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Perth Writers Festival Blog

Q&A with YA Author Peadar O’Guilin

Friday 17 February 2017

Young Adult author Peadar O’Guilin describes his latest fantasy novel The Call as ‘a Harry Potter where everybody dies’. It’s no wonder the Irish novelist thinks that YA literature is the best way to get your heart racing.

Hear more from O’Guilin before he goes a few rounds at Literary Death Match, shares his favourite reads at YA session The Books that Shape Us and takes part in the sessions Lore and Legend and The Storyteller.

What was the last book you read and loved?

I have just finished a massive reread of Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels. Some of the earlier tales in there are astonishing.

Favourite section of the bookstore?

I love any story that takes me somewhere strange and fascinating. That's why I spend so much time browsing Science Fiction and Fantasy, as well as Historical Fiction.

Why do you write?

This is going to echo my answer to the question above. My favourite part of writing is that I get to create new worlds that I can then explore through the characters that live there. I want new monsters, strange customs, glorious religions rooted in traditions that could only ever have arisen in circumstances that are completely different from our own.

What do you do when you get creatively stuck?

I go for a walk. It works. Honest!

Describe The Call for in one sentence:

It's a Harry Potter where everybody dies.

Where did the inspiration for The Call come from?

I had a vision one day of a person disappearing in the middle of a crowded room. All their clothing fell to the floor. Everybody around them was shocked, but not surprised ...

Like any writer granted such an image, I had to figure out the explanation for myself. Where did the victim go? How would the experience change them and everybody else? The whole story and all of its characters came out of that.

Nessa is a unique heroine in the world of The Call – what made you choose her as the main character in your story?

I often say that Nessa chose me. Large parts of her come out of people I've met in real life, and so, it felt as if she just appeared to me one day, whole and complete.

But that's not really true. Worldbuilding is my first port of call when starting a novel. Each world has a problem. It's like a hole at the centre of a jigsaw that only one very special individual can fill.

My typical hero is the person that other characters put in a box and expect to fail. I delight in watching them confound the prejudices of others.

Landscape and history are important themes for you in your work – what does home mean to you?

Landscape and folklore and history are tightly intertwined in Ireland. I grew up in an area where many of the place names come with a dark and juicy story attached. ‘The Lake of Eyeballs’, ‘The Poisoned Glen’ and so on. It's impossible not to be drawn in, to start populating the fields and hills with stories of your own.

What is your next project?

I am finishing up a sequel to The Call. Alas, I have no title yet! After that, I will be working on Orphan Continent, a YA epic fantasy.

You're part of our Teen Talk series at the Perth Writers Festival – how important do you think YA literature is and why?

I think YA literature is the last refuge of no-strings-attached idea-driven adventure. Sure, YA is about more than just that – it's great for issue books too as well as literary fiction and so on. 

But, personally, I'm in this for the thrills. It's harder and harder to get my pulse racing these days, but YA fiction, the daring stuff, can make me turn pages like nothing else.

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