JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: One of the great joys of being a part of Jungle Red Writers is the community that is our backblog. Our commenters have shared their joys and sorrows, met up at writing conferences, hashed out recipes and made "working" at the blog more like gabbing with neighbors at the local coffee shop. Several of our back-bloggers are writers themselves, and I know I speak for all the Reds when I say nothing makes us prouder than when one of our regulars says, "I have a book coming out!"
That's Lisa Alber. If you've been hanging around here, you'll know her sense of humor and way with words. We're not the only ones to have noticed - Lisa is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation grant and a Walden Fellowship. Today is the launch day for her debut mystery, Kilmoon. We're so glad she's spending it with us!
Lessons in the Irish Gift of the Gab
Thanks for having me back, Julia and Reds! When Lucy asked me to write a guest post in June 2013, my novel launch was still a far-off dream. Now, here I am with my debut novel out in the world. The dream is reality!
A few weeks ago I dug out one of my novel research journals. It's hand-sewn black leather with handmade paper. I remembered being worried that I would fill it up too quickly, so I wrote small, filling each page to the brim with observations and thoughts about Ireland and my work-in-progress. Profundities abound:
3:45 a.m. Ugh—awake. Just took half a Vicodin. How am I going to get myself a SALAD?
I came upon the name of a man I hadn't thought about in years. Malcolm McAndrew. (Don't you love that name?) For quiet County Clare, he was quite the exotic because he wore a black leather jacket and drove a Harley. He was so cute—OK, I admit it, I was infatuated, but not only because of his dark Irish good looks. In the midst of his hilarious stories, he'd say things like:
"He was that cross-eyed, when he cried the tears rolled down his back."
"He's so cheap he wouldn't give you the steam off his piss."
"It's not like a 12-foot wall; you'll get over it."
"He should be tied to a bull's balls and scuttered to death."
He had me at "cross-eyed." And it wasn't like he had a special flare for language or metaphor either. One day I was talking to my B&B hostess, and she said, "I literally ran in and took the hinges with me."
What a wonderful way to tell me she was scared out of her mind!
Or, how about this from an old codger who apparently liked the looks of me: "If I had salt, and I had pepper, and I sprinkled it all over you, I would just eat you up."
I also love love love Irish putdowns. I'm an unrepentent potty mouth myself, so I lapped up all kinds of lovely words such as "wankstain" and "toerag" and "geebag" and "f**kbucket.” (Look at me, trying to be polite with asterisks!)
I’m OK with just about anything, especially when it’s said with an Irish accent, but even I was taken aback when I heard the c-word that rhymes with "bundt" bandied about without care. It didn't take me long to figure out that men only say this word when clowning with their (male) mates. It’s like calling someone an “ass” here.
By comparison, a putdown such as "sad sack" seemed benign. Hah! Little did I know. I thought I’d caught on to the Irish gift of the gab when I made the mistake of calling a bunch of single lads I’d befriended "sad sacks" as they lolled around the B&B after a wild night at the annual matchmaking festival. (Sidenote: I was in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, to research the festival for Kilmoon.)
You'd have thought I'd called them, well, the c-word! I bet they would have laughed me off if I had. Instead, I found myself apologizing for insulting them so grievously.
As I slunk out of the room, I heard one of them mention the lot of them "standing around like a bunch of spare pricks" at the Matchmaker Pub the previous evening. I still hope they didn't hear me laughing as I ran to my room to jot down the phrase. I was there. I saw them. I couldn’t have come up with a better description if I’d give myself a week to do so.
I couldn't write fast enough to keep up with everything I heard. When I returned to the States, I promptly inserted what I'd heard into my manuscript. Ah, novice novelist that I was! This was a case in which reality read like the worst kind of make-believe, so I eventually (after much kicking and screaming) yanked most of it out again. Ah well, at least I have my journal when I want a dose of the Irish gift of the gab.
How about you, dear readers? Do you journal? Do you have the gift of gab? Do you use asterisks instead of swearing? Lisa has a copy of Kilmoon for one lucky commenter, so let us know!
Lisa Alber received an Elizabeth George Foundation writing grant based on Kilmoon. In addition, Ms. George asked Lisa to write a short story for Two of the Deadliest: New Tales of Lust, Greed, and Murder from Outstanding Women of Mystery (HarperCollins). She featured Lisa’s story in an “Introducing…” section for up-and-coming novelists. A Walden Fellowship recipient and Pushcart Prize nominee, Lisa lives in the Pacific Northwest. Kilmoon is her first novel.