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Aye Write

On Saturday the 15th of May, at 11.45AM I’ll be appearing online at the Aye Write festival with Ruth Thomas, author (most recently) of The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line. You can book a ticket for £5 here from anywhere in the world that a reasonable time difference makes it feasible for you to attend (should you wish!). Peruse the full festival line up here!

If you’d like to, you can buy my novel Bitterhall ahead of the event here.

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Scotsman / Times

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.

Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman

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. 

Stephen McGinty, The Times

You can buy the novel here, if you fancy

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The Afternoon Show

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.

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A Playlist for Bitterhall

Songs for Bitterhall, for the characters in it and for you to listen to while doing a little work, or wandering in a field of newly blooming daffodils, perhaps? In sunshine, let’s say.

Your choice of Youtube or Spotify. The Youtube list has slightly more fulsome lengths of songs. I hope you enjoy!

Here too in case you missed it or need subtitles, is a recording of the launch of the novel

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Story on Radio 4

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.

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Launch Day!

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.

The Skinny

See you at 7 if you can make it. Here’s a song to get you in the mood for the novel’s interwar themed Hallowe’en party –

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Early Reviews of Bitterhall

Ahead of the novel’s launch this Thursday are these reviews to whet your appetite.

“It is one thing to establish a sense of place – to evoke, rather than merely describe – but far more to summon impressions of the lives which occupy that place, along with the ways one may embody and change the other.

Doing so with aplomb is the first great accomplishment of Helen McClory’s second novel Bitterhall, the chief setting of which – the shared flat in which our three unreliable narrators move in and out of each other’s personal orbits – quickly becomes a self-contained, claustrophobic demi-monde, almost as key to the story as the mysterious 19th-century diary which motivates so much of the plot. “

The Herald

a novel playfully alert to ideas of authenticity, possession and the malleable nature of narrative

the Daily Mail

Told in McClory’s rangy, poetic prose, Bitterhall just works. Beautifully. This is no narrative Cerberus — McClory has everything under control. In fact, by the time you find yourself reviewing previous events, scouting out their earlier appearances for clues or hints, not lost but dizzied, the sense of adventure is overwhelming. All of this is done with not just brio but a winning sense of irony: punch the air as you note that a key chapter, written from Daniel’s point of view and re-told later by Orla, is titled ‘Thematic Continuity.’

Lunate Fiction

I hope you can come to the launch. It is virtual, hosted by Eris Young at the wonderful Lighthouse Books, and in buying a (v cheap) ticket or buying the book from them, you’ll be supporting an indie bookshop in a time of need. It’s also going to be an oorie, atmospheric evening which you may, if your tastes are that way, enjoy.


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Autumn Soft // Books from Scotland

‘I want you to love me, if I’m being honest. That’s why I start so gently, in the garden, in the present tense.’

There’s an excerpt from the opening chapters of Bitterhall up on the Books from Scotland website:

I am on the swing in the garden, under the oak bough, late August night, a couple of beers tipped over beside me in the short mossy grass and my heart is a neat bundle of sticks in love with the dead and the unreachable. Up in the house a single light shines; first floor, the bedroom, my bedroom, so it looks like there’s somebody up there.

Read the whole thing here!

And then if you’re keen to see more, preorder the book with a ticket to the launch on the first of April here.

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Bitterhall Launch!

I’m delighted to invite you to the virtual launch of Bitterhall @ Lighthouse Books. I’ll be speaking to the brilliant Eris Young about my latest book –

Thursday 1st of April, 7pm BST (2pm in the Eastern US)

Tickets are £3.83, free or £11.37 with an optional purchase of the book. Lighthouse say: anyone who books their ticket by March 22nd will have your name included in our prize draw for a weird & wondrous Bitterhall special delivery box of goodies to enjoy/set the scene during the April 1st launch!

It’s an exciting opportunity to play with the launch form and to hopefully reach more people. Get your ticket here, and I hope to see you there!

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Dressings for Bitterhall

The cover for Bitterhall is here!

Bitterhall is a story of obsession told between three unreliable narrators. Daniel, Órla and Tom share a flat and narrate the intersections of their lives, from future-world 3D printing technology to the history of the book, to a stolen nineteenth-century diary written by a dashing gentleman who may not be entirely dead. A Hallowe’en party leads to a series of entanglements, variously a longed-for sexual encounter clouded by madness, a betrayal, and a reality-destroying moment of possession. 

It’s out in March 2021, and if you would like to send a gift forward in time to your future self (or some other self), you can pre-order Bitterhall here at a reduced price of £7.99 – pre-sales are huge for writers, telling publishers how well the book is going to do, so I really hope if you’ve any inclination at all to have the book on your shelf, you go ahead and add it to the basket. Influences on the novel include Iris Murdoch, AS Byatt, the history of the book as an object and Rashomon, so if you like any combination of these disparate things, it might be for you. Or not, but who can say until they’ve read it?


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