online launch here, where at 7pm tonight BST I will be spiritually in Lighthouse Books talking with Eris Young about the book. Roseanne Watt, a Shetlandic poet and musician, supplies the atmospheric soundtrack to the evening. We encourage candles to be lit and drams (or tea) to be poured.
There’s also an interview with me in this month’s The Skinny:
“There are houses and there are books in this story,” says McClory, “and they function in a similar way: a book can be a residence just as a house can, and there is this idea that the house that Daniel and Tom live in has this sense of an old book – it has many pages, many corners and tangents to get lost in. I wanted that kind of idea – that there is a narrative to places and a narrative to presences.” Those places and presences do much to colour and shape the book’s delightfully metaphysical sensibilities.