With Bethany Dawson reading from her debut novel My Father's House in Fitzroy this Friday night (21.6.13) at 8pm (£5) Stocki asked her a few questions about her writing, her novel and her faith...
STOCKI: When did you first start writing?
BETHANY: Last week I found a folder of stories I wrote in Primary School so my love of the written word goes quite far back. It took me a while to discover the genre to which I was most suited but storytelling is certainly something I have always enjoyed.
ST: When did you then think, "I could write a novel?"
B: In the final year of my BA English undergraduate degree. I had to choose a subject for my dissertation and managed to persuade my lecturer to allow me to focus on my own creative writing rather than a study of English literature. It was the first time it was done and I wrote the opening chapters of a novel. When I graduated, I spent six months in Zimbabwe finishing the manuscript.
ST: You did creative writing at Trinity. What did studying writing do for your craft?
B: It was a hugely formative period in my writing life. The intense group dynamic, lots of time to write and positive feedback made for a huge growth spurt in my craft. It was the first time I allowed myself to believe that I could make it as a writer and I remember it as one of the best years of my life.
However, the manuscript I worked on that year was never published and the high generated by the master course did not last. I decided to persevere and that’s when I wrote My Father’s House.
ST: What sparked the idea for My Father's House?
B: The idea for the book changed so much over the three years I spent writing it. It started as a dual narrative with a female Polish character, went through a brief thriller period, experimented with Northern Irish politics and emerged as a rather slow-paced study of the complexity of a family in crisis.
ST: Once an idea comes what are your methods of developing that idea?
B: I write and write and write until it’s time to edit and then I mercilessly hack through it. I never know the direction the story is going until I try to push it down a certain road and it falls flat. My characters very much determine the pace and storyline. They seem to take on a life of their own and it is impossible for me to coerce them to do anything that isn’t consistent with who they are.
ST: Were there twists in the story that took you by surprise?
B: The mother surprised me throughout the book. I find her a difficult one to understand and that fascinates me.
ST:. What would you like the reader to come away with?
B: I would like my readers to feel something about the characters. It doesn’t have to be a positive emotion but it would be great if Robbie, John, Margaret, Wendy or Elizabeth’s behaviour resonated with the readers in some way.
ST: You have a Christian faith. How does that influence your writing?
B: Hugely. I would have given up writing a long time ago if I didn’t believe it was something I was created and gifted to do. My personal beliefs also influence what I write about and how my characters develop.
I feel very strongly about writing about what is real. In My Father’s House I didn’t want a happy ending with all the loose ends tied up because I don’t feel that reflects true life. Sometimes people don’t change, can’t accept grace and there isn’t a moment of character redemption. Other times they change a little bit and it’s not great but at least it’s something.
ST: Do you feel you have to consciously sneak your faith into a novel... or do you have to consciously keep a rein on it?
B: I don’t think about it in those terms. I am already shaped by my faith in terms of my perspective and the lense through which I see the people and situations around me. I write from that place.
ST: You are coming to Fitzroy on Friday night. Do you enjoy readings and the promotional side?
B: I’m getting better at it. I feel more comfortable on paper than on stage but I understand the necessity of developing a public presence and I love to meet people and talk about writing.
ST: And we are looking forward to having you!