Birmingham Lit Fest Presents….

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Summary

In this week’s episode author Kit de Waal talks to fellow writer and novelist Paul McVeigh about Supporting Cast, her first short story collection that focuses on the lives and loves of ordinary people including some familiar characters from her
earlier novels. They talk about writing character driven fiction, amplifying the voices of working class writers and dealing with rejection, alongside 2 readings from the book.

Show Notes

In this week’s episode author Kit de Waal talks to fellow writer and novelist Paul McVeigh about Supporting Cast, her first short story collection that focuses on the lives and loves of ordinary people including some familiar characters from her
earlier novels. They talk about writing character driven fiction, amplifying the voices of working class writers and dealing with rejection, alongside 2 readings from the book.

The Birmingham Lit Fest Presents... podcast brings writers and readers together to discuss some of 2020’s best books. Each Thursday across the next few months we’ll be releasing new episodes of the podcast, including wonderful discussions
about writing, poetry, big ideas and social issues. Join us each week for exciting and inspiring conversations with new, and familiar, writers from the Midlands and beyond.

Take a look at the rest of this year's digital programme on our website: https://www.birminghamliteraturefestival.org/.
For more information on Writing West Midlands, visit https://writingwestmidlands.org/

Follow the festival on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @BhamLitFest

Credits

Curator: Shantel Edwards (Festival director)
Guest Curator: Kit de Waal
Production: 11C/ Birmingham Podcast Studios for Writing West Midlands

TRANSCRIPT

BLF 20 Podcast Transcription 6: Kit de Waal and Paul McVeigh
 
Kit de Waal
Welcome to the Birmingham Lit Fest Presents...podcast series. I’m Kit de Waal and I’ve worked with the Festival Director, Shantel Edwards, as Guest Curator of this year’s podcast series. Each Thursday across the next few months we’ll be releasing new episodes of the podcast, including wonderful discussions about writing, poetry, big ideas and social issues. In this week’s episode I talk to fellow writer and novelist Paul McVeigh about Supporting Cast, my first short story collection that focuses on the lives and loves of ordinary people including some familiar characters from my earlier novels. We talk about writing character driven fiction, amplifying the voices of working-class writers and dealing with rejection, alongside 2 readings from the book.

University of Birmingham Sponsor Message
This episode of the Birmingham Lit Fest presents... podcast is brought to you in partnership with the University of Birmingham College of Arts and Law. We explore what it means to be human in historical and cultural contexts, within ethical and legal norms and through languages and communication.

Paul McVeigh
Hello everyone and welcome to the Birmingham Literature Festival. My name's Paul McVeigh and I'm here to interview Kit de Waal, novelist and short story writer, and currently screenwriter as well – and we'll hear more about that later on. Kit was born to an Irish mother and Caribbean father, was brought up among the Irish community of Birmingham in the 60s and 70s. Her debut novel, My Name is Leon, was an international bestseller, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, long listed for the Desmond Elliot prize and won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year award for 2017. That was followed by The Trick to Time, which was long listed for the Women's Prize [for Fiction], and her young adult novel, Becoming Dinah, is shortlisted for the Carnegie CLIP Award 2020. Kit has had also huge success with the Common People anthology. But mostly today we're gonna be talking about Kit's short story collection that's a mixture of short fiction and flash fiction, and it's called Supporting Cast. And Kit's actually going to start with a reading from the book. Kit, hello!

Kit de Waal
Hello. It's great to be here in my hometown podcast because it's always great to be at any Birmingham event. The story I'm going to read is from Supporting Cast and it's a short piece of fiction. It's actually flash fiction. And the title of it is ‘Edith Paisley-Jones (Woman in a Flowery Skirt)’, and it's a character from My Name is Leon and she's a passing character, a woman at the allotments and it's set in 1981.
                              1

‘She hung on, love ready, until her hands were weathered and rust-spotted. She stayed hopeful and optimistic until the light went out and the horizon disappeared. Her heels became square and sensible, her coat cut to keep out chills and disappointment. She wore thin lips and crept into loneliness like ivy through a tree.
Then he came along, and eyed her like an unclaimed prize.
She began to disregard her slip and umbrella. She found herself with him on piers, at funfairs, kissing him quick. She began to laugh again and leave windows open, became forgetful and blasé with recycling, a whistler, a lier-in, a gatherer of shells. Raising her head, she always found him there, waiting and dry-footed on the shore.
He took her hand, drew his shape on her life and on her plans. He was reliable and true. Then he became indispensable, necessary and she wondered how she would live without him, and when he spoke of permanence and years to come, she began to suspect his sudden appearance and question her good fortune. When she had been eager and would have been grateful, he was elsewhere, loving someone else. So she told him he came too late.
Now, she was near-sighted and content, she weeded her plot with rough hands, with knuckles too thick for rings. She became busy, practical, grew box hedging down the path and phallic gourds in pots. She cut her own hair, silver, fly-away, untameable. At weekends she studied maps and drove hours to deserted coves and dangerous walks he wouldn't dare. She covered miles of beach in stout shoes and concentration.
He never followed. They never met by chance.’

Paul McVeigh
That was lovely. When I was reading the collection, I often found myself in tears. You're a writer of what I call emotional fiction. When I read your work it just engages with my heart. And I wonder, when you're writing are you aware of that? Is it an intention of yours, and do you feel as emotional as we do when we're reading or listening to you?

Kit de Waal
To be honest I only really write what I can write. I don't, you know, I'm not trying to, to use any sort of devices or anything, I think I'd find it really hard not to write that way. If someone said to me, 'can you write something cold where you don't engage the heart?' I'd find it almost impossible. It's just, literally, you know, it's not like I've got a box of tricks and I can bring them out. I'm just sort of writing who I am, I suppose. Very occasionally, when I'm writing I've got a lump in my throat. I can remember when I was writing a particular scene in My Name is Leon when he meets his mother at a Family Centre after a long time. And when I wrote the end of that chapter, I remember thinking, 'oh my God, this is terrible' and I was genuinely upset. I knew it was a true scene and it had to happen. I certainly do know when I've struck the right tone and when I've got the right note because I'm moved. And I think you have to move yourself just the same way as if you're a comedy writer you need to find your own jokes funny, you know, otherwise, you haven't got a sense of it. So, I think I do know what I'm doing, but I don't know how to not do it, if you see what I mean?

Paul McVeigh
Yes, yes. And it just reminds me that I was reading recently about My Name is Leon and we're going to see it on television. Is it this year or next year?

Kit de Waal
Well, I think it was going to be October before the virus struck. So, I should imagine with a few months out it will probably be January or February [2021] now. But they've gone into pre-production of it, I think. I mean that sounds like I know what I'm talking about. Pre-production is something like where they are gathering the cast, they're working out locations and stuff like that. So, it's definitely happening. And they have apparently cast Leon as we speak. You know, they've got a boy. They’ve found the child, which is fascinating.

Paul McVeigh
Oh wow! And it's Lenny Henry's production company.

Kit de Waal
Yes. It's a production between Lenny Henry and the BBC.

Paul McVeigh
And he's in it, isn't he?

Kit de Waal
Apparently, yes, I mean, I was told he was going to be in it. I don't know what character he's playing. I think he is probably going to be playing one of the guys from the allotment. But I don't know, don't know which one. Can't wait to see it.
                                  3
Paul McVeigh
Yeah, I can't wait to see it. I'm sure there's a lot of people out there that can't wait to see it. I want to go back even before you wrote, My Name is Leon. And I think the first time I met you, is it London Short Story Festival, is that right?

Kit de Waal
Yes, yes. That's right.

Paul McVeigh
And you were writing short stories before you wrote your novel?

Kit de Waal
Yes.

Paul McVeigh
Because obviously now the collection's come out after two novels and some YA novels as well. You know, that actually, it looks like, oh, she's now turned her hand to short stories, but actually, you were writing them right from the beginning, if not before your novels, is that right?

Kit de Waal
Totally. Yeah, I was writing these before my novels.

Paul McVeigh
So where did that love, how did that originate, do you know? Was that something from reading short stories when you were a child? Or was it your first attempts at writing? Where did that all come from?

Kit de Waal
My first attempts at short stories were actually flash fiction. And they were flash fiction because they were bits of homework that I had from doing my creative writing MA. And also, I mistakenly thought that short stories were easier than novels. You know, I just thought, oh, you bang those out – you know, you've only got to do a short story – you've only got to do 2,000 words, not knowing that it's an absolutely different skill completely. It's also harder, if anything, because you are constrained, certainly if you're entering, if you're writing a short story for a competition, you really are constrained by a word count, which you aren't in a novel. So yeah, it was, it was definitely a mistake because I thought that this was gonna be my route into novel writing, not knowing that it's a completely, completely different discipline. Like playwriting is, like screenwriting is. Of course, it's all writing and storytelling, but actually the skills and the structure and the stuff that you've got to know and appreciate and be able to do are just different skills to novel writing.

Paul McVeigh
Was My Name is Leon your first novel, by the way, because often writers have a couple in the drawer that they didn't send out, or didn't make it to publication. It was your first novel?

Kit de Waal
Oh, no, no. So, I had two novels before My Name is Leon. The first one was called Blue in Green. And that was about, it was set partly in the 80s and partly in the present day, and that I nearly got published. I say I nearly got published: I got an agent and I had a publisher that was interested, but he couldn't get it sold to the rest of his group. Then I wrote another one called Tomorrow, which was set in Birmingham, which is about an Irish man and a woman. And that was, my agent at the time just said it was rubbish. And then, and I was absolutely gutted both times. I mean, I often see people on Twitter or elsewhere saying how disappointed, you know, 'I'm really upset, I'm really upset'. And then you get somebody saying, 'oh, you've got to keep going', you know. Just this sort of blasé dismissal of the gut-wrenching disappointment of not having your novel published. It's such a hard thing. I always really feel sorry for people. I feel like saying, 'no, you know, be angry, be upset and let that settle before you sort of dive in, oh, it doesn't really matter. You know, I'll just write another one’. You know, that's two years sometimes, five years sometimes. And I can remember when Tomorrow didn't get taken, in fact my agent, like I said, my agent said it was rubbish and I wept. I mean, obviously, she actually brought me - I have to say this is not my current agent, but she actually got me to go down to London to tell me that. And then I had to go on the train home, and I was so upset. I was, you know, I cried for days.

Paul McVeigh
Well, oh I can understand that. But I'm just gonna change the tack of that because that has an amazing upside to all of this because then that brought you to My Name is Leon, which was this amazing success, and got you this incredible deal which this collection is all part of, wasn't it? So how did it feel, you know, after coming through what you just came through with two rejections, which obviously affected you and, well, devastated you, but you know, then to go from that to the kind of dizzying heights of My Name is Leon, which is, you know, a massive deal and huge acclaim and, I mean, what extremes, you know.

Kit de Waal
Yes, complete extremes. And also, when it happened, and when I was, you know, my book went to auction so I was going to all these publishers, who were trying to say, you know, sign with me, sign with me, and I'd gone from no one wants to read your work, you're crap, to oh my God you're wonderful, come to us. And I didn't believe it. I remember just saying to my then agent, what's going on because I couldn't get anyone to read anything before, and now everyone's telling me I'm the best thing since sliced bread. And it was, it was – I wouldn't say it was hard, I mean, it was bloody great – but it was weird. It was a very, very weird place to be in from going from nought to sixty and everyone telling me my writing's fantastic, but a couple years before my writing was rubbish. So, it was an odd thing it really was.

Paul McVeigh
Yeah. And then, of course, you had, then you had The Trick to Time, which did really well as well and got fantastic reviews. We're going to talk about Common People, a little bit later on, but just to follow this through then, so you have these two novels. And this is a fascinating concept for a short story collection. I think short fiction is a good phrase actually for it, isn't it, because of the mixture of lengths. So, could you just tell us a bit about where the idea came from for this quite unique concept?

Kit de Waal
Yeah. So, I would consider myself a character-driven writer, so all of my stories always come from a person or people. And consequently, my novels are riddled with characters that I just didn't think I'd finished with, people that I, that appear in both of my novels. And to me, they're real people. They appear in my novels and then they go off and live their lives – they aren't devices that are just inserted into the book and then sort of disappear and go into the ether. I feel, and I always have felt that they're real people that I can, I know so well and I could visit, and they'd talk to me. So, with this collection I wanted to give the spotlight really – if it was in a theatre, they'd have the spotlight on them for a moment – where they would just tell their story, tell a bit of their story. So, you know, ‘after I was in My Name is Leon this is what happened to me', or 'before I was in The Trick to Time this is who I was'. So, I just took those characters and, you know, gave them a little bit of airtime, told their story. Sometimes it's way before the book started and sometimes it's 20 or 30 years after they've appeared in the book. And it was an absolute joy. It was a joy to go back to these people and say to them, 'what have you been doing?' Or 'who are you?'

Paul McVeigh
Yeah, and a great title for the collection as well, Supporting Cast, because that's exactly what, who they are in those books. And did you find that when you went back to choosing those characters, or was it a case of it was the ones who didn't leave you alone? Because obviously, not every supporting character is in there. So how did you go about choosing those characters? Or did they choose you, if you know what I mean?
                                 

Kit de Waal
I mean I had to cut it down, I could probably have done another 20. Some of them I knew, I knew they were going to be in there. Some of the work on the short stories had started as character studies before ever this collection started, character studies I’d done when I was writing either of the novels. There were certain people that I knew had to have their story told, like Castro who died in police custody. And there were other people who are so transitory in the book. So, for example, there's one woman who doesn't even get a name check in My Name is Leon – she's just a girl that is running up and down the corridor. And no idea why I wanted to talk about her but I just felt the girl running up and down the corridor in the Family Centre with a mom who's not very good deserves to have her story told; what's going on for her. So yeah, I could probably do another two or three collections. If I had my way, I would. Yeah. It'd be fantastic.

Paul McVeigh
Do you have favourites?

Kit de Waal
Castro is one of my favourites because it really came from a very deep place. A black man dying in police custody. But I do love, I love them all. Pestilence I particularly love. She's an Irishwoman living in Galway. I mean bits and pieces of everything, of every story.

Paul McVeigh
Yeah. And I loved the last one as well, ‘Big Tom Fallon’, isn't it, the wedding story.

Kit de Waal
Yes.

Paul McVeigh
It's just so, again, very moving. And that was written for Radio 4, was that right?

Kit de Waal
I wrote it for the collection, but Radio 4 recorded it. And they actually, I said, look, I'm absolutely happy for you to read this story but you have to have an Irish narrator – there's no way an English person can read this story. And they actually found an actor from the village that the story, the town that the story is placed in, which is Skibbereen in County Cork.

Paul McVeigh
Get out of town!
 
Kit de Waal
And so it's completely, the recording is bliss. It's so authentic and it's exactly the sound that I had in my head when I was writing it. It's a fantastic recording.

Paul McVeigh
And is that on, still on iPlayer, do you think?

Kit de Waal
I think it is. I think it is still on iPlayer. And I have it, obviously. I have the MP4 of it.

Paul McVeigh
Yeah, yeah. So, you can go and check that out, see if it's still on the BBC iPlayer there. And I was thinking about your recent scriptwriting. And I know that you write screenplays and scripts with your brother.

Kit de Waal
Yes, that's right.

Paul McVeigh
And I was just wondering – you've just got something on Sky?

Kit de Waal
It will be on in September; it's called The Third Day. It stars Jude Law and Naomie Harris and it's, you know, for a first-time screenwriter it is the dream commission. You know, somebody very famous, a theatre writer called Dennis Kelly, got in touch with my agent and said, 'would Kit like to write a couple of episodes?'. I mean, come on, you know, that does not happen!

Paul McVeigh
Nope.

Kit de Waal
So yeah, I wrote two episodes with my brother of that, and since that's happened, obviously, we've got lots of other commissions to write things for the screen. Hopefully, a film about Malcolm X, his visit to Smethwick in 1963, which is, we're looking for a director for at the moment. So yeah, it's a completely different skill, and it's still me writing about the things I care about, basically, you know. I'm still writing about people and characters, just the different people of the world and the unexpected.

Paul McVeigh
Yeah and you recently also wrote some theatre monologues, is that right?

Kit de Waal Yes, yes.

Paul McVeigh
Can you tell us a wee bit about that as well?

Kit de Waal
So, about a year ago, Maxine Peake got in touch with me and asked me to write a monologue –– well, she didn't say it had to be a monologue. She's so great. She's another heroine of mine, hero of mine. And she said, would I write something for 100 years of suffragettes. And it was basically about, you know, women getting the vote. And I'm just never gonna write historical anything, so I wrote a monologue, a 15-minute monologue [Imagine That] about a woman today who's decided not to vote because the votes don't make any difference and I've got better things to do. And it's her really talking to herself and saying, why should I vote? And through the things that have happened to her, traumatic things that have happened to her in her life, she decides, yes, I do. I do want to vote. And by the end, she uses her vote in a very particular way, and for a very particular reason. And recently, during the first weeks of the COVID lockdown I was asked by the Abbey Theatre in Dublin to write a monologue again, called Dear Ireland. And it was really a love letter to Ireland, how I felt about Ireland, not particularly to do with the crisis, but just where they were. And again, I could choose the actor, which I chose Peter Gowen, who's fantastic. And, that was called The Three Irishman and it's about all the different ways that we are Irishmen. There's Irish people who are born in Ireland; there are refugees that become Irish people; and there are children, black children that are born in Ireland who become Irish. And it's just about those three different ways of being Irish. But it's written from a very, if you like, a very malevolent point of view of this bloke saying, ‘that's, you know, I don't agree with that'. And then again, talking himself into how that is right and how that happens. It's about a man who's been affected by the refugee crisis.
Paul McVeigh
So you've written flash fiction, short stories. You've written for radio. You've written monologues for the theatre. You've written screenplays for a television show and a screenplay for a film. Is there anything, anything at all that you don't do?
 
Kit de Waal
Yes, I will never write a play because that is a real talent and I just don't think I could ever write, you know, a proper play for theatre. That's not my thing, I don't think. And also, I've seen really good playwrights and I'm not up to that. So, I'm never going to go into playwriting at all, but I love monologues because monologues are like flash fiction or short stories. So yeah, I won't do that. I don't think I'll ever write jingles for adverts or anything like that.

Paul McVeigh
Oh, great, great. So, we could add to that long list that you also write YA books, which is again a different skill, that's different from writing short stories or different from writing for adults. So how did you find that shift? Was it an easy shift? Was it a shift that came naturally? Or was it something you had to really look at and to learn some new angles and new skills of storytelling?

Kit de Waal
It was different. It definitely is a different skill to write YA. People that read YA, particularly the YA audience, expect a very, you know, a very specific delivery, if you like. They expect to read things and have a certain emotional response to that writing. The same way as if you, if you pick up a crime or thriller, you expect certain things to happen and to be delivered in a certain way. And YA is a genre. And it did, it was, you know, it was a learning curve for me. I don't think I've got the first or second drafts right at all. But I did have, you know, a lot of help. I had a really, really good editor, somebody called Helen Thomas. And she, you know, said to me, 'that's, you know, that's not going to hit the mark for this audience'. And in the end – I mean, it [Becoming Dinah] was a joy to write because Helen told me that I could write, I could choose one of the classics and reimagine it for a feminist YA audience. And so, I took the book that had the least women in it [Moby Dick], and then just put this, this young girl at the centre of the story and made it her own. So she, there is an Ahab, a Captain Ahab, if you like, and it's about her relationship with him on a road trip in a VW camper van. And again, it was just a great thing to write. Really great experience.

Paul McVeigh
That's done very well as well and up for an award this year. So good luck with that! And I was still thinking, I mean, as well as all of this, you then have this sort of other job that goes alongside your writing, which is one as a sort of bit of a lioness, I think really, you know, fighting the corner for marginalised writers, working-class writers. And, you know, through your, when you got this great deal, you know, you set up a scholarship at Birkbeck, wasn't it? Was it Birkbeck University?
                                 10

Kit de Waal
Yeah.

Paul McVeigh
And then you also you came up with the idea for Common People, which was an anthology of working-class writing that had, I think, 16 commissioned, famous writers from around the UK that you wouldn't necessarily know were working class, for example. Some you would, some you wouldn't. And then found 16 new writers to champion, and that was a huge success. And now, there's the sister version of that happening in Ireland with people like Roddy Doyle and Kevin Barry. And, I mean, that's obviously something that's very important to you, alongside your writing and being an artist, that you want to be there to leave that trail of breadcrumbs for those that come behind.

Kit de Waal
Yeah, I mean, I don't have a working-class lifestyle now. I think I'm very privileged in the way that I am able to live now. But my identity completely was formed as a working-class person, as a working-class child. In fact, I wouldn't have said I was working class when I was a child because the working-class people I knew and grew up with were posh to me. We had a lot less than working-class families. But then when people speak about working classes it includes people that were brought up the way I was, and it's, you know, a word that we don't use anymore, I was poor. We were poor children and a poor family in a poor area. You know, I grew up with, with not enough to eat, not enough to wear, in a cold house, blah, blah, blah – we've all heard the stories. But when I became, when I got published, I was really surprised to find how exclusive publishing is and how there are not enough people working in publishing from the background I come from, and not enough stories told about the background I come from, and that background includes lots of backgrounds – working class is not a big homogenous group. My doing Common People was really my way of saying, you know, are you joking? There's all this talent out there that cannot get, you know, any attention from publishing, that cannot get these stories told. And I very much wanted to give back to communities like mine a helping hand and a step up. And that sort of thing happens for middle-class people all the time: networks are extended, hands that are extended backwards, you know, a friend of a friend of a friend said you could do this. Well, that's the sort of network I'd like and I am trying to make for working- class people so that there's a route in, someone's gone before and kicked the things out of the way and kicked the door open and said, come on, you know, let's all go through. So that was really my intention, both to showcase the amount of talent that there is in working-class communities, unseen talent, and also to say, you know, do something about it to the publishing industry. All of these great authors, unknown authors and known authors, and it was really my way of paying back, I think, my community, helping communities I come from. And similarly, with the Irish one, and class is a very, as you know very well, class is a very different beast in Ireland. It doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It's not like it is in the UK but it certainly exists in that working-class people in Ireland, north and south are disadvantaged in many, many ways that has an impact if they want to get into a creative life. So obviously, with your help in fact, driven by you and edited by you, there will be The 32 [The 32: An Anthology of Irish Working-Class Voices], which is an exploration of working-class writing from all the different communities, working-class communities in Ireland. And I literally can't wait to read it. That's going to be a fantastic thing.

Paul McVeigh
Yeah. Well, we're all excited here. And having taken the mantle on from you and all your amazing work over there. And I want to ask you to read another story from your collection if you would.

Kit de Waal
Of course. This one is called ‘Becky Finch, Staff Canteen, Morrisons, 2016’. And this is the girl that was running, so in My Name is Leon when Leon goes to the Family Centre to meet his mom he has to wait in a hallway. And in that hallway, there is a woman who is a mother with a broken arm and she's in a state, and she's not taking care of her daughter. And her daughter is running up and down wildly in the corridor and Leon notices her. And that's all that there is about her in the book. And this is her story told many years later.
‘Becky Finch, Staff Canteen, Morrisons, 2016’
‘It was the lunch break and I was stirring my soup in the staff canteen. The girls came in and they all started at the same time.
We'll get a sleeps-eight aparthotel in the town, they said. And then we can walk to all the restaurants in Torre del Mar. Linda knows all the best places.
And then shopping the next day and then a swim in the ever-so-blue Mediterranean because if you don't, you haven't lived, they said.
They said at night the temperature’s in the twenties so don't need to pack much and you can get away with carry-on, and for thirty euro they do this trip out on a boat to try and find the dolphins, but even if the dolphins are hiding, you get a hot dog with sangria, which is the best way to get over a bad head.
Then in the daytime, they said, you can just sleep and fry on the lilos because it's so hot you can't even walk on the grass and anyway it's too sharp and prickly, not like the back gardens in England and not like the wet, grey skies hanging like death itself over Milton Keynes.
Come on, they said. Come with us. There's always loads of blokes out on the piss or a stag night. You can meet them on the plane and swap numbers.
Linda will do your hair for you before you go, get rid of the grey.
We're not going for six weeks, they said, and if you go on the South Beach Diet you could drop twenty pounds in that time, thirty if you don't eat fruit.
Holiday money? We'll have a kitty, they said. Linda looks after it because she doesn't drink, do you Linda?
They said, we know you miss your mum, love, but it's not like it was a shock, was it? Didn't you say she'd been in and out of rehab since Noah put into port? You said you were half expecting it and you were right.
Then they all looked at me and I told them what social services said, that it was a miracle she'd lasted this long and it was only that I'd looked after her so well for so many years that she'd had a half-decent life.
I couldn't help getting choked up. And then it was like the floodgates and I told them what it had been like for me putting her first since I was six years old and never knowing what I was going to come back to, and I told them about the time she came at me with a knife but she thought it was a hairbrush, and that she kept falling out with the neighbours and they'd have a go at me and tell me they'd call the police on her and I'd have to move us again, and that before I got this job shrink-wrapping bacon joints at Morrisons with the best bunch of girls on the planet, I'd never had a proper home so I'd never kept any friends, and my sister married someone from abroad and doesn't keep in touch and wants to act like she's posh and forget about me. And all the girls rubbed my back and said, ‘Bless.’
Then they started again. Bring a beach bag, they said, and don't bother with sun cream because there's damaged bottles out the back and when we asked Nigel-New-Manager-Retro-Flares what would happen if they disappeared he said it was like a butterfly landing on a branch in Peru – if he doesn't see it, it hasn't really happened.
And we're drawing lots, they said, to see who asks Nigel for us all to have our holidays at the same time. Linda can't because she always goes red because she fancies him. Don't you Linda? Come with us, they said.’
 
Paul McVeigh
You read so beautifully. Is there going to be an audio version of the collection?

Kit de Waal
Yes, there is an audio version. And I chose, before the lockdown, I chose all the people, handpicked every author. Some of them – every author, every reader - and some of them were authors, some of them were friends of mine, some of them are actors. And then the pandemic struck, and I couldn't get them, so Penguin arranged for some great readers. And I've listened to them all and I've made sure the Irish ones are Irish and the black ones are black. So, it's great, I love the audiobook. It's really good. Really works.

Paul McVeigh
When's that coming out? I can't wait to hear it, is it out now?

Kit de Waal
It's out, it's out already. Yeah, it came out about a week ago, yeah.

Paul McVeigh
Brilliant. Well, I'll definitely be checking that out. So, you've got this, you've got your collection out at the minute and what can we expect next from this sort of multi-genre-bending author, Kit de Waal? What have you got coming up?

Kit de Waal
Two things. One, I'm working on a novel, which I adore, and which is very hard. I'm stuck right in the middle of it when every writer just goes, what am I doing? How can I make this work? And that's where I am. I also want to write a memoir. I'm hoping to sort of start that simultaneously and do much more screenwriting and also trying to have a life. I have zero social life, and I am determined to try and have some kind of good time alongside having a very, very busy career.

Paul McVeigh
Well, I'm in for that if you want to go to the disco sometime or something like that. And listen, Kit, thank you so much. It was lovely talking to you.

Kit de Waal
And you.
 
Paul McVeigh
And I hope everyone goes out and buys Supporting Cast, which is published by Penguin. And if you haven't read any of Kit before you can also check out My Name is Leon and The Trick to Time, her two novels and her TV shows as well. Thank you to Birmingham Literature Festival for inviting us to do the interview, I hope you’ve enjoyed it. And please do check out some of the other podcasts for the festival.

Outro message
Thank you for listening to this week’s episode of the Birmingham Lit Fest presents...podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, we’d love for you to tell us about it – leave us a review or a rating and find us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @bhamlitfest. You can download our latest podcast episodes, every Thursday, from all the places you would normally get your podcasts and find transcripts of our episodes in the shownotes and on our website at www.birminghamliteraturefestival.org . Details about our full programme can also be found on our website. Until then, happy reading!
The Birmingham Lit Fest Presents... podcast is curated by Shantel Edwards and produced by 11C and Birmingham Podcast Studios for Writing West Midlands.
Thank you to Birmingham Literature Festival for inviting us to do, to do the interview. I hope you've enjoyed it. And please do check out some of the other podcasts for the festival.
              

What is Birmingham Lit Fest Presents….?

The Birmingham Literature Festival Podcast - Welcome to the very first Birmingham Literature Festival podcast, bringing writers and readers together to discuss some of 2020’s best books. Each Thursday we’ll be releasing new episodes of the podcast, including wonderful discussions about writing, poetry, big ideas and social issues. Join us each week for exciting and inspiring conversations with new, and familiar, writers from the Midlands and beyond.