RISING STAR: Jamie Guiney

E-published author Jamie Guiney says that e-books are the 'wave of the future'

In early 2010 you attended the Faber & Faber Writing Workshop in London. What did you gain from the experience?

The writing academy was a real turning point for me because it vastly improved my writing skills. I developed a better understanding of analysing my own work and that of others, and getting into the detailed mechanics of writing was very beneficial. I started to mature as a writer afterwards. It forced me out of my comfort zone, made me read more widely and write about topics I wouldn’t normally consider. It also taught me how to read my work in front of an audience.

Towards the end of the course, we all sat around a huge mahogany table discussing what we might write about when we got home. Someone talked about a true story they had heard and they were thinking about doing a piece on that. I remembered a harrowing story my mother had told me, so suggested it to the group and offered it to anyone who might want to write about it. The tutor Gerard Donovan, acclaimed Irish author and Booker Prize long-lister, asked me why I wasn’t going to write the story myself. I told him I didn’t write sad stories, that doom and gloom wasn’t my thing. He said I 'needed' to go home and write that story. I didn’t want to write it, but I did and it changed the way I write.

That story has been extremely well received – it’s called ‘A Quarter Yellow Sun’, features on my website and was published in American literary journal The Battered Suitcase back in June 2010.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland gave you a grant to attend the workshop. What was it about your application that convinced them to send you?

I submitted my first novel with the application and was a relatively unknown writer at the time, so I like to think they judged it purely on talent and potential.

Since attending the workshop you have had two stories available on iPhone and iPad?

I read an article on the Guardian website about a new mobile publisher that had launched at the London Book Fair in April 2010, called Ether Books. I was impressed by their idea to match up short stories with mobile phones, it was innovative. I was equally impressed with the prestigious authors they had on their lists, so decided to submit some of my work. They responded quickly, really liked my writing and we signed a publishing contract. My stories ‘Christmas’ and ‘Changes’ are now available to buy via the Ether Books app.

What is your opinion of e-books? The wave of the future or the death of literature?

'The Wave of the future.' E-Books give people choice. You are no longer limited to reading a printed book, you can read on your phone, laptop, e-reader… it gives people so much more flexibility. Over time, I think printed books will decline a little, but that’s all. The industry is still trying to get its head properly around the digital age and e-books. I read short stories via e-books, mainly. There wasn’t really a medium available before now for reading single short stories, you usually had to buy an entire collection of them, so it’s a great way for me to sample new authors.

Because of e-piracy in music and literature a lot of artists are starting to look at different ways of doing business - serial digital publishing, pay-per-view writing etc. Do you think that is necessary?

Piracy is one of those things that will never go away. Criminals always find ways around whatever preventative measures are put in place to stop them. So, it’s not that I think these things are futile, it’s just about finding the right level of security to help prevent piracy without compromising the reader’s choice. The industry will have to come up with different ways to approach piracy, try them out and see what fits best.

Have you been writing long?

I’ve been dabbling in creative writing for about five years. I became more dedicated to it about two years ago. I write Literary Fiction. Sometimes satirical or humorous pieces. Usually my stories have strong moral messages. I don’t set out to intentionally write parables, it just happens.

Who is your favourite writer?

Such a difficult question to answer and I can’t choose just one. I like F Scott Fitzgerald for his wonderful use of language; Charles Dickens for his storytelling and understated wit; Jonathan Swift’s sense of adventure; Harper Lee’s thought provoking morality; JD Salinger’s conversational style; Joseph Heller’s scathing satire; Gerard Donovan’s stripped back, masterful prose; Tim Gautreaux for his characteristic southern drawl and humour... I could go on.

What is your favourite novel?

I’m going to choose a novel that I come back to and reread, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I love grand tales.

Do you have a writing regime or do you wait for inspiration to strike?

No, I usually just write when I can find the time. Doesn’t really matter where I am, sometimes just sitting in the car waiting on my wife getting out of work. I write in the evenings, at weekends, sometimes during lunchtime in work. I carry a notebook and am always working on something.

What are you working on at the moment?

Currently I’m halfway through my second novel, with a darker tone than my work to date. I have just completed a draft of my first play and am aiming to complete the final edit this autumn before talking to theatre companies. I’m also continuing to write short stories for a collection.

What do you do when you aren’t writing?

I love travelling - I'm never as happy as when I’m stepping off a plane to explore a new country with my wife Katie by my side. I also play guitar, read and regularly go to the cinema and film festivals. I took up golf recently and got a hole in one couple of weeks ago.

Which would you prefer and why: critical or financial success? (Saying both is cheating.)

Critical. To win the Booker Prize and be penniless would be alright with me. I think it irks most people to see celebrity novels in the charts when they are badly written, so there’s a lot to be said for credibility.

Tammy Moore