Newtownards author on what helped shape her 'brilliant crime debut' ahead of its launch on June 4 and what to expect from her appearance at the Belfast Book Festival
Every author has their own unique route to success and for Newtownards writer and arts facilitator Kelly Creighton, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) played a pivotal role in writing her debut novel.
For those who haven’t heard of it, NaNoWriMo takes place every November and challenges writers to produce a novel in a month. The idea is to get words on paper and end up with a rough novel that can be worked on afterwards and for Creighton, it’s a project which paid off.
Indeed, she not only wrote a novel, but has since gone on to have it published by Liberties Press, and will now launch The Bones of It on June 4 at No Alibis Bookstore in Belfast. A week later she’ll also take part in the 2015 Belfast Book Festival, where readers will be able to quiz her about writing at the Ulster Hall.
Set in County Down, The Bones of It is a psychological thriller which has been described as 'a brilliant crime debut,' by Derry crime writer, Brian McGilloway. The story centres on Scott, who’s been kicked out of university and is now living with his father, Duke, for the first time. Scott, whose mother died when he was young, subsequently recounts his childhood and the year past in a series of diary entries, weaving 'a tale of lies, of paranoia, of rage'.
'Originally, I thought of it more as a father and son story, so I was surprised when it got billed as crime,' says Creighton. 'I didn’t know how broad the crime genre was. It does focus on crime, but it’s not a police procedural story.
'There’s a lot of twists and turns. Scott is a lonely character. He was raised by his granny, as his dad was in prison for double murder. He later got released under the Good Friday Agreement, but stayed away, in Belfast. The diary is set over six months and Scott tells the story about his upbringing and what’s happened since he came home.'
As co-founder of the Square Circle Writers' Group in Newtownards, Creighton first introduced the idea of The Bones of It to her fellow writers, getting feedback on her work. As an arts facilitator, she subsequently knows first-hand the value of having a writing community and support for writers.
'I think it’s really good to be part of a writers’ group because when you’re writing, you’re writing alone a lot,' she says. 'It’s good to have other people to bounce ideas off - to have people who are supporting your work.'
It was NaNoWriMo however, which gave Creighton that extra push to complete her novel in record time, although she did, of course, do many redrafts and edits afterwards.
'It was almost like writing a stream of consciousness, so it worked well to write it really quickly,' she says. 'It also ensured that the voice was consistent.'
In the meantime, Creighton was also writing short stories and poetry and, as editor of The Incubator literary journal, selecting stories, poems and plays for publication. Indeed, she says that for her, short story writing is infinitely 'more pleasurable' than penning a novel, which can have many up-and-down periods.
'You get to the stage with a novel where it feels like it’s going well and then you hit a wall and get overwhelmed,' she says. 'With a short story it’s far more enjoyable for me, because there isn’t the same pressure.'
Creighton is also, of course, an avid reader and knew from an early age that she would write. Citing some of her favourite authors as Lionel Shriver, Christos Tsiolkas, Annie Proulx and Margaret Atwood, she also reads a lot of short stories, and admires the writing of Raymond Carver and Claire Keegan. Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy is another favourite, and indeed, Creighton’s own novel has been compared to this, so should appeal to any other McCabe fans.
With The Bones of It launching on June 4, Creighton is also looking forward to taking part in the upcoming Belfast Book Festival, which runs from June 8-14.
'I’ll be in conversation with Jan Carson at the Ulster Hall as part of the Literary Lunchtimes series,' she says. 'I’ll be reading from the book and will be also taking part in a Q&A session.
'It’s events like this and the John Hewitt International Summer School which helped me with my book. I was inspired by them, so it’s great when things like this are on your doorstep. People like The Stinging Fly journal and publishers including Doire Press are all coming to the festival and I’ll be going along to lots of the events. It’s really good for Belfast to have this. It gets a real buzz about it.'
As for her next writing project? It seems that Creighton may have been bitten by the crime bug, as she’s working on a police procedural crime novel and is also putting a collection of short stories together.
Having already had numerous short stories and poetry published, Creighton was also runner-up for the Michael McLaverty Short Story Award in 2014, and was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing in 2015. She’s certainly a writer to watch…
The Bones of It is published on June 4 and will be launched in the same day at No Alibis Bookstore, Belfast while Kelly is in conversation with Jan Carson at the Ulster Hall on June 11 at 1pm as part of the Belfast Book Festival.