Mark McNay Interview
Mark McNay's debut novel, Fresh, was published earlier this year, and BooksfromScotland.com caught up with Mark to find out what inspired him to write Fresh, set in a chicken factory.
Your first book was picked up and published by Canongate. How much of a thrill was that, and has the process of being published been different to how you thought it would be?
I chose Canongate because they seemed engaged with my novel, and I knew it would be in good hands if I gave it to them.
I thought getting published would mean emails from women wanting my body. But I've had none so far. Must say I'm a bit disappointed in that.
You seem to know the insides of a chicken, and a chicken factory very well, and your descriptions are enough to make the reader never buy chicken joints or breasts again. What was the initial idea and inspiration for your novel?
The initial idea for Fresh was Ivan Denisovitch. Inspiration was Kelman, How Late It Was, How Late. I wanted to show a working man who was clever and imaginative and funny.
The grittiness of your book reminds the reader of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in all its gruesome detail. Which books or writers would you say have most influenced or inspired you?
Your writing is very filmic. Anything on the horizon for you in film terms? Do you think visually?
I'd love to see Fresh as a film. If anyone is interested let me know.
You seem to have a natural ear for dialogue, and an appreciation for characters who are larger than life. Do you think a writer can develop these things, or would you say it's a gift?
I think it's a thing I learned as a child, storytelling is a family thing. I was brought up in a funny family, full of wit and laughs. Maybe what I have is a gift, but I certainly think it can be developed.
Are you a notetaker, and jot things down all the time?
Sometimes I write a lot, feelings, theories and the state of my relationships.
You completed the UEA creative writing course. Was this key to getting work completed do you think? Would you advise other writers to take courses?
I think I had a basic talent for something artistic, and the course at UEA helped me develop that talent into something readable. Some people learn a lot from these courses, others don't.
How does Norwich compare with living in Scotland? Do you miss Scotland?
I love Norwich and Norfolk. I've lived here longer than Scotland. I moved here in the eighties and found it easier to make a living. An economic migrant I was. But of course I miss Scotland. I miss the wit, the abrasive humour, bottles of Irn Bru, and black pudding suppers.
What's next for you, in terms of your writing?
I'm writing a novel about a man with a narcissistic personality disorder, his prostitute girlfriend, and his mental health social worker.
There is a huge tension throughout your novel that you sustain with ease. Would you ever think of writing more general comedy, or does the crime writing combined with black humour appeal?
I would love to try and write in other genres like TV comedies, or a stage play, but I think my natural element is dark happenings with black comedy.
Sean's days are of a kind. The factory, the line, the chickens, and his dreams of escape. His brother Archie gets out of jail on early release, which would be great if Archie weren't a little loose in the head - and if Sean didn't still owe him a grand.