Interview with Peadar Ó Guilín

Hi Peadar! Welcome to my blog, and thanks for taking part. Have a cookie!

A: Thank you for the cookies.

The Inferior is the first in your YA/SF trilogy. Could you tell us about your début, and what is planned for the final two volumes in The Bone World Trilogy?

A: I’m trying to write a series about survival. How low are we willing to sink just to keep going as a species? I’ve created a kind of laboratory to find out. In my first book, aliens are hunting humans to extinction through the ruins of a vast city. Everything on the planet is poisonous. Except the aliens. If it’s intelligent, it’s food. I gave my poor savages the most horrible lives I could conceive and they still manage to make something of themselves. They have family loyalties and a species loyalty that informs everything they do.

My story revolves around two main conflicts, both triggered by the arrival of a woman from a technically advanced human society. The first is a personal feud between Stopmouth and an older brother who seems superior to him in every way. The second is a battle of ideologies between civilised values and the more primitive ones that ensure survival. All of this takes place against a background of bloody hunts, alien attacks and Assorted Terrors.

Book two will mostly resolve the values battle.

Book three will mostly resolve the personal conflict.

Book four will not exist. Please shoot me if it ever does.

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

A: My ambition is to be somebody’s favourite writer. Somebody, that is, I’m not related to, that I’ve never met. A great many fine books are written that nobody loves enough to keep out of the second-hand shops. I don’t want to finish my writing career as an author who never wrote a “favourite book”.

Will it be a long wait for the other books in the trilogy? Are they already written? To sell a trilogy, you must have a clear idea of where the story is going to go. How much of it is planned out and is concrete, and how much lee-way do you allow yourself to move away from the original vision?

A: Book two is about half done and should be appearing in a year’s time. Book three is just a plan on paper, but I don’t expect the plot to change a lot. I have what I think is a great ending for the trilogy and it would take a major shift in my values or personality to make me want to alter it.

Even before UK publication, rights have quickly been picked up to publish The Inferior and the rest of The Bone World trilogy in other languages. It’s currently at eight, I believe? How does it make you feel to be being published in so many countries? They are clearly showing a lot of faith in you and your works.

A: They are and it’s been wonderful. It helps calm my self-doubts to know that others think I’ve produced something good enough to pay for. It makes it easier to believe that ordinary readers will do the same.

Could you tell us a little about the journey your story undertook to be published? How does it feel now to be a published science-fiction author? And how has it impacted upon your life?

A: I wrote the first draft in two months five or six years ago. It had terrible problems that I didn’t know how to fix and, in the end, it finished up in a drawer while I went back to writing short stories. I think that helped me a lot. I hope that anybody who compared my early published stories to the more recent ones would find a good progression there in terms of craft.

When I opened the drawer a few years later and blew the dust off the manuscript, I thought, “hey, this is fun! And look – terrible problems that I now know how to fix.”

So, the first agent I pitched it to adopted me and helped me clear away a few blemishes that I hadn’t even noticed. Then he took my manuscript to market and suddenly there were a couple of really good publishers bidding for my book. That was a delightful shock, I can tell you. The only fingernail in the custard was the fact that I’d have to wait a year and a half to see the thing in print. My agent used the time wisely, of course, and the result, is that I was able to become a part-time writer.

What was the initial inspiration that drove you to write these books?

A: A dream, believe it or not. I was being chased through a tunnel by creatures that wanted to eat me. A friendly priest pointed out that if I could catch one, I’d be eating it instead. Unfortunately, I woke up before I got to taste anything.

Which characters have changed the most from your original idea of them, to how they’ve appeared on the page?

A: None of the main characters have changed at all, really. Only situations have changed and quite a few of the alien species. Also, the language and the customs of the tribe have been explored in much more detail.

You deliberately made your main protagonist, Stopmouth, have a stutter. To the eyes of the rest of his Tribe, he is, in a way, disabled. Why was it that you chose to write your hero like this?

A: One of the main themes of the book is about how, and why, some people are judged ‘inferior’. It takes so little for one human being to look down his nose at another: a few unusual carnivorous habits; a speech impediment; or whatever. My favourite book is “I, Claudius”. It deals with a member of the Roman Imperial family who is underestimated on account of a few minor handicaps, including, as with Stopmouth, a stammer. As a result, he is never considered important enough to murder. The rest of the family are not so lucky and he survives to become one of the best Emperors the Romans ever had. I wanted a character the readers might love as much as I loved Claudius.

It might be a bit early in your career, but I’m sure there are many aspiring authors out there (quite a few people who run review blogs for example!) so are there any precious nuggets of writerly advice that you’d like to share?

A: You’re right, it is early! However, I’d stress patience. We new writers can be so needy that we release our manuscripts into the wild before they can fend for themselves. Get it right first. Then submit.

Thanks so much for taking part, Peadar. The Inferior was a great read. I wish you every success, and you’ll have to keep me posted on the status of the other books 🙂 Are there any last words before the curtain (not the axe) falls?!

A: Three things. First, I’d like to thank you for giving my book one of its earliest reviews. Secondly, if any of your readers happen to be in Dublin on the 13th of September, The Inferior will be having its official launch in Borders in Blanchardstown.

Other than that, a Heimlich manoeuvre would be great about now – I seem to be choking on your cookies!


Interview by Chris, The Book Swede

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