I am so pleased to welcome Nuala Ni Chonchuir to the blog today! Nuala is the author of one of my favorite collections of short fiction, and she has recently published another collection, titled Nude. This book is described by the publisher:
The women and men in Nude play out their desires and frustrations from Dublin to Paris, Delhi to Barcelona, and beyond. In these stories there are mercurial lovers, illicit affairs and mistakes that cannot be undone. And at the centre of it all is the unclothed body: in bedrooms, in art, and in and out of love.
Award-winning writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir uses her trademark sensual frankness, coupled with poetic language, to weave an intoxicating spell in these stories. If fictional worlds pivot on yearning, then the characters in these stories yearn for passion, for understanding and, sometimes, for freedom.
These are lush stories of visual art, the heart and the body, in all their beauties and betrayals; there is humour and quirkiness, but beneath that is the reassurance of truth.
Please help me welcome Nuala … all the way from Ireland … to this stop on her “Nude, not Naked” virtual book tour. After the interview I’ll show you where you can sample a few of the stories online, and how to order a copy of the book for yourself.
Congratulations on the publication of Nude, and welcome to your virtual tour stop at She is Too Fond of Books. Your tour is called “Nude, not Naked,” would you explain the significance of that phrasing.
Hi Dawn and thanks a million for having me here on my virtual tour. It’s great to be in the States!
The whole idea of the nude in art in the western world is, as John Berger points out, all about the viewer. I used a quote of his as an epigraph to the book : ‘Nudity is a form of dress’. I took the inspiration for the name of the tour from a quote in one of the stories ‘As I Look’ where the character says, “Naked means unprotected or bare, stripped or destitute. Nude means unclothed, or being without the usual coverings. … Being nude is a beautiful thing (supposedly), but to be naked is to be exposed.”
A subtle theme runs through each of your books. Which comes first – do you choose a theme and write about it, or do you see a pattern in the stories you’re considering, then continue to move in that direction?
You know, I just write. I’m not conscious of themes or anything. I don’t plan my stories – whatever emerges emerges – and I just go with where they take me.
So themes and patterns are spotted afterwards. I guess when you gather stories for a collection, it’s easier to sell it with a unifying theme. The theme could just have easily been ‘the lonely’ or ‘failed relationships’.
I know you write poetry as well as short fiction, do you work with them simultaneously, or concentrate on one form at a time?
I’m a bit butterfly-like: I flit between stories, poetry, novel, non-fiction, reviews, my blog. I seem to dip in and out of writing rather than slog away at one thing continuously, to the exclusion of all else. My attention span is too short for that!
Magda Bolding is a central character in at least two stories in Nude (“Madonna Irlanda” and “Jackson and Jerusalem“), had you considered writing her as part of a novel, or a larger set of linked short fiction? (will we see her again?)
I really like Magda – she’s so real to me. Yes, I’d love to write about her again but she needs to come to me, if you know what I mean. I like the idea of writing the same character at different stages in their life. Alice Munro has done that to great effect and if it’s good enough for Alice…
In To the World of Men, Welcome, you told the first-person perspective of “I, Caroline,” the skeletal remains of a tiny woman. In Nude’s “Roy Lichtenstein’s Nudes In A Mirror – We Are Not Fake!”, one of the figures in a painting speaks to the reader. What is it about these particular inanimate objects that calls for your voice to animate them?
I think I hear the real life story – of Caroline Crachami, or of the woman who slashed the painting, say – and I’m excited by it and I carry it around in my head. Then suddenly I hit on the way I want to tell the fictional story of those people and once the voice is right and flowing, I go with it. In those two cases it was unusual in that the voice was the girl after her death, and the other was from the POV of the painting. That gives a nice freedom in the writing because it’s pure fantasy at that point.
Art and artists figure prominently in several stories in this collection; do you take inspiration from any visuals in your writing space?
Yes, I do. I collect postcards of nudes for my study notice-board so I was looking at them a lot in the writing of Nude. I also love art galleries – I’ve probably turned my kids off art for life because everywhere we go, first stop is the gallery of modern art. They groan.
How would you describe yourself, other than an author/writer?
Mother of three, hungry reader, fusspot, travel-lover, vegetarian, feminist, baker-of-cakes, loner…
Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers of She is Too Fond of Books?
Look out for my novel You due out next year from New Island books.
Next week my virtual tour takes me to Oslo, Norway, to the blog of ex-pat Irish writer Johanna C. Leahy I hope some of your readers will join me there.
And thank you Dawn, so, so much for having me here and for your continued support of me and my books. Your questions were great and you’ve been a lovely host.
Thanks, Nuala! I’ll visit your stop at Johanna’s blog next week. Safe travels!
I so enjoyed working on this interview with Nuala, and sampling a few of the Nude stories online. I’ve linked to three of them in the text of the interview; please explore them. Additionally, she has posted the opening lines to all 19 stories in Nude on her website. Nude is currently unavailable from that big online retailer, but you can keep checking back for availability, or do I as did, and order Nude directly from Salt Publishing (it was about $15 with the shipping from Great Britain). I was struck by what I read online, and will post a review after I’ve had a chance to digest the hardcopy.