Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Meet cli-fi novelist Eliza Mood in Hartlepool, UK, author of "O Man of Clay" (interview)


1. Your cli-fi novel ‘O Man of Clay’ is set in Hartlepool, UK. For
those not familiar with your region of the UK, where is
Hartlepool and why is your novel set there?

Hartlepool and the North bank of the Tees caught my imagination when,
as a young teacher, I lived nearby. The old city of Hartlepool, on the East
coast of Northern England and on the estuary of the river Tees began as
an Anglo-Saxon monastery and later became a mediaeval walled city.
Nearby, iron and coalmines fed the British Empire but its traditional
industries - fishing, steel and magnesium processing - are, for the most
part, gone.

When the tide draws back around the Headland, it sometimes,
exposes fossilised trees: a prehistoric forest. Fossilised bones of animals,
skulls and human artefacts have been trawled there. Mesolithic people
were here long before the city: hunters. These signs of earlier human
lives fascinate me – and the Tees water spirit, Peg Powler.

But, what we call Doggerland, the once forested land between
Britain and the continent became inundated as the ice started to melt
8,500 years ago. And, if we do nothing the melt will accelerate as it has
been doing over twenty years and the sea will rise further. In the novel I
imagine the houses and buildings at the edges of the city part

2. Cli-fi as a genre has the potential to effect change if we can
move ourselves and readers - in both senses. The power of oral
storytelling and narrative is important to the main characters of ‘O
Man of Clay' who realise our human story needs changing.  In your
opinion, why does our human story need changing and in what

We manufacture and move on, abandoning sites and people, leaving
scars in the landscape and disease, trauma and loss in communities and
people. Some scientists propose that the current geological period, the
Holocene, has ended. Instead we are in the anthropocene, the age in
which a stratum will be composed predominantly of materials deposited
by human beings, materials such as radioactive elements, soot from
power stations and plastics – even chicken bones. We can change this
and we must; the remnants of the nuclear industry will be potentially
harmful for thousands of years.

Perhaps we can carry on the story-telling and realize how to try
out different endings/new beginnings; it’s about getting enough little
things happening to make the powerful do the big things.

3. What is the meaning of the title of your novel? What is it a
reference to?

Many cultures have a creation myth involving a half-man/ half-God
figure sculpting humans of earth material such as wood, bone or clay: in
Greek mythology, Prometheus moulded men of earth and water; in the
Sumerian myth Enkil uses clay and blood. There are similar hindu, Yoruba
ad Maori myths. I conceived my novel as a kind of re-creation myth, only
this time the creators and animators are female. And they reshape their
story by re-telling it.

The title is also a supplication, a vocative address to the human
species to think who we are and where we have come from: animal,
spirit and consciousness and the product of thousands of generations

4. Who is your main target audience of readers? In the UK,? what
age group?

‘O Man of Clay’ is a literary-speculative novel for which the main target
is adult readers, though I would hope to reach older teenage readers, too
(seventeen onwards): those who want to stay near home or travel and
wrestle a bit with ideas. The main characters are seventeen and sixty-
seven and the points of view cover this range. The book is certainly not
aimed at the UK only; one of the pleasures of reading is to discover
somewhere new. We are all in this together; I hope males can read
female characters, young read old, and vice versa in both cases. Many of
us retain the desire to play with ideas as we age; the book is for those
who want to peer into possible futures.

5. Are you an optimist or a pessimist re climate change issues
locally where you live and worldwide?

The sense of coming close to a tipping point is unavoidable. I try to hold
both perspectives together; perhaps psychologically this is the only way
for me. I do think it is possible to draw back from the brink but the
changes will have to be radical: at governmental and community and
individual levels. Young people are active – but this will only spread if
people have got a social investment in it; if it’s part of what we do to live
in the community; if it’s expected of us; if it becomes natural and routine
to think this way; if it isn’t exclusive. There is no moral high ground; we
have to help each other. If we do so redemption is possible, I think.
When, around 2007, the Arctic sea ice began partially melting in
the summer, continental shelves became the object of a colonial land
grab and I asked myself how did we come to believe that this is
acceptable? How can we delude ourselves this way? To stop plundering
the fossil fuels we need to value ourselves as respected and responsible
and we need not to have been forced into labour in a mine or an oil well
under the sea. We need scientific method and to be inclusive of
traditional knowledge. We need the arts and sciences to collaborate: to
value ourselves; not to be afraid to examine our own beliefs and
perceptions and our history of living in the environment.

6. What is your favorite clifi novel that you've read and

Barbara Kingsolver's ''Flight Behaviour'' is a wonderful book: warm and
humorous, yet simultaneously serious and thoughtful, it is about how we
come to terms with a terrifying unknown future of changing climate and
nature off kilter - by working together, talking, taking practical steps, by
small actions, by setting about trying to see and understand so that we can
do what might be needed. This is a tale of a moment of epiphany and its
gradual aftermath; one minute the main character is looking for a way out
of the humdrum and the next, she gets more than she bargained for.

Having been making ends meet on the lower slopes of an Applachian
mountainside, a momentous experience leads her to examine her old life
and see her children and relationships in a different light. At a juncture in
life when she was frustrated and yet open to something new, she finds the
change she wanted and needed lie in a deeper understanding of her own
surroundings. Her moment of awakening is, of course, the one we may
desire, need and fear, the one that will allow us to see ourselves as we
really are - as part of nature - and, at a time when the way we live and use
the planet is pushing nature out of joint, show us other possible ways of

I would also like to recommend, ‘The Chernobyl Privileges’ by Alex
Lockwood, my fellow County Durham writer.

All nuclear reactors emit carbon 14, a radioactive isotope, invalidating
the industry’s claim that reactors are carbon free. And the fuel that
reactors burn is carbon-intensive.

‘The Chernobyl Privileges’ is a novel about bonds: those of blood and
those that bind particles in the nucleus of an atom – and about the forces
that break each apart. It is narrated from the point of view of Anthony,
both in the current narrative time and during his childhood and shows
how incidents in his adult life force him to face what happened in the
past. It deals sensitively with that instinct for self-preservation that
causes distance to open up between people. The moments when
Anthony could have drawn closer to those he loves yet fails to do so
multiply, and the reader is right there looking across the widening gulf
and weighing up each choice and decision with him. The reasons that
prevent people from choosing to alleviate their own suffering are thrown
into stark relief, and we see how, at a time of crisis, political forces can
seek to exploit human vulnerabilities for their own ends.

 Alex is a superb craftsman, holding back the increasingly inevitable;
when they come, acts both small and life-changing strike the reader with
a terribly poignancy. A compelling read, this is a novel for the present
moment with intimations of how little, it seems, we have learned.

7. What are your PR and book promotion plans locally and
nationwide,? Radio interviews? TV? Newspapers? Websites?
Blogs? Have you seen my blog tour platform?

My novel ‘O Man of Clay’ is my debut for 2020. I’m starting local in
County Durham and Northumberland in Northern England but by
September, I’ll be National when I’ll be at Fantasycon in London on the
25 th -27 th September with Stairwell Books, my publisher. My website,
www.elizamoodnovelist.org has some press and radio interview with
more coming up.

I’ve looked but I am not sure what a blog-tour platform is. [I SENT EXAMPLE OF BLOG TOYUR TO YOU BY EMAIL TODAY: DAN]

Thank you very much for interviewing me, Dan, and for your interesting
- Eliza

DAN TO ELIZA: Thank YOU for taking the time to write this novel and to answer
our informal questions here. Good luck with the book launch.

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