Generation by Paula McGrath

Congratulations to my sister, Paula McGrath, on the publication of her debut novel, Generation, published by JM Originals.

I’ve had the privilege of reading raw first drafts of most of these stories some time ago and watched them slowly evolve into the beautiful novel that was launched last week in the Gutter Bookshop in Cow’s Lane, Dublin.

Generation is a short novel that contains a huge amount, taking place over eighty years, three continents and three generations.

At its heart is Áine, a recently divorced woman in her thirties who wants some kind of escape from her life in Ireland: from her ex-husband and his pregnant girlfriend, her mundane job and unexciting love life. So she goes to stay for a few weeks on an organic farm near Chicago, with her six-year-old daughter Daisy. The trip doesn’t turn out as she imagined it would, and that summer will have unforeseeable consequences for everyone involved.

Ambitious and gripping, Generation moves effortlessly from the smallest of details to the largest of canvases, as the repercussions of the decisions taken by parents play out in the lives of their children for years to come.

Source: hodder.co.uk

This is a book that leaves you reflecting about many of the peripheral characters. I have a soft spot for Carlos, and for Yehudit. And the first chapter about the Irish miner going to Canada still gives me a lump in my throat no matter how many times I read it.

It was exciting to be in Dublin on publication day. We managed to drop into a few bookshops to see if we could spot it in the wild fending for itself. We found it first in Hodges Figgis: Here’s Paula looking slightly embarrassed at the paparazzi who followed her in.

Launched by Lia Mills, who had nothing but nice things to say, and Tom Morris from The Stinging Fly was there to say a few words on behalf of editor Mark Richards.

Lia Mills
 

And the reviews are coming in and saying all the nicest things. Christina Patterson from The Sunday Times says ‘The voices are beautifully woven together, and the prose has a weight and resonance way beyond the book’s slender length’ and compares the prose to Raymond Carver’s which is something to cut out and pin over the writing desk.

The structure of this novel is what makes it unique in my opinion. Jane Housham of The Guardian sums this up nicely:

‘It’s as if McGrath has spun her novel in a centrifuge, separating out the narrative elements and shearing off any remaining scraps of padding. What’s left is a sequence of verbal portraits, a clutch of individuals drawn to America over several decades, some of them Irish like the novelist herself, some from other diasporas. At first these characters seem disparate, unconnected, but gradually threads of attachment are strung between them, ultimately binding them into a coherent whole.’

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The Creative Process Blog Tour

The Creative Process Blog Tour

Thanks to Paula McGrath for nominating me to answer some questions on the creative process.



What am I working on?

Well-travelled – A short story collection: From the backpacker to the business traveller, from the child of diplomat parents to the retired couple touring in their campervan, I’ve been chipping away at about fifteen stories for the past six months and they’re currently reposing in a virtual drawer.

New novel: I’ve been plotting and planning and trying to gather inchoate notions of characters and settings for my nameless new novel. This is the creative stage of the writing process that I love. So these mornings I jump out of bed (something I’m not too well-known for) to get back to it. I hope to write the first draft (and give it a working title) over the summer.



I’m also working on all the little things writers have to do that take insane amounts of time – submitting my completed novel, Lost in Lourdes, to agents and editors, researching writing competitions and literary magazines, devouring all the information I can about the craft and business of writing (and not getting too distracted on Twitter.)

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
 
I haven’t really figured out my genre. I guess every author’s voice is different though, and I have been told in my writers’ group that a certain turn of phrase is ‘typically Hilary’, so although I can’t define my voice I know others can hear it.

Why do I write what I do?

Although novels were my first love, I started writing short stories and flash fiction as a way of gaining some real critique on my writing. I soon came to love reading and writing short fiction.

I feel I have the freedom as an emerging writer to choose whatever form or style or subject-matter I want. I mostly write for myself, usually to just try to make sense of the world.

The books I’ve read and loved recently include Gone Girl, Apple Tree Yard, Transatlantic, The Luminaries, The Goldfinch and Frog Music. It’s difficult to say what these books have in common (apart from the fact that they’ve all been nominated for literary prizes) but I would like to write like that.

 
How does my writing process work?
 
Here’s a picture of my attempt to follow the subplots in my new novel. I began with normal-sized cards but I was adding too much detail, so I had to cut the cards to small pieces. I still managed to cram each with barely decipherable scrawl.



My writing process really consists of sitting down every day and trying to progress on one project or another depending on real and self-imposed deadlines. If my concentration is waning, I push myself to complete the task quickly (because a first draft is easier to revise than a blank sheet of paper) and then punish myself with forty lashes or some housework. 

Who I nominate next…

I’d like to ask the same questions of KM Elkes @mysmalltales and Geoff Holder @geoffholder58 (update: here it is) and look forward to reading how they work.