Sophie Dishman

Sunderland graduate Amy McLean reveals new spiritual novel

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Photo: Amy McLean/Facebook.

The Sunderland Literature Festival gives writers a chance to discuss their novels, whatever their age. The event aims to introduce adults as well as children to literacy and to a career in writing. 

On Wednesday, October 14, Amy McLean spoke at the City Library on Fawcett Street. She talked about her new novel – Celestial Land and Sea and offered the audience the opportunity to ask questions about her inspirations, her passions and the idea behind her book.

Sophie Dishman had the opportunity to speak to Ms McLean about her second novel. Here’s what she had to say.

S: Could you introduce yourself?

A: I’m Amy McLean, and I’m a 23-year-old Scottish graduate of English Literature with a current position as a writer and editorial assistant in business publishing.

S: Can you explain your novel – Celestial Land and Sea?

A: Celestial Land and Sea is a spiritual fantasy novel about parallel timelines in the twenty first and sixteenth centuries. Grace Byrne, a twenty something office worker with a love life as flat as her enthusiasm for her mundane routine, finds a door in her Hampstead home that leads her to Ireland in 1593. While there she must follow in the footsteps of female Irish pirate Gráinne O’Malley on her quest to face Queen Elizabeth I. While Grace encounters Gráinne’s physical journey back to England, Grace faces her own journey of self discovery.

S: What inspired you to write the book?

A: I think the novel mainly grew around the character of Gráinne O’Malley. Gráinne – popularly known as Granuaile – was a contemporary of Elizabeth I, and indeed the two women did meet in 1593; their relationship was something I found fascinating, and knew immediately that I wanted to do something with this. There was never really a question for me regarding where the focus would lie: it would always be from Gráinne O’Malley’s side of the story. I’m a huge fan of parallel timelines too, and love any story that combines the past with the present, so the use of present-day Hampstead for Grace Byrne’s story provided quite a fun contrast for me between the two parts of the story.


S: You are a graduate from the University of Sunderland – what do you think are the best parts of Sunderland and the Literature Festival?

A: Well, the library itself is definitely an asset! The Literature Festival is a fantastic opportunity to discover local authors; it really highlights just how culturally rich Sunderland, and the North East in general, can be. I’m also quite fond of the Museum and Winter Gardens – the space is well utilised there, with so much to see and experience. Perfect for a rainy day!

S: Do you consider writing to be one of your passions?

A: Writing is my everything. My favourite quote, to which I refer quite frequently and which just so happens to be penned by my hero Lord Byron, is “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” Thus, if I didn’t write, there would be a significant build-up of chaotic thoughts and unfulfilled creations inside my head that would need to be exorcised to release the pressure. Novels, albeit released for public consumption, can be very personal, and I find the opportunity they bring to purge my own emotions and experiences onto paper to be not only cathartic but entirely necessary to sustain existence.

S: Who are your literary muses?

A: There are so many fantastic writers that I couldn’t name them on. From a contemporary angle, I love the works of Stuart MacBride and Ian Rankin (I read more crime fiction than I do any other genre!), and Kate Morton and Susanna Kearsley both handle parallel timelines wonderfully. Over the last few years I’ve also been rationing the works of Daphne du Maurier; there’s something about her writing style that is so addictive. She’s splendid.

S: Spirituality is a huge theme in your books – where does this come from?

A: Spirituality is possibly one of my main driving forces. My Auntie is actually a Spiritual Messenger, so it’s been something that has pretty much always been a huge part of my life. Why exactly I decided it would be something that would run right through the veins of my writing I’m not sure; I guess it’s just something that felt right, and something I’m both fascinated by and devoted to. It’s like being face with a fantasy that is actually a reality. It’s incredible.

S: What has inspired you to become a writer as your career?

A: I had a dream. I woke up the next morning. I decided to write a novel. In many ways, for me, it was a simple as that. Like most writers, I scribbled out countless short stories, but I stopped writing fiction in my teenage years. Whether I lost the ability or lost the interest, I’m not sure, but it all ceased. And then the aforementioned dream occurred, and I knew that it was something I had to pick up again. I’m quite a determined person, and once I develop an idea I will do all that I can to make it work; after that dream, there was never any question that I had made the wrong decision to start down this path. It may be paved with grit and gravel, potholes and melted lumps of tarmac, but it is such an exciting, unpredictable journey and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Celestial Land and Sea is available on Amazon and online in other independent book stores.

The Sunderland Literature Festival has many more events which can be found on the Sunderland City Council website.


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