These days I don’t act or dance, but instead spend most of my energy on writing stories, poetry and long, rambling essays about why I’m not very happy. I’ve recently tried to start my own country on an Island in the North Sea, and I’m currently writing a surreal comic fantasy novel containing lots of swear words. I live on the coast with my wonderful wife, and I’m a level 50 Jedi Master.
Hi, Niamh, thank you for coming to answer some questions! Can you start us off by sharing three fun facts about your books?
Thank you for having me! This has been much anticipated, and I’m excited to be talking to you. Fact number one, when I published my first novel, Stranger Town, I photographed my friend standing in front of Waterstones bookshop holding a copy of my book, and used the photograph to promote sales. I guess it was an unconventional guerrilla-marketing ploy because Waterstones did not stock my book, but it looked good having the bookshop in the background…
Another fact about my books is they often defy genres. I am open and honest about being a genre rebel, but sometimes my fiction work is so radically incomparable that I feel it appropriate to publish under a pseudonym. I have a few pen names and I relish the rush that comes with retaining anonymity with some of my writings.
Thirdly, I don’t believe in hiring an editor, at least, not for me. As a self-published author I prefer to stay in control of every aspect of my books. I format the manuscript, I pick the fonts, I decide what every page looks like. That’s how I like it.
Being an author is a dream for so many but it doesn’t come without difficulties. What is the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome with your writing?
My biggest hurdle to date in writing has been learning not to hide myself. Writing is this passionate, cathartic, necessary process for me. If I don’t do it I feel like I’m going to explode, but so often I’ve poured my heart out onto the page, then been too scared to reveal it to anyone. I feel as writers we have to understand those feelings, but put ourselves out there regardless, and be openly vulnerable. If we edit out the truth from our writing there’s not much point. Readers can tell when there’s no honesty in the text, and ultimately we’re only lying to ourselves.
You are a huge Star Trek fan – has that passion managed to find its way into your stories?
My passion for Star Trek has definitely fed into one or two of my projects. I wrote and directed a feature film called Liberty Rising, which I’ve since recut and rebranded as a low budget web series. It was a well-intentioned pastiche of Star Trek The Next Generation, which I shot in a week with some friends down South whilst on holiday from a day job at a large pharmaceutical chain.
Also, I’ve recently found myself neck deep in research into constructed languages whilst writing my new comic fantasy novel. I’ve read a couple books by Mark Okrand on the Klingon language used in Star Trek, which has inspired and fed into the construction of Voidish, a language used by some of the characters in my book.
Currently, you’re working on a comic fantasy novel to be released in 2020. What can you tell us about it?
My fantasy novel is essentially a parody of the classic Hero’s Journey story. I actually outlined the whole project ages ago, and it just lived in my notebooks with a couple of rough sketches of the world map and some early character designs for a couple of years. Then in April, whilst recovering from an invasive but life-affirming surgery, I set to work on the prose, in longhand with fountain pens on parchment. It was a welcome distraction.
Perhaps controversially, I’ve been live drafting my progress on Wattpad under the working title, “The Peacebringer”. When I publish the print version, planned for next year, it will be more for posterity than anything else. I don’t tend to make much of a fuss for book launches of my self-published works anymore. I know I have a small dedicated readership, and beyond those people I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself.
Rapid fire! Cake or pie?
Cake! Sweet stuff never used to be my first pick, but since quitting drinking I’ve found myself favouring and even craving chocolaty and sugary foods. A lot has changed since I started getting sober, and this is one of the nicer things. Now a sweet desert is the perfect end to a meal, whereas before I’d have passed up on a treat so I could have more room for booze.
Fly somewhere quickly or take a road trip?
Road Trip! The journey is part of the getaway if you ask me. I’ll be sailing to Holland with my wife later in the month, and I think I’m more excited about spending some time at sea than actually exploring Amsterdam. I’m sure that’ll be fun too though.
Summer or winter?
If you’d asked me when I was a child I’d have said summer. But that’s only because it would mark the end of the school year, and my birthday is in August. Nowadays the summer is too hot. We live on the coast, and it’s so cosy sitting down to write at my desk with a steaming mug of coffee, looking out over the choppy winter sea.
Favorite song right now?
Drowning in the Sound from Amanda Palmer’s album, There Will Be No Intermission. Her music speaks to my driving angst and this song in particular sums up a lot of my feelings right now regarding existentialism and the environment.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I have a website, niamhcalderwood.com, and I’m fairly active on twitter @NJCalderwood, so if anyone in the literary community wants to chat about writing and stuff, I’m totally up for it. As well as long-form fiction I also write essays on addiction, mental health and LGBT+ issues.
Thank you for interviewing me, it’s been a pleasure.
Do you have any questions for Niamh? Which one of your passions would find its way into your writing? Let me know in the comments! Also, today is Niamh’s wife’s birthday so join me in wishing her a very happy day!