Oh, but I have a treat for you today. One of my favourite authors, and all-round lovely chap, Glenn Quigley. You probably recall that I reviewed the first novel of his Moth and Moon series here… https://petrinabinney.com/2019/12/17/book-review-the-moth-and-moon-by-glenn-quigley/. Well, I was lucky enough to interview Glenn and I hope you’ll enjoy reading our chat.
Tell us a little bit about your Moth and Moon series. What is it about? Who are your main characters? What drew you to this story?
The Moth and Moon series is set on a tiny island in the late 18th century. It’s an alt-history world without religion where nobody is discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender identity. The story is about a burly gay fisherman named Robin Shipp who’s fifty years old, overweight, and a bit of an outcast from the only village on the island. Many years earlier, his father was accused of murdering a local artist and the villagers have been taking it out on Robin ever since. When a hurricane strikes the island, the village is forced to shelter at the local inn — a massive place named The Moth & Moon. Over the course of the story, secrets are uncovered and lies revealed as the truth about Robin’s father and his past is discovered. Along the way, there’s a trip to a lighthouse that proves life-changing for Robin, his ex-lover Duncan, and Robin’s friend, Edwin.
There are lots of characters who round out life in the village, such as the aristocratic Lady Eva-Wolfe-Chase and her wife, Iris.
The story started life as one scene in my head of a then-unnamed fisherman standing at his bedroom window, watching a storm blowing in from the sea. That scene came to me a few years ago and, as I usually do, I wrote it in a document and saved it on my laptop. Usually, those little scenes never become anything more but back in 2017 (I think it was, anyway) I was on a college course (as a mature student) to get a degree in photography and graphic design. I’d always done both but I thought it was time I had a proper qualification. Anyway, the second year of the course did not work out (for various long and boring reasons) and so I dropped out. Then I was left with a problem. What was I going to have to show for that year that I should have been at college? I decided to finally try my hand at writing a story.
My mother had always been encouraging me to write, since it was the only thing I was any good at in school. I opened the document about the fisherman and started to expand the scene. After a while, I had a short story and wondered if I could expand it into my first full-length novel. Which, to my great surprise, I did. I wrote it entirely in secret, not even my partner knew I was doing it. It was a chance to express myself in a new way and play with lots of things I found interesting, such as lighthouses, and the sea, and large, burly men.
If you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be?
Start writing sooner! I wish I hadn’t waited so long. I think part of it was fear of failure.
Are you a big reader?
I’ve always been a reader though the main thing I read is comic books. If I’m not reading a comic, I’ve got a novel on the go. It’s been that way since I was a child. I’m never more relaxed than when I’m lying in bed, reading.
Do you base any of your characters on real people?
My instinct is to say no. I didn’t used to, though I would take certain mannerisms from people I knew. Or sometimes as a character developed, I’d notice certain traits appear which I recognised. If I couldn’t see a character clearly in my head, I might base their physical appearance on a real person. In the Moth and Moon series, the innkeeper, George Reed, is based on a real person, though.
Come to think of it, the story I’m working on at the moment has a main character which is very definitely based on a real person. An actor I admire greatly. It’s a bit of a shortcut to getting into a character’s head as I already know how he moves, and sounds, and looks. Oh, and another character is based on a comedian that I love. So the answer is yes. Yes I do.
What do you think is the most difficult part of the writing process?
The first draft is often very hard. That struggle to get up to a minimum word count so you know you have enough story to work with can take months and months. But it’s also a lot of fun at times. I’ll tell you what’s proper nerve-wracking, though — seeing that first email from your beta reader. Knowing that someone else has read your story and has given you feedback. That doesn’t seem to get any easier.
Who are your favourite authors? Do you feel they’ve had an influence on your writing?
I love Armistad Maupin’s work. His way with dialogue has definitely been an influence on me. I also love Grant Morrison though their work is a lot more meta than mine, so how much of an influence they’ve been, I couldn’t say.
What is your next project? Is it something you can talk about?
I’m working on a spin-off from the Moth and Moon series. I can’t say who is the star without spoiling book 3, We Cry The Sea, but I will say it’s based on Blackrabbit Island and is part murder-mystery, part redemption story. It’s a bit grittier than my other books, faster paced, and with more action.
Tell us five of your favourite films.
The Age of Innocence (the ending makes me cry.)
Ghostbusters (it might be the perfect film)
Little Women (the 1990’s one)
The Shining (for the whole atmosphere of it)
And I dunno, probably a comedy with Sandra Bullock.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
I’m definitely not an early bird, I despise early mornings with a fiery passion. Though I also don’t really stay up late very often, either. Is there an afternoon bird? A noon crow? A lunchtime albatross? If there is, I’m one of them. I get my best work done in the afternoon.
Where do you find inspiration?
I’m very inspired by Cornwall. I’ve been a few times and I adore the place. The island in my books is based heavily on the area. I have an overly-romantic view of life there, I admit, but I find it easy to get washed away in images of it and it really helps with my writing, so there’s no harm in that, is there?
Do you have a pet peeve in writing, any words or phrases that make you roll your eyes?
There are certain stock tough guy phrases that occur mostly in comics which annoy me beyond the telling of it. Calling guns “pop guns” and swords “pig-stickers” makes me want to throw the book out the window.
It’s your ideal dinner party. Who are your guests? (They can be literary, fictional, real, living or dead, so go crazy)
Well, my partner, Mark, for one. Graham Cole, who played my hero, PC Tony Stamp on The Bill. I’m lucky enough to call him a friend but I don’t get to see nearly enough of him. Entomologist, TV presenter (and basis for the innkeeper of the Moth & Moon) George McGavin would be another one. Nicole Byer from Nailed It because I find her delightful. Cher, for the hell of it. And Robin, from my books, because I want to apologise for everything I put him through.
Which literary character is most like you?
According to my friends, Robin Shipp. Though given he’s a big, clumsy oaf that is something of a back-handed compliment. Apart from him, I can’t say that I’ve even really seen myself reflected on the page.
Where can we find you on social media?
I’m on Twitter @glennquigley and Facebook.com/glennquigleyauthor
What is the greatest ambition you have for your writing?
I’d love to be able to make a living from it. Yeah, awards would be nice, films would be great, and a Netflix deal would be just lovely, but to know that enough people like my work that I could comfortably support myself with it would be the dream. Oh, and also to get a lot better at it.
Do you have any unfinished manuscripts lurking in the back of a drawer?
I have a prequel to the Moth and Moon series written that I’m letting lie quiet for a while. I want to come back to it with fresh eyes at some point. I’ve got a few short stories from the world of my books that I’d love to collect into one volume at some point. And I’ve got a standalone short story that I really like. I should do something with that, actually… I find it so hard to work on more than one story at a time. Once I start a new one, it gets all of my attention.
What advice would you give to potential authors?
Don’t do it alone. If you have Twitter, get involved with other authors. Join in with hashtag games. The writing community on Twitter are a really friendly bunch and it can be a real boost to see other people going through the same creative struggles as you. And they’re only too happy to help with advice, or even just a bit of encouragement. And sometimes that’s all we really need.