The Call, Peadar Ó’Guilín #AuthorInterview #BookReview

the-call
You have three minutes to save your life…

You know how if you really love a book it’s hard to rationally recommend it to people, you just push it on them saying “you just have to read it, it’s brilliant, just read it”? Well, The Call is a bit like that for me. Sometimes it’s harder to review a book you loved than one you quite liked, or one you hated. I am not quite sure what I expected from The Call, but I can tell you I was surprised by how much I LOVED it. I fell headfirst into the world of the book and only emerged twice – once to seriously consider putting it in the freezer because I was freaked; and once when my other half looked over and said “Jesus! Your face!” because I was reading through a distorted mask of facial tension. It’s that good.

The Call is like a mash-up of the darkest parts of Irish mythology and teen survival stories… albeit more Battle Royale than The Hunger Games. Let’s call it fantasy horror folklore, if we must genre it at all. Set in an Ireland where the Sídhe (fairy folk) have sealed the borders of the island and ‘call’ the youth of Ireland one by one to fight for their survival in the Grey Land where the Sídhe were banished thousands of years before. The call lasts three minutes of our time; twenty four hours of theirs. But the Fair Folk don’t just want to hunt their prey… they want to play with it.

Our heroine Nessa is a student at Boyle Survival College, one of several schools throughout the land where young people prepare for The Call that hardly any survive. They train to fight and to hide, study hunt theory and learn the enemy tongue – but for 25 years the population has been rapidly dwindling.   Nessa is intelligent, beautiful, and a total badass who is determined that her disability will not stop her surviving the Call. Her pacifist vegan love interest Anto was definitely my favourite character (what? ethics and empathy are sexy!), and unusally for a teen ensemble piece the supporting characters were well developed. But it is well structured plot, the skillfully built up tension, and the twisted brilliance of the scenes in the Grey Land that sold me on this one – honestly don’t ask me to summarise it. Just read this one asap.

This is the very definition of YA not just being for young adults, it is a stonker of an adult read. That said, if you have young people in your life – they need this book and you should buy it for them immediately. Parental types – many are the excellent life lessons. Aunts/Uncles/Older siblings – there’s also loads of warped scary gross stuff, it’s a cool book to give, and the season of giving approaches!

Author Interview – Peadar Ó’Guilín

I met Peadar at the Easons brilliant DeptCon2, and despite my initial nervous burble I got it together enough to ask him to grace the blog with an author interview, which he did, because he’s only marvellous:

Welcome to Eats Plants, Reads Books Peadar! First up – I absolutely loved this book, it’s unquestionably one of my books of the year. When did you get the idea for The Call, and can you tell me a bit about the process of writing it?

Thank you! I always think you need to marry at least two separate ideas together to form a book. In this case, the first idea was just an image of somebody disappearing in the middle of a crowded room. Where had they gone? What was happening to them? The answers to these questions were provided by earlier short stories I’d written about the Sídhe and my conception of what their homeland must look like.

Did you spend a lot of time researching the Sidhe/Tuatha de Danann/faerie folk, or did you draw more on your cultural memory of these stories?
No. I did no research outside of what I grew up with. But that was considerable and I had always loved the stories, so a lot of it stuck. I didn’t worry about changing things, though. I’m a writer: I love to make things up and I’m pretty sure there’s not one person who touched those stories over the centuries without altering them in some way.

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Peadar being all dark and moody

Despite the fantastical premise, this book felt totally grounded and real. Reading it I wondered what my impression would be if I wasn’t Irish/aware of Ireland’s folklore… was it hard to pitch to publishers outside of Ireland?
Not at all! You have to remember that a lot of people read SF and Fantasy, not because they want to visit the same old places again and again, but because they’re looking for a book to take them somewhere truly different. The UK and US publishers both bought publishing rights straight away. And a lot of translation deals are in the works too. I think the words “evil fae” are enough to get readers of any culture on board!

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On the Run- interview with Izai Amorim

img_1656I am delighted to welcome Izai Amorim to the blog today to discuss his newest novel On the Run. I really enjoyed this darkly humorous fast-paced tale, set in the USA in the early 1990s. We follow the sardonic anti-hero Pablo, a young, rich, and well-educated Central American man accused of crimes he didn’t commit, as he flees from the police and Colombian drug dealers due to a case of mistaken identity. Ready to do whatever it takes to survive, Pablo ironically embraces the very drug trade that threatened his life in the first place. The reader descends with Pablo down a slippery moral slope from someone who shares his mother’s mortal terror of being discovered wearing dirty underpants to someone capable of… well, I’ll leave it for you to read and find out! Occasionally un-PC, this might not be one for the sensitive souls, but Pablo’s merciless asides on society were one of my favourite parts of the book.
It’s always great to get to speak to authors about their influences and process, so I’ll get straight to the main show – an interview with Izai Amorim!

Izai thanks so much for taking the time to chat about On the Run… First things first – why do you write?

Because it’s fun and liberating. I’ve done architecture, and still do sculpture and photography. But writing beats them all. There are no limits whatsoever in storytelling: You can move in space and time, you can create virtual worlds, you can do pretty much anything and get away with it.

What books have influenced you the most?

You mean as a reader or as a writer? Every book leaves an impression on the reader, sometimes positive, sometimes negative. It depends a lot on your state of mind at the time you read it. Sometimes you reread a book a few years later and ask yourself why you liked it the first time. The writer in me pays attention to what works and what doesn’t work in a book, which is a matter of personal opinion. Even good books have some flaws and even bad books have some good points. With time you accumulate a lot of do’s and don’ts and that does influence your writing more than the individual books.

You were born and raised in Brazil but have lived most of your adult life in Germany – do you think this has any impact on your writing?

Yes. When you are a foreigner, in the beginning you don’t know all the rules so you have to watch your environment, observe people, look for clues, read between the lines. With time you see patterns that even the natives ignore. These are good skills for a writer. When I tell a story, I tell from an angle readers are not familiar with, so it surprises them.

Pablo is wryly humorous even in the most extreme of circumstances – why is humour important to your writing?

Humour is very important not only to my writing but to all aspects of my life. I have trouble relating to people without a sense of humour. It’s hard and takes a lot of control to repress a good joke when working in a corporate environment. So it’s natural that I tend to add humor to my writing. Humor is a very useful tool, especially when talking about very serious issues. I have the impression that people can process serious information much better if it’s delivered in a funny way.

What phrase/passage in the book are you most proud of?

I like the opening a lot, the first two paragraphs. I think that it draws you in very quickly. And it really sets the tone for the story. The rational-esoteric conflict between Pablo and Douglas is already built into it, as well as Pablo’s childhood problems.

Near the start of the book it is suggested that the shooting in the fast food joint is the perfect culmination of the three American obsessions: guns, dieting, and TV. It made me wonder – what would Pablo have to say about the current US presidential candidates?

He would probably saw that the candidates are doing what they are expected to do: to use all means at hand to destroy the opponent. In America violence is a legitimate way to solve problems. Worse, many times it’s the method of first choice: shoot first, ask later. Election campaigns are very violent affairs with no place for civilized discourse. Candidates try to destroy each other with all possible means, using what we could call “metaphorical guns.” And it’s all done on TV. Only the dieting is missing. The 2016 campaign has been particularly nasty but it’s not an aberration, rather the next step down. Things have being moving downwards for a long time.

Given the subject matter of On the Run you may not wish to answer this – but how much of the book is based on your real experiences?

Anything you write is somehow autobiographical. It’s either stuff you’ve done or that happened to you or stuff you’ve seen other people do. You basically have two choices: to tell exactly what happened or to create a kind of metaphor where fictive story A is told as a proxy for real story B. That’s the case with On the Run. It’s a metaphor. The more literal you take it, the less real it is. Maybe one day I’ll write an autobiography and spill the beans. Concerning real experiences, a lot of snippets are true. For example, the room Pablo takes in the warehouse in Brooklyn really existed, I checked it out when I was looking for a room in the early 1990s but decided not to rent it; I was having lunch with a friend in NYC in February 1993 when the waiter told us that a bomb had gone off in the garage of the World Trade Center; I knew a Jamaican guy called Winston who had a disarming laughter; I used to buy falafels from an Egyptian street vendor in Midtown; etc.

Can you tell me about anything that you edited out of the book?

I’m a ruthless editor and I deleted about twenty thousand words from the final manuscript, mainly subplots and comments that slowed the story down. For example there was a passage I particularly liked where Pablo’s friend Winston explained that baseball was invented to combat the “Loss of Privacy Syndrome.” Any idiot can say who the fifteenth American president was. The challenge is to know who holds the record for homeruns in 1957. Americans’ weird fascination with sport statistics was described as a way to have some cultural heritage that isn’t understood by foreigners and therefore remains their own private field.

Who would you cast in a movie adaptation of On the Run?

When I was writing it, I always saw Joe as the young John Goodman, like at the time of the movie Barton Fink. But John might be too old for the role since Joe should be someone in his mid forties. I think that the most difficult role to cast would be Douglas/Mad Dog. It has to be a guy who can have cool laugh attacks. I could imagine the French actor Omar Sy (The Untouchables).

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

If they want to hear it directly from me, they can check my website izaiamorim.com. If they want to find out what others think about my work, they can check my pages on Goodreads and Amazon. Thanks a lot for having me here, Cathy. It was great fun talking to you.