The Qwillery | category: Paul Kearney


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Guest Blog by Paul Kearney

Please welcome Paul Kearney to The Qwillery. Paul's upcoming novel, The Wolf in the Attic, will be published on May 10th by Solaris. I asked Paul to write about Oxford, England - the setting for the novel.

Guest Blog by Paul Kearney

I lived in Oxford for five years, three of them while I was studying at the University, and then two more while I was writing my first book and unsure of what it was I was destined to do with my life. So I saw the city from two opposing sides. Firstly, as a student, a callow Irishman who didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground, and then, later, as someone outside the college atmosphere, just trying to make a living. Both aspects of my time there were invaluable- vital, even, in order to come to some kind of real familiarity with the place. Town and Gown, as it’s described.
        I got my first real beating in Oxford, at the hands of a bunch of football fans, and as a barman I saw another side to the place entirely. But I never lost my love of the city. And not only the streets and pubs and colleges, but the countryside which surrounded them. It is still possible – just – to walk up one of the hills surrounding Oxford and see a view of a place which does not seem to have changed in centuries. Put simply, it is in my eyes the most beautiful city in England.
        My own college was founded in 1427, and its alumni are as varied as John le Carre and Dr Seuss. You cannot but be awed (as an eighteen year old especially) by a place which holds such an enormous amount of history. I still think of my time there as a privilege, which, inevitably, being eighteen years old, I did not make full use of.
        I fell in love there for the first time, made friends I still have today, and was allowed to peer into a vast intellectual world which I am still exploring. One of my Norse tutors, Ursula Dronke, had known and worked with JRR Tolkien (‘If only he hadn’t wasted so much time on those silly Hobbit books,’ she said to me once). I drank in the same pubs – at that time barely altered – in which Tolkien and Lewis and the rest of the Inklings had smoked their pipes and debated the merits of Middle Earth and Narnia.
        As a would-be writer, how could one not be inspired by living in a place like that?

After I left Oxford, there was a long gap of almost twenty years when I was off living abroad, writing, trundling on with my life. When I finally went back, I found the place very changed. It was... shinier. At the same time more affluent and less authentic. But the essence of it was still intact.
        Two events around that time made a large mark on my psyche. Firstly my father died. He was, and remains, the best man I have ever known. Secondly, I went walking on the Ridgeway for the first time in two decades, some two months after his funeral, alongside my brother and cousin. All three of us had been educated at Oxford- a small miracle for a down-to-earth rural County Antrim family. And we all share a love for the city, and the landscape which surrounds it.
        I don’t know if it was a kind of simmering grief, or the fellowship of the road, but I began to think of Oxford as a place which was somehow more than just significant in memory and experience. It was as though it were some other force by itself, a catalyst for inspiration which had been lying dormant in my mind for the better part of thirty years. In any case, it became even more of an emotional touchstone for me, and I began to realise that whatever I wrote next, Oxford would be in it. More than that; the city and its history would somehow provide a key to the unfolding of the story itself.
        So I drew on those distant memories. The eighteen year old me had often felt lost and alone in my early days there, and the place had been busy and uncaring at first, especially to the young Irishman with a close (and large) family. But I found friendships there which endured, and a sense of belonging which never afterwards left me.
        The nostalgia of a fifty year old man is not to be trusted. Oxford changes year on year, with each new influx of students. But I like to think that what makes it special is something which cannot be replicated, and cannot be destroyed, even in this throwaway, narcissistic age.
        I hope that is the case, for if it is not, then something truly unique will have been lost forever.

The Wolf in the Attic
Solaris, May 10, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Guest Blog by Paul Kearney
1920s Oxford: home to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien... and Anna Francis, a young Greek refugee looking to escape the grim reality of her new life. The night they cross paths, none suspect the fantastic world at work around them.

Anna Francis lives in a tall old house with her father and her doll Penelope. She is a refugee, a piece of flotsam washed up in England by the tides of the Great War and the chaos that trailed in its wake. Once upon a time, she had a mother and a brother, and they all lived together in the most beautiful city in the world, by the shores of Homer's wine-dark sea.

But that is all gone now, and only to her doll does she ever speak of it, because her father cannot bear to hear. She sits in the shadows of the tall house and watches the rain on the windows, creating worlds for herself to fill out the loneliness. The house becomes her own little kingdom, an island full of dreams and half-forgotten memories. And then one winter day, she finds an interloper in the topmost, dustiest attic of the house. A boy named Luca with yellow eyes, who is as alone in the world as she is.

That day, she’ll lose everything in her life, and find the only real friend she may ever know.

About Paul

Guest Blog by Paul Kearney
Paul Kearney is the critically-acclaimed author of The Monarchies of God and the Sea Beggars series. He has been long-listed for the British Fantasy Award. In the eight years subsequent to the publication of The Way to Babylon, Kearney lived in Copenhagen, New Jersey, and Cambridgeshire, but at present he makes his home a stone's throw from the sea in County Down, with his wife, two dogs, a beat-up old boat, and far too many books.

Review: A Different Kingdom by Paul Kearney

A Different Kingdom
Author:  Paul Kearney
Publisher:  Solaris, January 28, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN: 978-1-78108-186-0 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: A Different Kingdom by Paul Kearney
A different kingdom of wolves, woods and stranger, darker, creatures lies in wait for Michael Fay in the woods at the bottom of his family's farm.

Michael Fay is a normal boy, living with his grandparents on their family farm in rural Ireland. In the woods there are wolves; and other things, dangerous things. He doesn’t tell his family, not even his Aunt Rose, his closest friend.

And then, as Michael wanders through the trees, he finds himself in the Other Place. There are strange people, and monsters, and a girl called Cat.

When the wolves follow him from the Other Place to his family’s doorstep, Michael must choose between locking the doors and looking away – or following Cat on an adventure that may take an entire lifetime in the Other Place.

Doreen’s Thoughts

Paul Kearney is a new author for me, and all I can wonder is how I ever missed him! His A Different Kingdom starts off in rural Ireland sometime in the 1950s, after the Second World War, and while Ireland is deeply divided along religious lines between the Catholics and the Protestants. Much of Ireland is still farmland or unsettled wilderness. Modern luxuries such as mechanized farm equipment and motorcars are few and far between. It was a time of transition, and as such, a terrific environment to set his coming-of-age story for Michael Fay.

Michael Fay is an orphan whose parents were killed as collateral damage in a bombing in Belfast. At the start of the book, he is about six years old. The opening chapter focuses on his extended family -- the grandparents who run the farm, his uncle who is eager to take over running the farm, two aunts, various cousins, and any number of field hands who work the land around the homestead.

However, in the middle of the first section, Kearney introduces an older Michael with his lover, Cat, fleeing for their lives in a world distinctly different from the placid farmlands where he played as a child. Then the story cuts back to the young boy who discovers that past the river that separates the fields from the forest is an Other Place, more wild and mysterious than his everyday life. From there, the story jaunts to an even older Michael, living alone in a city as a bartender and trying to forget the magic that once surrounded him. Kearney continues to intertwine the three narratives back and forth, rather than tell his tale simply from start to finish. While it seemed a little startling at first, I came to enjoy wandering around with Michael at various ages and trying to put together the pieces of his life in some straight line. It was almost impossible to do, which may seem unsettling, but actually worked the way that Kearney presented it.

Juggling timelines and locations just added to the overall mystery of the story. Kearney has a terrific eye for detail, and his descriptions are extremely well done, painting vivid pictures of his characters and their environments. The Other Place has several different races that may have evolved from different time periods of our world – seemingly wild men who could have evolved from Neanderthals, fae creatures that might be the original Fairy folk, missionaries/Templers who dictate their religion to the folk scratching out a living in return for protection, and the werewolves working for the Dark Huntsman who may well be the Devil himself.

This story is almost dreamlike in its telling. The language is lyrical, and the action is raw. I definitely enjoyed A Different Kingdom, although it was not an easy novel to read. It requires a reader to take it in great chunks. For someone like me who bounces between two or three books at a time, I had to focus all my attention on this one, but it was well worth the investment.

Guest Blog by Paul KearneyReview: A Different Kingdom by Paul KearneyGuest Blog by Paul Kearney regarding A Different Kingdom (and giveaway) - February 7, 2014

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