2 minutes with… Jack Fennell

Join Tramp Press at this year’s Dublin Book Festival in celebrating the launch of It Rose Up: A Selection of Lost Irish Fantasy Stories, edited by writer, editor, translator and researcher Jack Fennell. A sister-publication to Jack’s A Brilliant Void (2018), It Rose Up will shock and delight fantasy and classic Irish writing fans everywhere. Bestselling author Sophie White joins the event to chat with Jack about the strange tales he has collected for this anthology of Irish fantasy stories. Craving some escapism? Open up your mind to lost myths from Irish Culture and join this free live stream event for the It Rose Up Book launch. These forgotten tales include themes of occultism, electricity, magic and darkly funny stories.

Ahead of tomorrow’s online event, we took 2 minutes to catch up with Jack, to find out more about his journey putting together this wonderful book. Full details here: https://dublinbookfestival.com/programme/it-rose-up/

What inspired the title of the book?

The title is a snippet of a sentence from one of the stories. I’m hopelessly academic when it comes to titles. The title of A Brilliant Void came from a line in a story, so myself and the team at Tramp Press followed the same route here, and we all liked the sound of It Rose Up: it’s just weird enough to be jarring, like a little mental speed-bump, and it conveys a sense of mystery.

Out of all of the stories in the book, do you have a favourite?

Of course I love all the stories in the book, but I’m particularly fond of “Mac Dathó’s Pig,” which is a version of an old legend in which a bragging match between the warriors of Connaught and Ulster results in utter chaos, and “What Is a Ghoul?”, a bonkers story that was printed as a news item in the Irish Examiner back in 1890 – it may have been a prank, but it’s so full of creepy details that it
feels real somehow, like a newspaper clipping from a parallel universe.

What was your favourite Irish Fantasy story growing up?

Picking only one favourite from childhood would make me feel guilty, so I’ll have to fudge this one and name a rake of them, in no particular order: The Last of the Fianna by Michael Scott (as well as his amazing De Danann Tales series, and Wolf Moon, and Vampyre); The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea; Cornelius in Charge by Mary Flynn; Don Conroy’s Wings series; Shelagh
Jones’s Save the Unicorns… I could still be answering this question this time next year!

Did you begin your research for the book pre-covid or during? Did the research process for
this book differ from your other publications due to the extra craving for escapism?

I started the research pre-covid, and the shift into lockdown was a shock to the system. Pre-covid, I’d make a couple of trips to the National Library with a list of promising titles, then while away a few hours reading through them to see if they fit the bill, and photocopy them so that I could take notes on the train home; very relaxed and civilized altogether. Then covid hit, and all of a sudden
none of that was possible – it felt like being cast away on a desert island, because I knew that the material was out there, but there was no way to get at it. At the same time, the added need forescapism in the face of it all made me less tolerant of stories where the fantastic elements turn out to be mundane tricks or illusions; give me the magic, dammit.

What do you hope people take away from the book?

I hope that people take away sixteen new lenses through which to look at the everyday world.
Every story is a rock that can potentially alter the course of a stream of thought – and the stranger
the story, the bigger the detour. If this collection inspires unusual thoughts or flights of fancy, that’ll
be brilliant. On a more down-to-Earth level, I hope that this book takes readers out of the world for
a while, and prompts at least some of them to check out the writers showcased within.

What other Dublin Book Festival event are you most excited about?

There are so many great events lined up this year that it’s hard to rank items in any order, but Erika
McGann’s event for Tabitha Plimtock and the Edge of the World, Bryan Fanning in conversation
with Melatu Uche Okorie, Eoin Colfer’s workshop, the panel on Irish trans writers, and the launch
of Play it Forward with Skein Press and The Stinging Fly all look intriguing and fun. I wasn’t quick
enough off the mark to book a place in all of them, but I’ll be there in spirit!