Saturday, 15 March 2014

Author Interview: Kirsty Logan (and book giveaway!)


Today is the release date of The Rental Heart and Other Fairy Tales by the wonderful Kirsty Logan. It's twenty tales of lust and loss. These stories feature clockwork hearts, lascivious queens, paper men, island circuses, and a flooded world. The collection is published by Salt, it's bloody brilliant, & Kirsty's here to talk about it.

As well as it being the release date for The Rental Heart, it was also announced this week that Kirsty's novel The Gracekeepers has been bought by Harvill Secker. Hurray!

Everyone who replies to this blog post by Sunday 23rd March will have their name put into a hat. The name pulled out of that hat will win a copy of Kirsty's book. This giveaway is open worldwide. 


Kirsty, welcome to the blog! Tell us, how long have you been writing?

Since I was a little-bitty thing, making up stories to try to drag some of my mum's attention away from my baby brother, who had blonde curls and rosy cheeks and was generally a tiny giggling angel. Meanwhile, I was a grumpy dark-haired pouting child in the Victorian style, and not nearly as likeable. So I wrote stories instead. I won my first writing contest when I was 8, for 'The Tale of Felicity Fieldling', a not-very-subtle Beatrix Potter rip-off. I was in the local paper and won £50 of book tokens.


What, for you, has been the most exciting moment of your career so far?

See above (book tokens). Since that day I've always wanted to be paid in book tokens, but for some reason it hasn't happened.


What's your favourite fairy tale?

Donkeyskin. It's so dark and strange, but it has a logic that I love. Before dying, the queen makes her husband promise that he'll only remarry if he finds the woman as beautiful and charming as he finds the queen. The king searches for years, but then realises that the only woman he loves as much as his wife is his daughter. To avoid marrying her father, the princess makes an impossible demand: a dress the colour of the sky, a dress the colour of the moon, and a dress as bright as the sun. She gets them, and runs away dressed in a donkeyskin, staying hunched and dirty. Finally, of course, a handsome price falls in love with her, etc. etc. happily ever after.

I'd love to retell it, but it's just too dark – and I'm saying that as someone who's written about fraternal incest, miscarriage, and a woman who gets bricked up in a wall as an anchoress until she dies. I love the beauty of Donkeyskin contrasted with the utter desperation: the father's terrible decision to marry his daughter, and the daughter's panicked flight in the filthy animal skin. It's a visceral and horrible story – and yet it has such odd magic too.



What books are you most excited to read this year?

Anneliese Mackintosh's Any Other Mouth: a new, hard-hitting Scottish Bell Jar for 2014. Kerry Hudson's Thirst, which will be such a departure from her semi-autobiographical debut and will give her a chance to shine. Tana French's The Secret Place – I love all her books, and I can't wait for this one. Then there's the new Emily Mackie and Sarah Lotz and Rainbow Rowell and Roxane Gay and Lauren Beukes… I could go on all night! So many good books to look forward to.


If you could go away for a week, to write, where in the world would you go?

To the sea. I've gone on writing retreats all over the Scottish coast: Cellardyke and Belhaven on the east coast, Farr up north, the isle of Skye off the west coast. The sea always inspires me. It brings me back to myself.


Tell us about your novel.

The Gracekeepers is about a circus boat in a flooded world. It's got a dancing bear who is just barely tame, birds in cages that mark mourning, a grief-stricken acrobat, a revival ship with an enormous Virgin Mary painted on the side, a fire-breather and a sinister clown and a ringmaster who literally has glitter in his blood. I loved writing it.


What do you like to do in your spare time?

Dance to 90s hip-hop with my rescue puppy Rosie (she doesn't dance, exactly, more runs around and bites her squeaky doughnut toy), lurk around the stacks in the university library, go on Sunday adventures with my girlfriend Annie, read children's ghost stories (Leon Garfield and Chris Priestley are dark as fuck and really inspiring), crochet a blanket while watching Veronica Mars, have friends round for a crafternoon, lie on my bed and listen to riot grrrl on big headphones.

What do you want to write next?

I've already got my next four books planned out! I'm currently working on my next book, 'A Portable Shelter', as part of the Gavin Wallace Fellowship. It's a collection of short stories all linked by a frame story – like those children's horror books that had lots of different stories told by a bunch of storytellers at a sleepover or by a campfire. I love those books. I think we all have a 'portable shelter' inside us, made up of the stories we read and our own memories, which we can retreat into whenever we need comfort or guidance. I'll be exploring that idea, as well as Scottish and Scandinavian folk tale tropes (witches, sea monsters, selkies, werewolves, etc.) and various types of loss.

Next it'll be a novel, Little Dead Boys, which is a ghost story about a lesbian couple with dark secrets, very modern and gritty and Glasgow-set but with a magical realist, Gothic feel; then a story collection, Girl With the Most Cake, inspired by Hole's Live Through This album; then a novel about pro-wrestling. I'm so excited to write them all, though when I think about it, it'll take six or seven years for me to write them all! I plan to alternate between novels and short story collections, as it seems to sate my need for both short, sharp shocks of story and the more immersive world-building of novels.


Hopes and dreams?

To be honest, I've already surpassed any dreams I had! Having my stories out in the world, and then my novel picked up by Harvill Secker, and potential publication deals all over the world: it's more than I ever imagined. I'm so grateful, and it all feels so unreal. I'm just waiting to wake up.




Kirsty Logan is an award-winning writer based in Scotland. Her fiction has been published in literary magazines and anthologies all over the world, broadcast on BBC Radio 4, displayed in galleries, and translated into French, Japanese and Spanish. Kirsty has received fellowships from Hawthornden Castle and Brownsbank Cottage, and was the first writer-in-residence at West Dean College. She has previously worked as a bookseller, and is now a literary editor and freelance writer.


Everyone who replies to this blog post by Sunday 23rd March will have their name put into a hat. The name pulled out of that hat will win a copy of Kirsty's book. This giveaway is open worldwide. 

28 comments:

  1. I'd not heard of Kirsty before, but after reading this I can tell you've introduced me to a new literary love. Thanks Jen, I feel really excited about all the books mentioned here!

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  2. I think I'll love this. Can you pop my name in the hat, please? x

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  3. I have neverd heard of her before (I live in Spain!) but the books seems very interesting :D

    (and yours, by the way, too! I had them in my to-read list)

    Thank you :)

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  4. Sounds really good. I'm all about fairy tale retellings lately. I just finished Fearie Tales: Stories of the Grimm and Gruesome and I'm reading Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales right now.

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  5. I really want to read these tales told by Kirsty, what a lovely interview. {*}

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  6. I love the sound of Kirsty's books and I now need to read Donkeyskin too!

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  7. I too shall be looking up books mentioned here. Great interview. *puts on boots goes off to the library*

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  8. Kirsty's books are going on my to-read list!

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  9. Lovely interview, and I've loved everything by Kirsty I've seen so far. Congratulations on the novel deal!

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  10. This sounds great! :) Sar x

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  11. I LOVE that she wants to be paid in book tokens!

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  12. I had not heard of her before either, but her writing does sound very interesting. And I liked her description of what she likes to do on her spare time! Sounds lovely! :D

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  13. Sounds intriguing - I love the title. And I'm exhausted just reading about Kirsty's pipeline projects!

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  14. Kirsty sounds like a woman after my own heart! Love the sound of her upcoming projects & she is definitely going on my to-read list! Great interview & thank you for introducing us!

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  15. I've seen this book pass by in several of my feeds the last couple weeks. I love fairytales, so I would love to read this.

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  16. Any book with dancing bear and fire-breather is good enough for me.

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  17. This book sound great! And Kirsty sounds like an awesome person! :)

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  18. Kirsty Logan wrote a book
    published it was, by Salt
    Now it's got everyone hooked
    In Jen's great freebie giveaway!

    I'd love to receive a copy as it sounds like a fabulous read!

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  19. Oh, my goodness, what an interview! Being paid in book tokens would be just perfect, and writing by the sea would make me exceedingly happy and content, and Donkeyskin, yes! Such a dark tale. I'm excited about the next Kerry Hudson book too - I loved Tony Hogan so very much and Kirsty's books all sound like ones to look out for. *clears a shelf*

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  20. I can't believe Kirsty has so many books planned. They all sound fabulous!

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  21. Wow, never thought of Donkeyskin in that way before. Such an interesting perspective.
    Amen to writing by the sea.

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  22. I love these interviews. It's always a treat to discover great writers I never knew about. Thank you, Jen, for what you provide your readers, not only with your own wonderful work, but with the work of others as well!

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  23. Great interview, but you can probably leave me out of the prize draw as I am going to buy the book so I can hopefully get it signed on Sunday (if the queue's not too long...)

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  24. I have followed Kirsty's writing career for a long time and absolutely loved hearing The Rental Heart when it was broadcast. Short stories, magic realism, fairytales and surreal worlds are all my favourite things so reading her collection is very much on my list of priorities!

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  25. This book sounds lovely! Would love to read it :)

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  26. Can't wait to read this book :D

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  27. I listened to a podcast with Kirsty trading one of the stories, and it was wonderful. It has a fantastic sense of magic and wonder. I can't wait to read the rest of the stories.

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  28. Thanks everyone! The name pulled out of the hat was 'My Heart is Here.' I've sent you an email to ask for your address.

    For those who didn't win - I highly recommend tracking down a copy of Kirsty's book! x

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