On this week’s Quercus Couch we have the lovely author Che Golden talking about, among many other things, her inspiration for her spellbinding novel The Feral Child the first of a trilogy which promises to be nothing short of magical.
Alice Hill: Where were you born and raised?
Che Golden: I was born London, Paddington but spent quite a bit of my early childhood with my grandparents in Blarney, Co Cork, while my parents worked in London. Eventually, I moved to London to be with them full time and then I moved to Dublin in 1996. My husband, who is from Donegal, says I am very much a Londoner – cocky and loud! I also have a Londoners attitude to money – earn it and spend it as fast as you can.
Alice Hill: How many brothers and sisters do you have? Is anyone else in your family a writer?
Che Golden: I am an only child and as far as I know, no one in my family is a secret writer!My father was hell bent on getting me to join the police force at one stage, despite the fact that anyone could have told him I didn’t have the type of temperament that followed orders easily.
Alice Hill: Did you enjoy school? What is your most vivid memory of your school years?
Che Golden: I loved school in Blarney, I loved being able to go home at lunchtime to a hot meal, I loved the fact that my grandad’s terrier, George sometimes waited for me at the gate and sometimes grandad picked me up. I hated school in London where I got picked on for having a Cork accent and because my mother made me wear a stupid beret that was part of the school uniform but no one else wore.
Alice Hill: What educational qualifications do you have? Have you had any formal tuition in creative writing? If so, where and what? Did you find it useful?
Che Golden: As well as the usual GCSE’s and A levels, I have a degree in English Literature and Political Geography from Brunel, a Diploma in Print Journalism from the London College of Printing, and a Masters in Creative Writing for Young People from Bath Spa.
I loved doing the Masters as it was a very supportive environment and I felt my brain stretching every day with the stuff I was learning. It taught me to have an internal editor, which was invaluable. The best thing it gave me though, was confidence.
I had zero confidence as a creative writer before joining the course and I can’t tell you the difference it makes to have established, respected writers like Julia Green and Steve Voake tell you that your stuff is good and you have a chance to work in the industry.
Alice Hill: Did you always want to be an author? If not, what did you originally want to be and when and why did you change your mind?
Che Golden: I always loved to write and was always scribbling away. But I didn’t see it as a job that would put food on the table. So originally, I really, really wanted to be a vet, because I love being around animals (still do, as two ponies and two ferrets will tell you).
But once I got to senior school it was obvious I was rubbish at science and maths but outstanding at English so on the advice of one of my teachers I applied for a place at the London College of Printing when I finished my A levels to learn to become a print journalist.
Alice Hill: Can you tell us a bit about your debut novel The Feral Child?
Che Golden: The Feral Child is an adventure story, bringing to life Celtic mythology and faerie tales, which are inhabited by some really frightening creatures. Wandering into a faerie tale in The Feral Child really does mean risking your life, as the heroine, Maddy, soon finds out. When a child is stolen from Blarney village and swapped for a faerie changeling Maddy is horrified to discover that this has happened before and there are adults that know about it.
Adults who do nothing because they are frightened of faeries. Maddy decides to go after the child with the reluctant help of two cousins, Danny and Roisin and her dog George. Once in the world of Faerie, Maddy discovers the adults had good reason to be frightened – the stakes really are as high as life and death and faeries play for keeps. Even if she can get the stolen child back, Maddy still has to find her way home. An almost impossible task if you don’t know where home is.
This is not a faithful retelling of Irish myth – there are lots of faerie tales and creatures whose stories I find fascinating and I cheerfully borrowed from Norse and Scottish folklore. One type of faerie in the book, Glaistigs, are a Scottish creature, while Liadan, the Winter Queen, is an interloper from northern lands who arrives on a dragon-headed ship. Liadan is an elf and elves are very much a Norse tradition, not an Irish one.
Alice Hill: What inspired the book?
Che Golden: The book was inspired by the landscape of Blarney and the ruined medieval castle that dominates the village. It was an amazing place to play in as a child and no matter what game we played, what characters we decided to become, it was all too easy to imagine other eyes watching you in the gloom of the landscaped gardens, ghosts brushing past in the cold draughts of the ruined castle and small feet pattering after our own as we ran home for our tea.
Alice Hill: Who were your role models? Which writers have influenced you the most? Which person do you most admire?
Che Golden: The Lord of the Rings blew me away – I was a precocious reader and read The Hobbit at nine, The Lord of the Rings at 10. I didn’t have a clue what I was reading but I loved the writing and the whole world that I fell into. I still read them every year and my mother gave me two very beautiful collectors editions of the books that I would definitely run into a burning building to save.
Anne McCaffrey and her Pern chronicles was another (I love dragons), and Terry Brooks who wrote the Shannara books. Contemporary authors who I really admire would be Derek Landy, Oisin McGann, Rick Riordan, Grace Dent, Partrick Ness, Cat Clarke and Melissa Marr.
Alice Hill: What jobs did you have before you started writing?
Che Golden: I waitressed while I waited to become a journalist and then I was a business journalist who specialised in IT for about fifteen years. I also ran my own news title which specialised in enterprise level IT until I gave it up to become a writer.
Alice Hill: Have you ever written in other genres? Under pseudonyms?
Che Golden: I have written a pony book called Mulberry which has an element of fantasy in it in that the little girl in the book can hear animals talking. It’s based on my daughter’s first pony, Brie, who was so badly behaved we nicknamed her Walking Evil. I don’t think I will ever write under a pseudonym – I wrote it, I want the credit for it! But never say never.
Alice Hill: How do you write each book? i.e. do you block out the narrative first, take each page at a time, create the central character, build a cast of characters etc? Any anecdotes about the research or writing of your books?
Che Golden: I think my editor and my agent would faint if they saw my writing process! I don’t do anything for a long, long time. I go about my normal routine and I gaze into space a lot as I think about the plot. It’s like a big jigsaw puzzle and it takes me time to gather up all the pieces and then slot them into place.
Once I think I have most of the jigsaw I start writing. That doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes though. In The Feral Child, I deleted eight chapters and I didn’t have a clue how I was going to finish it. Then Fachtna came strolling into my head and I wrote the rest of the book in a week. The first draft tends to be the bare bones of the book. I write very fast and it’s a huge relief to get to the end of the book and put a full stop on it.
Then I have a break for while and give my brain a rest before looking at the book again and colouring in all the little details about characters that brings them to life, the way they look, walk, talk and quirks they have. As for research, I tend to write about places I know very well but I read a lot of mythology for The Feral Child Trilogy.
Alice Hill: What do you do when you are not writing? How do you relax? What are your hobbies?
Che Golden: I love to read and I love to watch movies and TV. We tape everything we like to watch and then have a TV night when we are really tired and just want to lie on the sofa, eat yummy things and not move for an evening. I love being snuggled up under a blanket with my husband and my daughters when the weather is bad outside and we all like going to the cinema.
I am lucky to have interesting and creative friends so I like dinner parties and trips to different parts of the UK and Ireland to spend time with them. I like art and history so enjoy being a part time tourist too. Sitting on your own and writing all day can send you a little bit around the twist.
Its great to get out in the fresh air and I often have my eureka moments when pottering around the yard where we keep our two ponies. For light relief at home we also have two ferrets we adopted from the Bath Cats and Dogs Home. They are lovely little things, but shocking thieves!
Alice Hill: What single thing might people be surprised to learn about you?
Che Golden: When The Feral Child sold I celebrated by getting the head and wings of a Pegasus, with Celtic knot work for the body, tattooed onto my leg. The Pegasus represents writers, while the knot work represents the book.
Alice Hill: Anything else you’d like to add?
Che Golden: I can’t stop buying sparkly sandals. I don’t know why and I don’t wear half of them.
November 23, 2011