For this week’s edition of Weekly Chats, we are joined by Charlotte Edwardes with Jenny McCartney to share Jenny’s brilliantly moving historic novel, The Ghost Factory. Set in Belfast after the paramilitary ceasefire in the 1990’s, the fiction novel takes a unique glimpse into the life of a young man, Jackie & his experience in the conflicts. McCartney’s experience growing up during the turmoil within Belfast in the 1980’s-90’s provides a deeply moving love letter to the city itself & a firsthand perspective of the times. McCartney has the ability to shine a light on issues in society that provides a fresh lens on normalised social issues in Northern Ireland. This is one of those chats that will keep you captivated to the very end & provide a deeper understanding & insight into the firsthand experience of living through times of unrest. Enjoy.
What’s in this chat:
- The Ghost Factory is centred on the protagonist, Jackie’s story in Northern Ireland after the paramilitary ceasefire in the 1990’s. Jackie is living in a Protestant area of Belfast. After a series of disheartening events, Jackie is feeling dislocated & vulernable. One thing leads to another, and Jackie tries to leave Belfast to visit London. McCartney guides the reader through the life in Belfast in the mid 90’s & takes a quietly introspective look at the opinions, situations & stories of the time, post-conflict.
- “A gentler kind of invitation to inhabit the world” – McCartney on writing a story in fiction rather than the more unbiased form of journalism.
- A love letter to the city of Belfast with all it’s nuances & stories.
- McCartney lived in Belfast in the 80’s & 90’s working as a journalist & reflects on the ‘generalised anxiety’ in the country.
- McCartney on the social fabric & conscience of violence impacted Ireland & particularly Belfast.
- McCartney on Derry Girls & the ability to ‘have a laugh’ during the unrest.
- Jenny on intense violence on screen & the ‘pornography & graphication’ of violence. Looking at the ‘legacies of violence’ dealt with by people post-conflict.
- McCartney on her position as a voice for those on the frontline & her experience writing about fear, grief & loneliness.
- The suppression of information & the control of violence in the conflict in Northern Ireland. McCartney uses fiction as a way to “go underneath the skin of things”.
- McCartney on writing in the male perspective with the fear of love & commitment.
- ‘The dogs’: Edwardes on McCartney’s “brilliant depictions of menace” with dogs.
- McCartney on the very strong, Belfast accent & masculine voice of the protagonist, Jackie in the novel. A refreshing pause from the Queen’s English.
- McCartney on her ‘anger’ that may surface in the pages of the novel with comments on homelessness, conflict, paramilitary violence & the normalised issues in society. “The urge to give the reader a shake to say this is still going on”.
- Then & now. McCartney on today’s Belfast. “I’m keen in a way to let that dark side not being ignored.”
- McCartney on growing up in a country where society is fighting over identity.
- McCartney on her writing process as both as a mother of young children & as a young woman in her earlier years. From floppy discs to the web.