This week the CFRB is touring Chion by Irish author Darryl Sloan. Darryl was kind enough to answer some questions for me, giving me a terrific interview with a lot more insight about his writing.
Cathi: As an American, I am interested in your home area. Actually, my own heritage is
largely Irish, but it goes back many generaions. Could you tell us a little bit
about where you live?
Darryl: I live in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
Technically that makes me British, but I prefer to call myself Irish,
by virtue of the name of the island on which I live if nothing else.
I live in town called Portadown, in the Protestant community (by
virtue of nothing more than it's where I was born). As to what the
town looks like, well, I can get on my bicycle and within fifteen
minutes I can be riding through anything from peaceful, idyllic
countryside to desolate, ruined housing estates, although to be fair,
not much of the latter. Overall, I like it here a lot.
C: The main thing most of us know about Northern Ireland is the violence and
enmity between Protestants and Catholics. Was there much evidence of this
where you grew up? Has it had an effect on you?
D: The best word to describe it is tribalism. And tribalism over what I'm
not sure. You could call it a religious war, but very few of those
throwing petrol bombs on our side of the fence would go to church or
profess to be religious in any way. It's more a war over land, dating
right back to the British invasion. But I personally think the
violence kept going because of the way that opinionated parents
indoctrinated their children, and how school-friends got together into
cliques. I escaped both traps because I had level-headed parents and
because I was a geek at school - which is one of the best things a kid
can be. Being a geek makes you an outcast with popular people, and
when you're an outcast, peer pressure doesn't work, and you are able
to discover and nurture your individuality. So, no, the Troubles never
affected me. I always knew it was the biggest load of nonsense, right
from when I was a kid. Thankfully, things are much calmer these days.
C: We're touring your second book, Chion, but your first book was also about
the same junior high school. What was that novel about? Does it connect to
Chion in any way?
D: The first book, Ulterior, is set two years before the events of Chion,
in the same locale. It's the story of a boy who breaks into his school
at night and discovers sinister goings-on, involving an elevator that
travels deep into the earth. When you read both books, there is a
connection, because you find some of the same characters turning up in
each. But both books are independent. I am, however developing a third
novel, which may allow the whole thing to come together as a sort of
trilogy. But I urge readers to have no fear about jumping straight in
with Chion. It's meant to stand alone.
C: One review I read said that you were a teacher at Clounagh Junior High
School. In your biography I read that you were hired as an ICT technician.
Did your job include teaching the kids or did you just kind of gravitate
that way? What about the film clubs?
D: Ah, that's just the innaccuracy of interviewers. Technically, I'm a
humble ICT technician, although I do occasionally find myself in the
position of teaching kids, which I greatly enjoy. Some teachers find
the transition to the computer age a bit of a rocky road, and that's
where I come in.
One of the best things about the job was that the school recognised by
interest in filmmaking and encouraged me to get a Film Club rolling.
We've been running it for five years now, and we've made some
wonderful, outrageous little movies. Anything from a panther prowling
the corridors to zombies staggering along. Several are available to
watch online: http://www.youtube.com/darrylsloan
C: I can't help but wonder what the kids and staff at Clounagh Junior High thought about having two novels set there. What kind of reactions did you get from them?
D: I remember the day I walked into the Head's office and set a big
manuscript on his desk and said, "You might think I've gone made here,
but I want to show you something ..."
I've had some great feedback from the staff and kids. One of the big
surprises is how many girls like my stuff, because I'm writing what
you would normally think of as boys' adventures. But that's great.
Every September, when a new bunch of 200 kids shows up, I hijack one
of their English periods and talk to them about Chion. Usually, about
one out of every five kids bites, and it allows me to sell copies to
raise money for a Bulgarian orphanage that the school supports each
year through various fund-raising events. It's not as altruistic as it
sounds. I can't very well bring a profit-making enterprise into my
place of employment. :-)
C: From your website I see that you have a lot of interests in the arts: film
making, writing, an composing music. I think video games as well, am I
D: Yeah, I seem to be overly creative. Always have been. Drawing and
painting, too, in the old days.
C: What would you say is your main interest, or do you have one?
D: Of necessity, I've had to specialise, or I would never become really
good at any one thing. So writing is what comes tops. I'm still
heavily involved in filmmaking, but it's not quite as important to me
as writing. I miss making music, though. It's been a few years since I
sat down at the keyboard and composed.
C: What are you working on right now?
D: I'm developing the Chion follow-up, but that's purely mental work, and
it might be years before it meshes together properly. I'm also about
to commence making a new film with my friend Andrew Harrison. Together
we are Midnight Pictures, and we've been making movies since the early
nineties. It's a horror movie, that's about all I can tell you at the
moment. We do this kind of thing for fun, with no commercial intent,
but there's potential there.
C: Now to the novel, Chion. Was there anything in particular that 'inspired '
you to write it?
D: The story took years to develop in my mind. Then it just sort of sat
around in there. I finally started writing it a couple of weeks after
my mother died of cancer. I'm not sure whether that was significant or
not, but it may not be an accident that Chion is all about a boy who
lives with the reality of a terminal illness. I didn't write that
aspect in, because of my mother; it was already there in the story,
But I may have wanted to write it because I had been through what I
had been through, watching my mother die. I don't know for sure. What
I do know is that I have very little motivation to write when it's for
nothing more than entertainment. And Chion had that something extra.
C: What does the title mean?
D: It was hard to find the right title for the novel. It was originally
to be called "The White Cage," but I'm glad I found a better title.
"Chion" is a derivative of the ancient Greek word "chiono" which means
snow. Drop the "o" and it means "like snow." There is some debate
about the correct pronunciation, but I go with kai-on.
C: Could you tell us in your own words a little synopsis of what Chion is
D: Well, imagine you are out driving your car in the middle of winter.
Suddenly you see spots of snow landing on the windshield. Suddenly the
wipers stop, mid-swipe. Suddenly all four of your tyres burst and your
car jerks to a sudden halt. You sit there for a moment, stunned. You
can hear popping all around you. The same thing is happening to other
cars. You open the door and put one foot out onto the snow-speckled
road. Suddenly you find you can't lift your foot, so you slip your
foot out of your shoe and place it back in the car. Your shoe appears
to be glued to the ground. The car is glued to the ground, too. And
the wipers are glued to the windshield. Horrifyingly, there's a
pedestrian nearby who is struggling to remove his fingers from the
spot where he touched his chest. In his struggle he falls to his knees
and can't get up. The snow continues to fall. Eventually, he falls to
the ground completely, and screams and screams until the snow smothers
him. Whatever has falled from the sky is not snow. It's something no
one has ever seen before. And worst of all, it won't melt.
That's not a direct scene from the novel, but one of many possible
scenarios. I invite the reader to contemplate the implications of a
disaster like this, and how people might try to survive it. Especially
ask yourself if rescue is possible.
C: Without giving away any spoilers, what would you like the readers to take
away from Chion?
D: We can spend our lives ignoring the harsh reality that we are going to
die. Chion is about having the inevitability of death brought into
sharp focus, where the characters are forced to contemplate not only
the fact that they will die, but that they will die soon. It's a story
about how different people react differently, and ultimately it's
about finding meaning in a life that's mortal.
C: Thanks so much for chatting with me, Darryl.
D: Thanks for your questions, Cathy.
You can find more information about Darryl and his books, plus some very interesting blogs, at Darryl's website http://www.darrylsloan.com/.
Please visit the other CFRB blogs this week. Grace Bridges has an taped interview on hers, from a meeting with Darryl a few days ago. It's cool to hear the two of them talking. Just click on the buttons below to go to the different sites.
Other members who put up information, but not original reviews:
Rebecca Wire (Welcome to RebeccaWire.com) http://rebeccawire.com/cfrb-book-tour
Karina Fabian (Virtual Book Tour de 'Net) http://virtualbooktourdenet.blogspot.com/
Geralyn Beauchamp (The Time Mistress) http://thetimemistress.blogspot.com/
Rae Byuel (our newest member at CFRB) http://c-romance.blogspot.com/
OH!! And one more thing . . . have I mentioned that Darryl will be choosing one name to win a free copy of his novel? This one's coming all the way from Ireland, so I think it should be open for other countries besides the U.S. this time. Of course, that means you'll have to leave a comment on at least one of the blogs to get in the drawing.