Nude hits Sydney and the temperature rises

The Nude not Naked tour is making its last stop in Sydney today where temperatures are expected to hit 35. I’m so glad that Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s collection of short stories, Nude, has come to Australia and am pleased to be asking Nuala some questions on the tour and her writing. So here goes.

Hi Nuala,
Seamus Heaney was in Vienna this year and so I was hoping to welcome you to Vienna, too. But the universe does strange things and so it is that the Nude Not Naked Tour ends in an antipodal embrace in Sydney. Welcome to the Land of Oz where Toto is a Kelpie and the wizard is just another bloke who needs a heart, a bit of brains and loads of courage. That being said, I’m glad and honoured that your tour stopped by at Merc’s World.

Thanks for having me here, Merc. It’s a thrill to be back in the Antipodes wrapping up the tour where it all kicked off ten long weeks ago.

1. The Nude Not Naked Tour – the words nude and naked have certainly got things buzzing, but the Not has also done its bit. I can’t help thinking that there’s something going on there and I’m drawn back to your stories seeking more beneath the surface. How did you come up with the name of the tour? Did it come in a flash or did you have to work at the words?

It just arrived, Merc. I guess it has layers of meaning: Nude is the collection’s title but it also plays on the quote from John Berger that I used as an epigraph to the book: ‘Nudity is a form of dress.’ He was referring to the nude in Western art and there is much of that in the book. But not all the stories deal with art and the other unclothed bodies in the stories – in the form of lovers – are also nudes, in that they are being observed by someone else.

2. Many of the stories in your super collection, Nude, deal with art and paintings in some way. But I keep going back to the story of “Cowboy and Nelly” where the only artwork is a tattoo, or rather two. For me that story is “naked” and depicts a wonderful vulnerability and yearning and an earthiness where smells and their associations are evoked on more than half of the pages of the story. Were you aware of this? Did you place the smell ‘imagery’ consciously?

I had the motif of the tattoo in my mind and I wanted to write this story in a simple way because the main characters are simple souls who end up in a complex situation. I had absolutely no idea that smells were central to the story so I am going to dash off now and re-read it with that in mind. OK, I’m back. Wow, yes, I see what you mean. There’s Nelly’s ‘sweet-dough smell’, Cowboy’s ‘underarm sweat’, ‘the smell of over-ripe fruit and Daz’ on Thomas Street, the ‘promising and new’ smell in Frawley’s clothes shop. I wasn’t aware of doing that but I always tell my CW students to use their senses when they write, so I seem to be unconsciously following my own advice.

3. Congratulations on your novel, You. Did you workshop it or parts thereof?

Thanks for the congrats – I’m thrilled about it; New Island are a publisher I have long admired No, I never really workshop fiction much and I didn’t with the novel. I did discuss it with one close writer friend – we were both writing novels at the time so we would gripe to each other when it wasn’t going well. Only three people have seen the novel: me, my (former) agent and my editor. I haven’t shown it to my nearest and dearest, or to anyone, because that’s not the way I work. I don’t really want other writers’ input into my fiction when it’s in progress because I’d be afraid they would interfere with the flow. Then, when it’s finished, it’s finished. I can’t wait to get stuck into it with my editor at New Island though!

4. How did you find the tour? Did it help or hinder your new writing? Would you do something like this again with your novel or your next collection?

The tour has been great, if a little exhausting. I do get tired wittering on about me and my book but, at the same time, I have learnt about what I think of the process of writing. I guess it hinders in that I have less time to write, but I’m not writing much anyway because I have a new baby and she takes up most of my time. I would consider doing a virtual tour again – it’s a great promotional tool. I might do less than 10 stops though – it’s hard to keep people’s interest over such a long period. But some stalwarts have followed me from New Zealand all the way around the world and back here to you in Australia. I want to thank them and applaud their stamina.

Thanks again for stopping by on your whiz around the world. Maybe we can meet again. I’ve enjoyed hearing all the questions and your generous and helpful answers. I’m wishing you lots of success with your writing and looking forward to more.

Thanks a million, Merc. Maybe we’ll meet again in June of 2010 in Toronto at the next Short Story Conference?!

I’ll try very hard to be there, Nuala. Onwards!


If you’ve missed some of the questions asked on the Nude not Naked tour, check out Nuala’s tour blog stops for some amazing insights.

Nude is available from SALT Publishing and from the amazons. In Sydney, run to your local indie bookshop and place your order. You won’t regret this sensual and moving read.