"...stories birling through my mind..."
A literary journey
Nostalgic Irish prose
Irish culture & folklore
Ulster-Scots short stories
"...stories birling through my mind..."
This week marks the end of a chapter of my life as a full-time author, during which time, I can’t help but think that someone inadvertently plugged me into the wall.
Those who have undertaken novel writing as a profession will understand what I mean when I say that real life can be an inconvenience. Words rise up in the dead of the night; charged atoms that twist and turn until the school run is complete, at which point they explode mercilessly onto the screen. Any glimpse of reality is a gross impediment. A phone call, a parcel at the door, the school bell and the bothersome iMac message, “Your mouse battery is low,” all become implicated in the creative fall-out.
A few weeks ago, I surrendered to reality. I had been applying for jobs for a while, each application appearing on my screen like a waning mouse battery warning, but this job felt different. Perhaps it was down to timing, the job affixing itself, neatly to the end of a chapter. Or, perhaps it was a fateful moment during which the atoms of my life were aligned. Regardless, I understood that the career as a full-time novelist was over, and I began to re-enter the strangely familiar world that had hitherto been known as normality.
A few years ago, and as I approached the age of 39, I experienced grave symptoms of writer’s clock, an illness that was at complete odds with the better known maladie, writer’s block. I also had a terrible cough that doctors could not attribute to any specific physical disease. Afflicted as I was with an overactive imagination, I decided that my days were numbered, and that I could no longer justify my existence on this earth without fulfilling the calling of writing down those electrifying thoughts.
Also, I like to be organised, so it was necessary to shake off the mid-life crisis off before forty!
I resigned from my job after writing two novels and forfeited materialism in order to write a third. It would become known as Snugville Street.
Despite no further symptoms of death occurring, I could not risk leaving this earth without distributing the words; and so it was deemed necessary (by me!) to establish my own self-publishing business to ensure that the world would know about Hannah from the Shankill and her French exchange.
There followed the publication of the second novel; a transatlantic prequel to the fun-filled frolics in France and it was named (in a hurry) A Belfast Tale.
By the fourth book and third publication, Children of Latharna, the machine was rattling out words and pictures and in a mix of English, French and Ulster Scots. My mind was like one great big atomic disco of cross-community, peace-loving cultural-creativity and if I stopped writing, I would die on the spot.
Picture sitting down for that James song and never being able to get back up!
The Irish dancing factual book came next, a hooley of historical detail and party spirit. It was my fifth book and it was not my fault entirely. Someone had re-wired the fuse-box of my brain and I had to submit to this change in direction and keep writing, my mind flicking between the stage of an Irish folk dancing festival in 1928 and the next novel, a haunting, historical and somewhat musical portrayal of Larne in the 1940s, a sixth book that had already been baptised, Waterloo Road.
Waterloo Road had selected its own name, but it is in apparently no hurry to get to chapter four. So far, it’s very beautiful and incredibly short; the tick-tock of writer’s clock nowhere to be heard.
And so, I accepted the job at the college (located around the corner from the real Snugville Street) and I walked home at dawn from the most electrifying (and terrifying) party of my life with small chinks of reality appearing in the crevices of the things to which I’d become blind, and I sat with my son on the decking and stared at the smokey, peach clouds for an hour. He told me that the clouds looked like a story.
I didn’t rush to get up. I drank a glass of wine slowly and carefully, savouring every little narrative from Christopher, whose sole ambition is to stay up late, and I watched the story unfold in the sky.
I realised then that I had survived 38, 39, 40 and most of 41 and that there is a chance, if I drink my wine slowly and less often, that, God willing, I could live and write for a very long time.
I concluded that I will enjoy the new job and the new chapter and I’ll keep writing each Saturday night and live and breath and, on occasion, sit and stare the sky.
And so, two months shy of 42 (I like to be organised and think of my birthdays early,) I have my sights set on a whole new ambition: I’d like to live until I’m 105. That way, I can work and earn money and continue to write down my words for the next sixty-three and a bit years! I will call upon reality as my inspiration as I live life and cherish all its creativity in a more solar-powered stride.
Angeline King is the author of:
Irish Dancing: The festival story
A history of dancing in Ulster with a focus on the festival tradition of Irish Dancing.
"An enjoyable coming-of-age tale with a Belfast twist" (The Irish Times)
Click here to start reading.
A Belfast Tale:
“Uniquely, authentically and enjoyably Belfast" (Tony Macaulay, author of Paperboy.)
Click here to start reading
Children of Latharna:
Lyrical and nostalgic; wistful and humorous, Ian Andrew, author.
Click here to read for free
82 Waterloo Road
The Teacher Voice
The Last Day of Summer Scheme
Uniquely Girls' Brigade
The Children of Latharna
The Band Stick
The Bully up the Brae
A dander around Larne
God Created Butlins
History & folklore
Martha Taylor's diary
Jean McCullagh at 104
Ballymena & the McConnells
Arms in Irish Dancing
Catholics & Protestants in Irish dancing
Irish Dancing: The Festival Story
The Protestant in Irish Fiction.
The Protestant in Irish fiction II
Ulster-Scots in Irish Fiction
An author in Wonderland
Dancing in Victorian Ulster
Learning the Irish Language.
John Hewitt Summer School