MEET THE AUTHOR: SOPHIE MCNAUGHTON
Sophie McNaughton is a 21-year-old writer from Scotland working my way towards a BA honours degree in English Literature, Journalism and Creative Writing at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.
She has works of fiction and journalism published with The Strathclyde Telegraph, Glasgowist, The Huffington Post, Scotcampus, Femsplain, Student Rag, The National (newspaper), Short Story Sunday, CultNoise magazine, Devolution Z and Germ magazine.
Q: Just going through your blog and social media, I noticed a lot of Trainspotting. What do you like about the book/movie and are you excited for T2: Trainspotting?
Sophie McNaughton: Trainspotting has been my favourite film and book for a long time. It’s hard to say exactly what about it is so appealing because they are, both the book and film, very bleak, dark, and disgusting at times. But there’s a lot of light in them, too, and they’re both really honest and authentic in their portrayal of mortality.
I love Irvine Welsh’s command over the Edinburgh dialect in the novel and his use of a rotating narrative through different characters who have their own unique idiosyncrasies, mannerisms, and turns of phrase. I love that I can start reading a chapter and if I see ‘likesay’, I know the narrator is Spud, and if I see a lot of profanity in capital letters, I know it’s Begbie. I also love Welsh’s unflinching depiction of drug addiction and of the culture and politics of Scotland in that era.
I think the unapologetically Scottishness of his writing is actually something quite niche and something that most writers shy away from in fear of stereotypical or cliché, but he does it brilliantly. I love his portrayal of decay and failure, and how he creates complex, flawed characters who should be detestable, yet somehow become lovable and characters that we root for. The structure of the novel is something I find interesting, too, because it is essentially just a very long series of linked prose as opposed to a novel format which makes it more digestible and accessible to readers with a lot of variety and colour in the narrative.
As for the film, I think it’s a work of art that really showcases the acting talent Scotland has. The casting is genius and I love everything from the costume design, use of setting, the soundtrack (!), the dialogue, the black humour, and the kind of candy coloured filter the whole film seems to have. Visually, I think it’s a spectacular film and even the set of Mother Superior’s flat looks like something Tracey Emin would create and call ‘art’. I also love how Danny Boyle and John Hodge fine-combed through the novel to find parts to adapt, and created their own elements as well to piece together a plot that the novel kind of lacks. Both the book and film, and Welsh’s other works, have inspired a lot of my writing and I’m sure they’ll continue to do so. I could talk about it all day!
Q. Tell us about your favourite Scottish literature and folklore.
Sophie McNaughton: Well, Trainspotting, that goes without saying, and I love The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Aside from Frankenstein (my favourite book before Trainspotting came along), I think it’s one of the best science fiction-gothic horror works ever written. It also evokes the notion of the Caledonian Antisyzygy which is something that has always fascinated me in literature. I’m a big fan of Kirsty Logan’s short stories, The Tin Kin by Eleanor Thom, and Scottish poetry by the likes of Tom Leonard and Alistair Reid.
As for folklore, I love Scottish myths and legends from the Loch Ness Monster to the more gruesome, unsavoury stories like the legend of Sawney Bean. There are countless ghost stories native to Scotland which is understandable considering the beautiful and haunting landscapes that are here, and we’re very much a nation of talkers and storytellers so folklore, even now, is something still deeply ingrained in Scottish culture.
Q: Your blog is called moonchild and you have published a short story collection titled Ivy Moon and other stories. Where do you see a connection with the celestial body?
Sophie McNaughton: I’m not sure where my fascination with the moon initially came from. I’ve always loved wolves and with the moon being synonymous with them, I started to look more into the symbolism of the moon in different cultural contexts.
I found a lot of old stories and poems about how the moon is in love with the sun, but they can never be together. And I love the mysticism and eerie magic that seems to surround and how it appears to change colour and size. The lunar effect (supposedly more crimes are committed and births occur on full moons) is something that has always interested me, too. I’m quite a fan of bizarre unproven theories that I like to think could be true, and there are loads of ideas like that surrounding the moon.
When I started my blog in October 2014, I was obsessed with the moon so the name just fit.
Q: Tell us about Scran.
Sophie McNaughton: Scran is a series of linked prose written in a Glaswegian/West Coast of Scotland dialect surrounding three 20-something girls – Kayleigh, Freya and Rebecca – who are approaching graduation, trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives, and trying to resolve issues they have buried in the past.
While the girls are friends, there is a lot of tension and secrets, and their friendships are tested at several points. But there are also a lot of light-hearted, sentimental, and comical moments, too. I used a rotating first-person narrative from the perspective of a different character in each story set in the week of the EU Referendum (around the time I wrote the stories). I like the idea of placing fiction in a very specific time period and I also included a playlist of songs to be listened to as an accompaniment to the stories and a glossary of Scottish words and phrases.
Each character features in some way in every story with the three girls coming together at the end. I wanted to refer to the millennial notion of the quarter-life-crisis, Scottish politics, and what the future holds for Scottish young people.
Here is a brief synopsis detailing the plot: ‘Following Kayleigh through an encounter with a stranger in a Glasgow pub, Freya’s surprisingly amusing trip home to attend a family funeral, and Rebecca’s traumatic experience of her first ever hangover, Scran is a series of stories exploring what it means to be an unsure 20 something living in Scotland in 2016.’
Scran was part of my creative writing project funded by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and the Research Interns at Strathclyde programme (you can read more about it here). For this project, I researched a variety of Scottish literature, wrote my own series of short stories along with a critical reflection and bibliography (in the same style as an undergraduate creative writing dissertation), and then self-published the collection into an A5 paperback book on Lulu.com.
Q: You have written and published a lot of short stories and essays, do you have a plot brewing inside you for a novel/novella?
Sophie McNaughton: Well, right now, I don’t have any novella/novel plans per se, but I’m working on three stories for my final year creative writing dissertation. I imagine I will have a bash at writing a novel in the future, but that ‘big idea’ hasn’t come to me yet.
Q. What can readers expect from you in the future?
Sophie McNaughton: Hopefully, bigger and better fiction and more dynamic, complex characters and plots. I want to write more series of linked prose as it’s something I really enjoy and maybe a novella/novel in that kind of structure someday. I want to keep working hard to take on bigger creative writing projects and to keep pushing myself to be bolder and more inventive and experimental with my writing. And once I finish my creative writing dissertation, I’ll probably self-publish that, too.