A few months ago Scottish publisher Saraband Books asked me if I would provide a quote for Moira McPartlin's forthcoming young adult title, Ways Of The Doomed. Having read and loved Moira's adult novel The Incomers I jumped at the chance of reading her new book. I opened the first page fully expecting a fascinating read. I was not disappointed: Ways Of The Doomed is brilliant! Although Moira has had a hectic few weeks promoting her novel I managed to pin her down to answer a few questions about it. Here's what she had to say:
Congratulations on the publication of Ways of the Doomed. It’s a wonderful book so I’m super excited to feature it - and you - on the blog. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed.
Please tell the readers a little about yourself.
I’m a Scot with Irish roots, so I’m definitely a Celt. My birth in Edinburgh was a technical hitch, I’m really from the Scottish Borders but I was brought up in a Fife mining village. I seem to have lived my life backwards. I had a family before gaining an education and had a career very late in life when my kids were older. Now I spend my days writing. I’m a grandmother but I’m not old. I still have loads of energy for running, hillwalking, dancing and travelling. And in my spare time I play guitar and whistle and read tons of books.
Ways of the Doomed is a very different book from your previous one, not the least of which is that it’s written for a young adult readership. What made you decide to write a YA novel?
I didn’t intend for Ways of the Doomed to be for younger readers. I wrote the story I wanted to tell and once it was finished it was obvious it would be good for the YA reader. I suppose it is what is termed Crossover. On the surface WotD is very different from The Incomers but they are both about social injustice and both about families.
Can you tell us briefly, what it’s about?
Ways of the Doomed is set in Scotland in the year 2089. The world is divided into three superpowers, the United States of the West, the Eastern Zone and Esperaneo. Esperaneo is separated into two classes Privileged and native Celts. The narrator Sorlie, is a sixteen year old Privileged boy who finds himself living with his grandfather on an island penitentiary. There he finds some horrific truths about the prisoners, the world he lives in and his own family history.
What was the inspiration for the story?
The initial story came to me in a dream; a fully formed, multi-coloured, wide-screen cinema dream about a guy in a prison who has a horrible secret. I turned my dream into a short story. The story came third in a competition and the adjudicator insisted it should be a novel. To do this I needed to create a world where the prisoners’ conditions and Sorlie’s life were still rooted to reality. I looked at two aspects of our present society that worried me – the rise of political parties like UKIP who are intolerant of minorities and the dangers of climate change and the possible green policies it might induce. I extrapolated these two factors out to their extremes and created a very harsh two party system in a world of diminished resources. This world and its stories have now become a trilogy.
What would you like readers to take away from the book?
Firstly I would like them to enjoy the story as an adventure into an unknown world. But it would be good if they did recognize a few of the allegorical aspects of the book and relate them to some of the things happening in their world today. I want the novel to work on many levels and would be happy if readers picked up on more than one level.
Who is your favourite character in Ways of the Doomed? Who is the most intriguing? Which character would you be loathe to bump into in a darkened alley?
My favorite character is Sorlie. He begins the novel as such a brat and even though he grows in the course of his journey he is still a reluctant hero. All he really wants is to be in his games room wrestling his pals.
I think Ishbel is the most intriguing. We don’t really know what goes on in her head. She has a main part to play in book two Wants of the Silent, but even so she gives little away.
I wouldn’t want to bump into Davie, Sorlie’s grandfather, in a dark alley – would you? (No!) He may be old but he is unpredictable, a little crazy and quite ruthless.
Ways of the Doomed is part one of a trilogy. When can we expect to read the other books?
I am working on book two at the moment and hope to have it finished by the end of the year. It is up to my publisher when it will come out but I would like to see it on the shelves next year with book three the following year. Having said that I normally take two years to write a novel so I can’t make promises on those timelines.
For whom do you find it easier to write – adults or young people?
I don’t make a distinction. When I started Ways of the Doomed I had an adult audience in mind, I still think adults will enjoy it (I agree! - this adult certainly did). I write the story I want to write and hope others will want to read it too. When I was a teenager I read George Orwell, Graham Green, and lots of political non-fiction. I find all writing hard but deeply satisfying when the story works.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
When I was younger I never thought about it. Writing was for writers and writers were an alien species to me. I have always been a great reader and I remember in my twenties thinking it might be nice to write my own book. But I had a family to provide for and I had to make a living. It wasn’t until I began travelling with work that I started writing as a hobby to pass the lonely hours I spent in hotel rooms. Once I started writing seriously I was hooked and now I can’t imagine my life without writing.
What’s a typical writing day?
I don’t have a typical everyday. The day I have depends on my stage in the writing process. If I am creating a first draft I tend to write two thousand words in the morning and spend the rest of the time working on other projects or reading for research. If I am in the initial stages of the second draft I will work on the redraft in the morning and again work on other projects for the rest of the day, while still mulling over aspects of the novel. In the final draft stages of a project I work all day and part of the evening on edits and redrafting. This stage is really hard but it is at this point all the loose ends pull together. It is really rewarding.
In three sentences, what advice would you give you yet-to-be-published writers?
Everyone always advises perseverance when this questions is asked and it is important but there are other things a writer can do.
Networking is an art - get to know as many writers and people in the book industry as you can and share your work with them.
Build up your writing CV - short pieces of fiction and non-fiction are a great way to get your name known and even a small publication success will keep you motivated.
Believe you are a writer – when I became a serious writer I was reluctant to say ‘I’m a writer’ even when I had work published in many magazines. If you say you’re a writer, you will believe it and others will too.
And now, it’s random question time:
Are you a lark or an owl?
Definitely a lark! I have my first cup of coffee at 6.00 while I write my journal. Then it’s on with the rest of my day.
Camping or 5 star hotel?
Both. I love camping especially in the wild on top of Scottish mountains. I’m a keen hillwalker. But I do also enjoy the luxury of a hotel stay. I love cities, their museums and parks.
Soap opera or serious drama?
I don’t watch much TV but I do like watching movies so I suppose serious drama is the answer to this one.
Twitter or Instagram?
Both. I’ve just started using Instagram and am becoming a fan, but I enjoy the interaction of Twitter.
Cheese scone or lemon meringue pie?
Cheese scone. I love savoury food particularly cheese.
Spider or snake?
Snake (although I haven’t have much experience of them). I have always been scared of spiders but have grown to live with them. I recently held a tarantula to try and conquer the fear but I still can’t pick up spiders in the house.
Adult fiction or young adult?
I still read more adult fiction than YA fiction, but the gap is definitely closing.
Town or country?
Country – always. I grew up in a small village. I lived in Glasgow for a bit and never felt at home. I could live in Paris though!
What’s your secret vice?
Stealing promotional pens from every hotel I visit.
And lastly, what’s your most endearing quality? – no need to be modest, you’re amongst friends.
My enthusiasm. I was on a management course once and received the feedback that sometimes my enthusiasm is so overwhelming it works against me. I am very aware of that but it still doesn’t stop me being enthusiastic for everything I tackle and everything my friends tackle.
Thanks for dropping by, Moira. I wish you and Ways of the Doomed lots and lots of success in the future.
Thank you Christina, I really enjoyed dropping by.