My Inspiration: Kieran J Close – Who’s Got A Match | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Local author Kieran J Close recently released his debut Novel, Who’s Got A Match, a book written after his time teaching in HMP Holme House and inspired by the men he encountered there. The book is available via Amazon for Kindle readers but will soon be available on paperback. 

Ahead of its physical release, we asked Kieran to tell us what inspired his work…

I’d been toying with the idea of writing for years before I did start, but it had always been something I felt was just completely beyond me. 

Most fiction writing is gorgeous. Words just bleed off the page into your eyes and swim around to create whatever world the author has intended for you. This, to me, seemed like the hardest job on planet Earth. And as someone who is a terrible wordsmith in general, it seemed about as far away as Pluto.

The book that made me really consider it, though, was Trainspotting. To me, Irvine Welsh tore up the rulebook of what it meant to write a story. Trainspotting is written without structure, with copious amounts of profanities, and in a difficult to read Scottish dialect. And it’s awfully, terribly addictive- much like its subject matter. It was absolutely, unequivocally unique, and it blew any expectations of how books were supposed to be written out of the water. 

Irvine Welsh’s story was really inspiring too- he was a TV repairman with no prior writing experience. For someone who was working at Redcar Steelworks (and is a bit dyslexic) this was just what I needed to hear. Most of the time, when I read a book, I flip to the author page and they have studied Literature at UCL or they own a theatre company or they won the Booker Prize when they were 9 or some other unattainability. It had led me to believe that writers were a class of their own, that you had to be qualified to write, and that if you weren’t anything you attempted would be an unremitting failure.

So after a few minutes of anxious breathing sat in front of a blank Word document, writing began. I began a few stories, one which was basically a rip off of Trainspotting, only set in a debauched student house. Another, based on the story of Wendy Clements (Google her), in a sort of kitchen sink rags-to-riches-to-rags story. But neither of them really hit the mark. There is such a barrier, I think, between what goes on in your head and what you are able to articulate in words. Some thoughts can be so utterly terrifying or violent or manic that to get them down in indelible ink- and then, horror of horrors, have other people read it- seemed like something you would get locked up for.

Around this time, in early 2020, I moved to Newcastle. I joined a writing group, and spent a few sessions at a local coffee shop explaining to a group of perplexed-looking authors various pitches I had. They encouraged me to keep going, and after a lot of scribbles and advice along the lines of “No, don’t do that”, I came up with the concept of a stockbroker who secretly starts fires. Originally, this was a ‘modern interpretation’ of the Guy Fawkes story- I’d been struck by the idea of the socially elite causing anarchy, and what that might look like today. So I started planning it, drafting characters and a loose storyline and whatnot.

I knew as I started writing that the protagonist- Tom Percey- was going to have some serious issues of his own. The alienation he feels harks back to my own experiences at work or at University, and the pompousness of his co-workers based on some of the nastier characters I’d met during those times. But it was so hard to put down on paper what he was feeling. 

Around that time, though, I read Normal People.

Sally Rooney has this art, I think, of writing very complex feelings in a very simple way. It’s written so sparsely and with such observant clarity- very matter-of-factly and bluntly- that it opened up the idea that these issues could be discussed, keenly and without beating around the bush. It’s an incredible read, and was a huge inspiration. 

Some of the hardest parts of the book to write were the hallucinatory, otherworldly experiences Tom has, and these stem from my own experiences with mental health. When I was in my early 20’s, one of my best mates died in a motorcycle crash. The massiveness of this was too much and too traumatic for me to deal with and so it ended up being boxed up, pushed to the back of my brain. 

I started experiencing panic attacks, depressive episodes and frightening visions and delusions- which I would later learn were episodes of transient psychosis. My housemates would ask why I was lying in bed for three days at a time, and later tell me that I’d been out of sorts, that I’d shown no emotion at all for weeks. Luckily, I did seek help, and I’m all better now (I think) but it was something I’d never brought up, never written about until I completed the book.

Most of the book was completed in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time of oppressive solitude. I was lucky, really, that I had the book for something to focus on.  I wrote every day, without fail, for about six months, until Who’s Got A Match? was born. 

Never in my life before have I experienced something quite like writing a novel. The experience was incredible, therapeutic almost. Getting your thoughts down on paper can be a huge weight off your chest at the very least, and if anyone is struggling with ugly thoughts or blueness, I would urge them to put pen to paper and see if it makes them feel better. And then maybe publish it on Kindle, if you’re feeling plucky.

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