Guest Post: Bethany Dawson on My Father's House & how it's not exactly 'a bodice-ripper'

My Father's House, an arresting debut novel from Bethany Dawson is being launched tonight (10.04.13) at 7.30pm in the Ulster Museum, Belfast and you are all very welcome!

Bethany says...

Bethany Dawson
"I bumped into one of my primary school teachers this week. He was quite terrifying to my 11-year-old self but he also loved literature and spent many an afternoon reading to our class with all of the accents and enthusiasm that brought a story to life. I was able to tell him how fondly I remembered those story times and how the characters that Michael Morpurgo and Penelope Lively wrote lived on in my memory. He was thrilled to hear that I had become a writer, although when he asked whether I had written a ‘bodice-ripper’ I wasn’t sure how to respond.

The new worlds to which I was introduced through books like The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, King of the Cloud Forest, The Ghost of Thomas Kempe and many more, filled me with wonder and fuelled my imagination. I became chief storyteller to my younger siblings and began writing my own adventurous tales in my blue jotter. As a teenager, the only subject I excelled in was English. I was a keen reader, I loved analysing poetry and I took every opportunity to write.

Although the stories I write now are less adventurous and more focused on character than plot, I have found that living an adventurous life feeds my creativity and takes hold of my imagination. Henry Thoreau said, ‘How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live’. For me, this is the challenge of a writing life.

I did not know that choosing to rent an old farmhouse in our first year of marriage would have such an influence on my writing. As I developed the characters in My Father’s House the farm on which I lived became an essential backdrop for the story and the house became symbolic of the themes I wanted to explore. It was not until years later when I was living far away from rural County Down in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa that all of the components of my novel came together. The things I remembered from my days spent chasing sheep up the road in my pyjamas and trying to stop our pigs from attacking the dog infused the story with believable detail and my characters were quite at home in that setting.

My ex-teacher asked me whether I had plans to write another book. I told him that writing was the only thing I ever wanted to do and I had characters clamouring to be put on paper. When reflecting on the places I have lived over the last couple of years, I am excited to see how my next novel develops."

For more on Bethany Dawson and My Father's House check out this short promo video:


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Bethany Dawson completed a Master of Philosophy in Creative Writing at Trinity College, Dublin where she was picked up by her agent and began writing in earnest. She works as the Assistant Editor of The Zimbabwean, an independent newspaper produced in the UK. Bethany currently lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland with her husband and son, but has spent time living in both Zimbabwe and South Africa. This is her first novel.