For those of you who don’t know, St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. He is celebrated on this day with feasts and ceilidhs and good friends coming together. Something else that you might not know about November 30th, is that it’s the opening day of haggis hunting season but we’ll save that for another St Andrews Day post.
But, there something even better than that happening at Celtic Connexions today. I’m thrilled to welcome, Dumfermline, Scotland native, author Ali Bacon to my blog today. Oh, and look, she’s got a paperback copy of her novel – A Kettle of Fish with her.
You’re looking very “Scottish” today, Ali, all decked out in your tartan. I take it you’re ready for a good old-fashioned ceilidh – Canadian style. Here come sit by the fire, take the chill off (escorts my esteemed guest to one of the tartan wing-back chairs facing the crackling fire). I’ll summon my manservant, Donald, to bring us some refreshments. Would you care for a wee dram? Perhaps Glengoyne – Scotland’s only un-peated single malt? (rings bell and gives manservant instructions)
I think you’ll like what I have in store for you at the ceilidh tonight, Ali. I tried to get the Old Blind Dogs but they weren’t available. However, I did manage to secure their tribute band, the Senior, Sight Challenged Hounds.
(swish of swinging door as the manservant returns with a tray carrying a decanter of whisky, two glasses and water). “Your whisky, my lady,” he says as he places it on the table.
As the manservant straightens to leave, I cry out… “Donald, where’s your trousers?” because so unlike him, he’s wearing a kilt!
Overcome by the shock of seeing him dressed in that fashion, it takes me a moment to regain my composure. (fans self with copy of Leopard Magazine).
Well, while we wait for our meal to be ready, Ali, let’s chat about your novel. I’m really interested to find out more about it and your creative process. I know A Kettle of Fish is a coming of age story. Is it YA or YA Crossover or another genre?
Believe it or not, I wrote the novel as adult fiction and it was only during the writing that Ailsa – my eighteen-year-old heroine – took over the central role. To be honest I think it still belongs in the adult genre and none of my readers (so far!) has quarrelled with that, but I think books about young people will often attract a young readership and so if pushed (go on, push me!) I suppose I’d say it’s adult with YA crossover – but maybe not for under 15s in view of some of the steamier scenes.
What made you choose that title? Or did the publisher suggest it?
Previous titles were ‘The Water’s Edge’ – too bland, I thought, and ‘The Treatment Room’ – too grisly! When I chose ‘A Kettle of fish’ I was looking for something a bit quirky that reflected the themes of the sea and fishing. I was very pleased when the publisher wanted to keep it.
Your cover is really intriguing with the foot dipping in the water. Did you have any input into its design?
Oh yes! Before being taken on by Thornberry I was about to self-publish and had already asked my daughter – a graphic designer who is now working freelance – if she would take on the design. Thornberry allowed us to carry on with this although they of course had the final say. After some discussion I hit on the rock pool as the image to go with because I wanted to convey something ‘lurking’ in the waters of Ailsa’s past. Ellie took it from there – it was fun to be involved and to see how the design process works. Luckily we all agreed on the end result!
Your novel is set in Fife and Edinburgh. Did you have to do a lot of research to get the two areas right?
Well the book is set in Dunfermline, where I grew up but that was (ahem) a while ago. My memories were refreshed by a trip north a few years ago, but I did pick my sister’s brains quite a lot and spent lots of time with Google maps. Edinburghwas a bit easier as the city centre is so well known, but another trip in 2011 was a real help in remembering the feel of the place.
I have to ask this one… how did you come up with the names for your characters? I loved the name Tom Robertson. I had an Uncle Tommie Robertson (my dad’s oldest brother).
Funny you should ask! I have to admit I put names in my first drafts pretty much by pulling them out of the air and they usually stick. I think I choose the Christian name first and that is pure instinct. The last name is added afterwards just to sound right and to go with the picture I have of the character in my head. I have just discovered there was a real Scottish artist called Tom Robertson although long before ‘my’ Tom’s time, and my sister says she remembers a teacher of this name too, but I have no conscious memory of him. Who knows, maybe I bumped into your uncle somewhere too!
What’s your next project? Do you have another novel started?
Oh dear, I do and I don’t! While writing Kettle I stumbled on a (real) Scottish Victorian artist with an amazing life story and connections to Dunfermline. Since then I’ve been working on a historical novel inspired by him, but there’s a lot of research involved and at the moment doing things like visiting Canada for St. Andrews night is so much more fun. Fingers crossed for progress in the New Year!
The manservant returns and tells us that dinner is served… so we pick up our drinks and at the first skirl of the pipes, wait for him to enter the room and we get piped in to the formal dining room (I wish I had one of them, too) to the strains of The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie for a feast of Cullen Skink, Roast Lamb and Potatoes, served with a rose wine (red is too much and white is too light so I’m splitting the difference) and fall fruit with vanilla rice pudding for our sweet afterwards.
Wow this is my kind of menu, especially the rice pud! Best not eat too much though or I won’t be up to the dancing. There is dancing, isn’t there?
Oh, plenty of dancing. The band will be arriving shortly and will set up in the ballroom. The rest of the guests will be along shortly after that.
And don’t forget you are invited back to http://alibacon.com for a return visit on Burns Night 2013 where we’ll be addressing the haggis as well as the world.
Strip the Willow, anyone?
Buy it from
Amazon UK (Kindle and paperback) http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Kettle-of-Fish-ebook/dp/B009M7FWKK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353415828&sr=1-1
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/AKettleOfFish
Website and blog: http://alibacon.com
Featured author page http://loveahappyending.com/ali-bacon/