We’re all very excited here at the Fennec Den about our upcoming publication ‘The Girl in the Fort’ from the very lovely Tracy Fahey. Tracy’s short stories have been have been featured in the Fox Spirit anthologies ‘Drag Noir’ and ‘The Girl at the End of the World’ amongst other places (you can find links to her assorted works here).
Tracy’s book ‘The Girl in the Fort is out soon from Fennec Books and features a beautiful cover by Jacob Stack. Keep popping back for more news Dan don’t forget to join our ‘Fennec Book Club’ for great offers.
TF: The Girl in the Fort is a folkloric coming of age novel, set in rural Ireland in the 1980s. It’s told from the viewpoint of the protagonist, Vivian, who’s an eleven-year old, horrified at the idea of spending a summer with her grandparents in the country. But as she listens to her grandmother’s stories and starts to learn more about her own history, she falls under the spell of the magical fairy fort in the field next to her.
Kit: What was your inspiration for Girl in the Fort?
TF: I wrote this book in 2016 when, for various reasons, I ended up spending more time than usual in my parents’ home in rural Co. Louth (in the north-west of Ireland). The titular fort is actually based on one that still stands in the field beside our family home. The novel is also heavily influenced by folk stories that were endemic in Louth, where I grew up. My mother and especially my grandmother told us all kinds of stories, about jumping churches and holy wells and curses and banshees. I’m fascinated by Irish folklore and especially by its darker side. This also informs my next short story collection – New Music For Old Rituals, which will be released by Black Shuck Books in 2018.
Kit: This book is firmly set in the 1980’s. What made you set it then, rather than now and what research did you have to do to ensure that your references were correct?
TF: The novel is the one I would have liked to have read when I was a child. When I was Vivian’s age, all the books I read were set in exotic lands like England – they contained lots of mysterious references to a life I didn’t quite understand. The life I lived, the stories I heard; all these felt alien within the books I read. I set the novel in the 80s as I felt I was more able to write about that time period with accuracy and honesty – to reflect my own experiences. I relied not just on my memory, though, but thanks to the internet I was able to check that my references to movies, TV shows, music etc. were chronologically correct.
Kit: With the success of ‘Stranger Things’ the ‘IT’ remake and success of shows such as The Goldbergs, what do you think it is about the 1980’s which is inspiring authors and movie makers?
TF: I think it’s probably a generational thing. We spend the first part of our lives trying to reinvent ourselves and escape from our families and our heritage, but as we get older, we have a new, fonder appreciation for the culture we’ve grown up in, the things that shape us, that make us who we are, and that make us write what we do. So children of the 80s return to the 80s for inspiration.
Kit: If you could be a character in any TV show or movie from the 80’s, who would it be and why?
TF: Hm. Due to my parents’ desire to immerse us in books and art, we HAD no TV during the 1980s, so my frame of cultural reference is mostly to do with books and to a lesser extent, movies. To be honest, I usually identified with the male protagonists. I saw most female protagonists relegated in terms of their roles, side-lined from a lot of adventures. I mostly wandered around the fields with a home-made bow and arrows pretending to be Robin Hood, Cuchulainn, Launcelot or a Norse God.
Kit: Do you have a memorable holiday from when you were a child?
TF: They were all memorable. My parents were big fans of camping holidays, so I have many, many memories of driving across Ireland, from east to west, perched on top of layers of sleeping bags, to arrive and pitch camp in the darkness. We’d spend our carefully saved money on amusements and summer annuals, visit castles and ruins, and explore mountains and rivers. To this day the smell of sun on canvas and the sweet, green scent of crushed grass still have the power to take me back to that time.
Kit: It’s interesting to see the evolution of Vivian’s friendships, and how their evolution affects her throughout the book. If you could give advice to your teen self, what would it be?
TF: Embrace the weird. It’s so easy to feel that you’ll never fit in. Later in life, you realise this is not necessarily a bad thing. And you find kindred souls on the way.
Kit: Will there be a sequel to Girl in the Fort?
TF: The inspiration for The Girl in the Fort actually came from a dream. I woke up at 3am with a start, and the arc of a trilogy was in my head. So yes, the next instalment will be set around the ancient Celtic feast of Samhain (working title: The Darkness Returns) and the final book, (working title: The End Of Everything) will conclude the story of Vivian’s quest…
Kit: What children’s book was most influential on you and your writing?
TF: There are so many! I loved fairytales, I read a lot of E. Nesbit, T.H. White and C.S. Lewis too. I was very drawn to the supernatural; to Misty comics and the work of Alan Garner and Susan Cooper. But from the age of ten or so I was also reading classic horror too – Edgar Allan Poe was a particular favourite.
Kit: What’s your favourite fox?
TF: The little fennec – of course!