AUTHOR Danny Denton is “absolutely delighted” to be this year’s Writer-in-Residence at UCC.
The role is jointly funded by the Arts Council and UCC and gives creative writing students at the university an opportunity to work with and learn from Danny.
The first novel by Danny, from Passage West, The Earlie King and the Kid in Yellow, was nominated for Newcomer of the Year at the 2018 Irish Book Awards. It is set in a dystopian Ireland where the rain never ceases.
The Kid in Yellow falls in love with The Earlie King’s daughter, T, who dies in childbirth. The Kid in Yellow takes the ‘babba’ and goes on the run. Its style of storytelling breaks conventional storytelling rules and Danny says it was “strongly influenced by writers like, Joyce, Beckett and Flann O’ Brien, who played around with language and form”,
“Reading the Greats” gave him permission to take risks with his writing and now he hopes to share his knowledge with young, aspiring writers at UCC in the coming year.
Danny completed a BA in English and Philosophy at UCC. While he was there, he realised that he wanted to pursue a career as a writer.
“I really thought that writing was possible for me when I attended a tutorial at UCC, run by Ann Walsh. She broke down and explained the writing of Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I realised then that I really wanted to write seriously.”
After his degree, Danny completed an MA in Writing at NUI Galway. As this year’s Writer in Residence at UCC, he hopes he “might encourage and influence a young writing student, in the same way that Ann Walsh influenced me.”
As well as reading great writers of fiction, drawing influence from areas outside of writing is a key component to creativity, he believes. His work is equally influenced by music, art and especially film.
Danny describes himself as a “proud Cork person.” The sounds and rhythm of Corkonians’ everyday language influence his writing. This is evident in his first novel.
He says: “You can draw influence from everything you hear around you; stories you hear in the pub, conversations in cafes, chats you hear on the side-line of a hurling pitch. Irish people use language in a particularly rhythmical way. We have wonderful slang.”
“One of the things I wanted to address in my first book was how we constantly make myths in everyday life. We love using strong, rhythmical phrases. In The Earlie King, the characters are trying to tell stories in those ways and, as the rhythm gets passed on, the story is misremembered.”
The Writer in Residence position at UCC will allow Danny time to develop his own work, as well as teaching. He is currently working on his second novel, a piece of work he describes as “pure Cork”.
The novel will revolve around a group of characters involved with a local radio talk show. “The course of the novel follows the characters that are ringing in to win a car. It includes the voices of people ringing in, voices of the radio producers and the presenters when they are off air.”
As well as writing, Danny works as the editor of The Stinging Fly, a literary magazine which publishes short stories and poetry and aims to publish and promote the best new Irish and international writers.
In his first stint as editor, Danny read more than 900 submissions and was impressed by the quality of new writing emerging. “I found that a lot of the work I was reading as editor of The Stinging Fly inspired me. It led me to think that I need to raise my game.”
Danny explains the importance of literary magazines. “From a writer’s point of view, they are important because they are a platform for your work to be read by the public. Everyone who writes and submits to a publisher wants to be read. They help a writer improve and help you discover your writing voice.”
“They are important for readers because they allow them to read new work.”
Literary magazines are important in the publishing industry because they “find new writers and give them a platform,” he adds. “New writing is the best barometer of what is happening in society. New writing is the world speaking for itself. A literary magazine helps give the world a voice.”
Danny’s views on categorising fiction by genre and what makes ‘good fiction’ are refreshing. In his writing of his first novel, Danny wanted to “transcend genre”, adding: “There are aspects of crime fiction and science fiction in the narrative.”
As a reader and editor, he looks for work that “does something to my gut, or to my brain, or to my heart”. Danny adds: “In myth, Oscar asked Fionn mac Cumhaill, ‘What is the music you best like in the world?’ Fionn answered, ‘The music of what happens’.
“I’d say the same thing about the literature I like best. I don’t care about genre or any of that, just that it says something true about the world, or the experience of being in the world.”
“I would also say that I tend to be drawn to work that is innovative, something that plays with the structure of fiction. Maybe it’s because writing is my job and it’s interesting to see others push the boundaries. But, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t gorge on a Stephen King novel the odd time either.”