Here’s an interview with me on writing, darkness, little fish and knife fighting in the afterlife:
You’re now published by one of the most exciting indie presses around, 404 Ink – how do you think the rise of micro presses like this have changed the literary landscape, and what has it meant for you as a writer?
I think small presses have made it possible for the literary scene to be more diverse than it would otherwise be – they are like little rockpools carved out by hand, full of life…
read the full thing here
A kind, sharp review of Mayhem & Death appeared on the Never Imitate blog:
Deep within the bowels of her carefully chosen words, reflections of the ordinary are made dark, lonely, threatening. However inspiring the view on the surface of an individual’s life may be, under McClory’s piercing gaze its desolate depths are revealed.
This is, the reviewer says, a good thing. Read the rest here.
Hello all –
It’s been a while (The Unsung Letter is on hiatus for a little bit) but I thought I’d share some places where I’ve been lately.
I spoke to the Times, The Herald, and the Sunday Post and you can read the interviews through the links.
Most recently Alistair Braidwood of Scots Whay Hae and I had a chat all about Mayhem & Death, On the Edges of Vision, Flesh of the Peach, travel, rejection, loneliness, grief and making art – and Jeff Goldblum, of course. Have a listen here. It’s a good long one, so maybe make yourself a cup of tea first. Mayhem & Death was reviewed on Scots Whay Hae here.
Aye Write, Glasgow’s famed book festival is coming – and so is my second story collection Mayhem & Death! The launch is happening as part of the lineup (which is rich and full, runs from the 15th-25th of March, and you can check out here).
The details for your calendar:
24th Mar 2018 • 8:15PM – 9:15PM • Mitchell Library
404 Ink describe Mayhem & Death thusly:
In the anticipated follow-up collection to 2015’s awardwinning On the Edges of Vision, Helen McClory returns delving deeper into descriptively mythical yet recognisable stories woven from dark and light, human fear and fortune. Swimming and suffering. Spikes loom ever-threatening. A weight against the throat. Sea where the dead lie pressed into a layer of silt. A silent documentary through a terrible place. Mary Somerville, future Queen of Science. A coven of two. Mayhem & Death is the matured, darker companion to On the Edges of Vision and shows McClory’s ever expanding ability to envelop and entrance her readers with lyrical language of lore, stunning settings and curious characters. Mayhem & Death also introduces the brand new novella Powdered Milk, a tale for the lost.
Get tickets for the launch here (£6). Still unsure? Scottish Book Trust has a wee bit of hype for both 404 Ink and me “One of Scotland’s hottest new writers teams up with the country’s hottest new publisher to bring us a new collection of short stories.” (!!!). It’s well timed for the start of your Saturday night, anyway.
Some words of mine recommending a lovely, under-publicised place in Scotland are in the Herald, alongside a few others.
Check it out here!
Walking through the dapples and the falling drab pieces of leaf, and the wind gently against your face and around you, and the murmur of passers by, and a haze in the distance, scuffing the church steeples and making them unreal.
And how this is another year, and how this is another autumn, and you would wish to stand at a bonfire, in the dark, looking at the constellations and the smoke reaching out futilely to them. And how the stars are not as they seem but immense and near ageless, scattered more miles away than you or anyone you love could live to travel through. And that you will for as long as you live be here, never more than 40,000 feet closer to them.
But that, regardless of any passing facts and wishes, this is what you have – a pile of leaves in shade and cold sun, and that anyone who thinks this is nothing, that this is somehow too frugal, needs to look again. There’s nothing romantic in it. It is romantic like a stone is romantic, like a branch. But it is your shadow, right now, passing over the leaves. It is your breath and the wind and your murmurs and others with lives that are right now, briefly, intersecting.
How does time pass in dreams? How has the month of September gone for you? Slow or fast. Some impossible mixture of sluggishly quick. In dreams you are mute – every voice you ever use only ever spoken in your head. Nothing you can do in dreams affects the world in any stable, lasting way. You can yell as loudly as you want and no one in the street is any the wiser. Are there any people out there? A gale blows leaves through the dream, scattering any traveler, bustling them out of sight. Pressing the leaves on a slicked black pavement as in a precious Victorian scrapbook. They say you cannot write or read in dreams, but I know this is not so. A single word, here or there, blurring as you look at it. A leaf, peeling at the corners, you suddenly know to lift and see the message in the skeleton veins, held up to a golden light. The colours are rich or not in dreams. Movements barely recorded. That’s September.
Or, rather, a little better on the writing front, though I have been fighting off a lingering illness, a cold that never burgeons. The second novel progresses, the world doesn’t turn in the old ways – the equinox hit, and now it’s so dark in the mornings it’s like walking to work still in the haar of a dream.
Where are you, October, I now ask. Plaintive for some day to be full awake to me, and I to it.
Walking home from work the other day across North Bridge I saw the sun gleaming on the roof of Waverley train station, and the castle on the hill silhouetted against that sky, and the spire of the Scott Monument to the right. Walter Scott, who I’ve never read, wrote the Waverley novels after which the station is named. Shall I read them, ever, I ask myself. So many more books. Such a profusion.
I’ve recently thought to add Ford Madox Ford to the list, after the wonderful (if mumbly) production of Parade’s End. If you haven’t watched it or had the chance to yet, I recommend you seek it out. Not something I’d ever really go for – a landowning Tory statistician trying to live honourably by his philandering wife, despite falling in love with a much more wholesome suffragette and facing the dismantling horrors of World War One. But it’s one of those rare examples of lush BBC drama brought convincingly to life with excellent actors. Little scene-chewing here, just subtle hand movements and flashing eyes and rich draping fabrics coupled with oddly stagey set pieces. Tom Stoppard wrote the script and apparently this is something of an achievement, given the source material’s anti-narrative, Modernist style. Which makes me want to read it all the more. That and FMF encouraged Jean Rhys (after or before their affair, I’m not sure). How does the one feed into and complicate the other?
So that’s the week, the last few weeks. Watching this drama of restraint and farce and dizzying luxury. Waiting and working and reading. And being disappointed and carrying my bags and planning. And being anxious about the future of my first book and my current manuscript. Taking long breaths out, stretching my arms in front of me and behind. Creeping inch by inch across the pages and hours. Do I make progress, or do I just hope I do?Time progresses, regardless. The sun burnishes the panels of glass and blackens the old stone buildings, the clouds in the sky arrange themselves like silks and wool. And it is beautiful, and I despite it all, have time to notice.