Lockdown, I think it’s safe to say, was a very strange time for all of us.
We didn’t know what to be doing with ourselves. There were people running all over the shop, baking, doing handstands, shaving their heads, dying their hair, singing, dancing. The list goes on. People did whatever they could creatively to break the tedium of lockdown and I was no different in that regard. I started writing my first novel, a novel that isn’t finished yet. However the development of that novel did lead me into writing a tonne of short stories, which became the content of my forthcoming second title with Sulis International Press.
I wasn’t planning a second collection in any definite way. Sub-consciously, I more than likely was in fairness. That’s how it goes I suppose. In my many stints of writers’ block, I wrote short stories. At this stage they’re a mental oasis for me. The novel development is the ‘work’, the short stories have become the ‘play’. It looks like I’ve been doing a lot of play and not a lot of work.
I realize at the beginning of June that I’d a lot of short stories. A lot more than I’d written for the debut collection. These ones had more lunacy and surrealism than the first collection though. I think that, because I’m keeping the novel grounded in the real world, the shorts have taken on a more exaggerated absurdism compared to the first collection. It’s what I enjoy writing and I tend to have fun with it, so there are no complaints on my end.
When I realised I had so many written that I enjoyed, I got in touch with my editor and voila, they wanted to go ahead and make the second book a reality. I was delighted of course, but nothing hits quite as hard as getting news of that first publishing contract.
There are 17 stories included in the forthcoming collection, due to drop on October 12th. I’m very excited about it, and hope for it to be bigger and more successful than the first book. I’ve been subtlety hinting at the title for about a year now, which is gas enough. That being said, writing has never been about ‘success’ for me in that sense, but we all get kicks from hearing the writing connected with someone.
I’m excited to release this one. It feels a bit more personal. There’s more aspects of myself and my humour in there than the first book. As my writing has developed I think I’ve become more able to drop more of myself into the stories which is fun.
The collection is called “If You Are Reading This Then Drink Water” which is as much a reminder to myself to drink more water as it is to the reader. The book isn’t a self-help book about the merits of drinking water, in the same way that my first book ‘The Book of Revelations’ wasn’t a book about biblical apocalypse. The titles are misleading, as are the stories, as is the intent. There’s always some sort of attempted social commentary, whether this be known to the reader is part of the experience.
Over lockdown, I got into reading more contemporary Irish stuff; Rob Doyle, Donal Ryan, Kevin Barry, Anne Griffin. All voices that I find fascinating and unique in their own ways. I think I’m still finding my voice as a writer, but it’s very encouraging to see other Irish writers doing so well at the moment. I’ve definitely learned a lot about voice and how dialect influences the feel of a story from reading Donal Ryan and Kevin Barry in particular.
Launching a book during a pandemic will be strange of course, but it’s something I relish as well. Lockdown was certainly scary, and sad, and uncertain, but it allowed me more time to focus on more creative endeavours and I suppose I can be grateful for that.
Don’t forget to drink some water.
(c) Daragh Fleming