First published in 2016.
I have something a little different, but still eminently literary, for you today! At the University of Glasgow, we are lucky enough to have some excellent extracurricular talks organised for us by the English and Creative Writing departments. These are arranged under the umbrella heading of ‘Creative Conversations’, and take place every Monday lunchtime. Yesterday marked the first of these, and what better guest could the University have selected but Creative Writing alumna Kirsty Logan?
I am quite a fan of Logan’s work, and have been for rather a long time now (you can read my gushing review of The Gracekeepers here). Although yesterday’s crowd sadly didn’t quite fill the chapel in which the Conversations take place, the audience felt warm and receptive, and I can only hope that Logan felt the same about this.
Suitably Hallowe’en themed down to Logan’s skeleton-themed outfit, the hour-long talk began with a spellbinding reading of ‘The Keep’, and included a new and incredibly chilling story entitled ‘My Body Cannot Forget Your Body’. The tales were interspersed with questions from the chair Rob Maslin, and members of the audience. I came unprepared, I am sad to admit, and therefore didn’t volunteer myself to ask anything, but I very much enjoyed the breadth of the questions which were asked, and doubt I could have done much better myself. They ranged from the inspiration which Logan found on her recent month-long trip to an Icelandic writers’ retreat, to the influence of her family members upon her writing; the short of it is that she does not tend to write about those she knows, as ‘everyone needs a secret which they can keep just to themselves’.
Logan discussed many things about her writing: perspective, and the use of the first and second person narrative voices (‘I quite like the reader to inhabit the story… so each has a different interpretation. Anything’s right… You should always give the reader space… I quite like to speak to the reader… [and] use a direct address’); her preference of writing short stories with the use of a frame narrative; her hope to always be able to alternate between writing novels and short stories; her upcoming project (which will be set in a pseudo-Icelandic landscape); and her insistence that she doesn’t count herself as a novelist. Rather, she inferred, she prefers to write a lot of short stories and link them together. She is interested – as anyone who has read any of her work will know – in experimenting with the traditional form, and takes much inspiration from fairytales. As an impatient reader herself, wanting the author to get straight into the action, she has always been inspired by the directness of fairytales and their power. She also spoke at length about the timelessness of the fairytale form, and how we in the modern world can still relate to the tales; indeed, ‘The Keep’ is a retelling of ‘Bluebeard’.
In the pipeline for Logan are more books (both a short story collection and a novel), a visual arts project, and a couple of films. She also expressed her longing to work on written video games. She is currently attempting to write about things which scare her, prompted in part by the isolated writers’ retreat, in which she was left alone for great parts of the day away from her friends and family. This led her to speak about her craft: ‘I can’t write when I’m happy. When I write I need to be sad, or lonely, or grieving in some way’. The writing side of her life is viewed by her almost as an alter ego; a ‘separate persona’ that she ‘vaguely’ knows. This distinction is important for her: ‘Everything I write is so personal, but then as soon as it’s on the page, it isn’t you anymore’.
Eloquent and warm, Kirsty Logan is a marvellous speaker, with a wonderful reading voice, and full and thoughtful responses to everything asked of her. The inaugural Creative Conversation of this season was wonderful, and hopefully paves the way for many more interesting and inspiring talks. I shall leave the last word to Logan herself: ‘We can still find truth in stories’.
(Just FYI, Kirsty’s blog is a wonderful place to go to if you’re looking for something a little different to read.)