Interview with Ed O’Loughlin
How did you come across this story? What inspired you to write about it?
My novel weaves together a number of historical and fictional story lines, some of which I encountered in history books, others online. The setting is the polar regions, which have always fascinated me. I suppose, on one level, they are metaphors for a survivable death.
What were your main sources for your research? How did you organize everything? (That is, got any tips for fellow writers?)
I researched the various story lines from history books and online. The overall structure emerged from the notes and rough drafts, with the help of a great deal of time and effort and staring at walls. You sort of lump it all together then scrape away the stuff that you think doesn’t work. There’s no easy way to do it. Or if there is, I don’t know what it is.
What were the biggest challenges you faced either in the research, the writing, or structuring the plot?
It was hard to tie all the disparate strands together, and still have an overall story arc that made some kind of sense. Did I manage it in the end? That’s not for me to say.
Every writer has to leave something on the cutting floor. What’s on yours?
My two favourite chapters, which contained the best writing I have ever done, had to be scrapped almost in their entirety. It was my decision to do so – my editor wanted to keep them at first. They meant a lot to me, but they didn’t actually add a thing to the forward movement of the story. I tell myself sometimes that I could resurrect them as stand-alone texts. But who would really want to read them?
Tag you’re it! What historical fiction author do you most admire? Why? Now forward these questions to him/her and we’ll share their answers next week!
As a kid I loved the novels of Rosemary Sutcliff, who wrote children’s fiction – they’d call it Young Adult today – set in the distant past. The Eagle of the Ninth and the Lantern Bearers dealt with the decline of the Roman empire in Britain, while Knight’s Fee was about an ill-born young boy who becomes lord of the manor in medieval England. The humanity of her characters and detail of her settings were highly evocative – I can remember them quite clearly forty years later. Unfortunately, she died in 1992, so I can’t tag her into this chain letter.
Ed O’Loughlin was born in Toronto and raised in Ireland. He reported from Africa for the Irish Times and other papers, and was Middle East correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age of Melbourne. His first novel, Not Untrue and Not Unkind, was long listed for the 2009 Man Booker Prize. His second novel, Toploader, was published in 2011.