Thursday, 8 December 2011

Cynan Jones - Author interview - Everything I Found on the Beach

Following on from Maryom's review of Everything I Found On The Beach by Cynan Jones, Cynan has kindly agreed to an interview.

His first novel, The Long Dry, was published in 2006 and went on to win a Society of Authors' Betty Trask Award. It was subsequently translated into French, Italian and Arabic. He was nominated as the Hay Festival Young European Writer for the Scritture Giovani project in '08. His second novel, Everything I Found on the Beach, was published earlier this year.
Short stories have also been published in anthologies and journals, and in 2004 his children's story 'The Piano Player's Hands' was one of the winners of Richard & Judy's Winning Stories - a national TV competition.
In a BBC interview you said that if you hadn't got published in two years then you would have had to get a 'proper' job. What age were you when you set this timetable and at what stage in your life?
I'd made the decision at twenty two that at twenty eight I'd give myself the two years. People make the mistake of believing that because we've talked from a young age we can write. We can't. It takes learning and practice - much like playing the piano or learning to mix paints. So between twenty two and twenty eight I worked as a freelance copywriter in Glasgow. That knocked the writing into shape. I returned to Wales at twenty eight. The Long Dry came out, Hollywood fashion, just as the time was up.
What jobs have you worked at?
I've been a supply teacher, builder's labourer, kitchen porter, freelance copywriter, wine presenter. I've worked in a wine shop. I've worked in an aquarium and animal kingdom, given out leaflets on the street. I've worked as an AD on film sets, and for three years as a tutor in a children's behavioural unit. Among other things.

One of the characters in Everything I Found On The Beach expresses their disgust at the waste in meat processing within the UK and how that waste cannot even be consumed by employees within the factory. Is this waste something you have strong feelings on?
That happens in the book because it (constantly) happens in reality. The strong feelings come against the commercial remits forced on producers, mainly by supermarkets, and the continual artificial setting of prices that dupe people into shopping at them. The system as we have it prevents a small community from being able to sustain itself with the goods it produces locally. Happily, a degree of the meat that would otherwise be wasted does make it out of the door (illegally) but doesn't go to waste.

The processing methods in the meat factory seem to be covered in some detail - is this something you researched or have you actually been involved in some way?
This was researched, but also simply absorbed through spending time around people who work in the abattoirs. You also learn a lot from farmers.

The fisherman seemed to feel, not only a lack of job satisfaction but also a disconnection from life when working in a factory. Do you feel factories are somehow 'evil'?
Once you have to feed towns and cities - which are incapable of feeding themselves - they are a simple, economic imperitive.

The character 'Hold' catches and prepares the fish and we are told a lot of the detail of the processes. Do you fish?
I fish, but I am not in it for the fishing if that makes sense! I set nets, put out pots, and fish from my kayak. But that's about feeding myself and the people near me.

'Hold' also shoots rabbits for the pot. Do you feel we should all source our own meat?
That's not feasible. I feel we should all stop going to supermarkets and instead buy meat from local butchers.

Do you have more novels planned and can you tell us anything about them yet?

The first draft of the next novel is on the desk and I'll work on it after Christmas. It centres on a sheep farm, a man who baits badgers for a living, and the story of an Italian intern sent to work on a West Wales farm during the Second World War. It's called Traces of People.

Our thanks go to Cynan and we wish him every success, not only with his current books, but also his future projects as well - we look forward to seeing them on the shelf.

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