IN recent years, it is nigh on impossible to speak of fiction in Ireland without mentioning Kevin Barry.
A truly unique literary voice, his novels ‘City Of Bohane’ and ‘Beetlebone’ have won a plethora of prizes both in Ireland and abroad and he is a highly respected writer of short stories worldwide with anthologies of his own works as well as being published in the New Yorker.
Kevin spoke to The Sligo Weekender ahead of his appearance at The Word, a local literary event at Sligo Library, next Wednesday, April 25.
He spoke of City of Bohane, as his first novel and the fact that it he pulled from many places for inspiration for the book.
“City of Bohane was really just an experiment with language – it struck me that the working class language of actual Irish cities, like Limerick and Cork, where I grew up, had never really found its way into Irish literature, and I thought it was a great opportunity. As a novel, it’s a bit of a mash-up, with lots of different influences. Probably TV shows like Deadwood and The Wire were the main influences,” he said.
Kevin went to a very different topic for his second novel, ‘Beetlebone’, in which an alternative world sees John Lennon of the Beetles fame survive and move to west coast Ireland.
“I enjoyed the good days [writing that book]! It took nearly four years, though, and they weren’t all happy-clappy days. But I felt like I got close enough to a voice for John Lennon for the book to be believable, and I was satisfied with that,” he said.
Kevin has had many successes in terms of prizes for his novels and he enjoys both critical acclaim and a loyal reader base.
“There’s nothing not to love about winning prizes. But yeah, I would say the most gratifying thing is to hear from readers that the work has connected with them at some level,” he commented.
Many readers are familiar with Kevin’s work in shorter fiction. For him, stories have rhythm and it is this rhythm which dictates what form his stories take either as a novel or a shorter piece.
“Short stories are very hard to get right – you have very little time and space, you really have to capture the reader quickly. In a novel you can be kind of looser and wilder really, as long as you have the tune or the melody of the book right. I do think of prose fiction as almost a musical form,” he said.
For budding writers who are going along to listen to what Kevin has to say in the Q and A part of the night on April 25, he has simple advice.
“Write at the same time every day. Even if it’s only for half an hour. The sub-concious is where all fiction comes from and you can kind of train it to start giving you ideas,” he said.
Also, for fans of his work, there is plenty on the horizon to look forward to in the coming months and year.
“I’ve been writing plays and screenplays and a novel. The latest play is called Autumn Royal and is touring in May and June. The film is called Dark Lies The Island, based on my short stories, and will come out in the second half of the year. I’m hoping to have a novel ready for next year,” he said.
Ahead of The Word event this month, Kevin has said “I can’t wait. It looks like a great event and I’m sure we’ll have a hoot with it.”
The Word is on April 25 at Sligo Central Library. Admission is free and it starts at 6.30pm.
An additional interview with Sligo author Julianna Holland can be found in this week’s paper- out now.