18 Liz Nugent

Liz Nugent is an award-winning writer of radio and TV drama and has written short stories for children and 19099368adults. She has spent the last twenty years working in Irish film, theatre, and television. In early 2014 her first novel, Unravelling Oliver, was published to great critical and popular acclaim. But of course all of this pales in comparison to being featured here on Literary Love Fest! 

What is your name?

My full name is Elizabeth Therese Nugent but my family often call me Whizzer, short for Whizz Bang- a nickname I acquired by sliding down the bannisters, falling off and suffering a brain haemorrhage at age 6. They're not big on sympathy.

What is your quest?

My quest is to represent Ireland at the Procrastination Olympics, just not yet. I'm pretty sure I have the National finals in the bag if I can just finish a thing. Answering Q and As like this one are hugely helpful, so thank you ;-)!

My pleasure.

Okay, tell me about your book.

It's about a sinister deeply flawed character and how he came to be incapable of love. It starts with middle-aged Oliver beating his wife into a coma, and his character is gradually revealed by the people who think they know him as well as his own testimony as they go back in time to his school days and the summer of 1973 when he and his girlfriend went to work in a French vineyard. It is about an emotionally damaged man's search for family, belonging and identity. It's also funny in places. Well, I think so.

What was the most difficult bit to write?

The character of Moya. Most of the characters are written from the point of view of men and I had no problem with getting into the head of a man. The only other female narrator is an elderly French woman and I had her voice quite clearly in my head too, but Moya was really hard. I veered dangerously close to caricature in writing a monumentally self obsessed actress with a superiority complex, but I hope I got away with it without crossing the line.

What surprised you about writing it?

I found out that I wasn't very good at structure. Story and characterisation were largely fine but my editor Patricia Deevy really helped to structure the novel to make it a lot more compelling than it was originally. Also, copy editors are underrated Gods.

First line:

"I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her."

What's the next project?

Novel number 2, provisionally called Liars, about an obese boy coming of age in the early 80s. It's about a lot more than that really, but I can't tell you.

Your three main characters are trapped in a barn during the zombie apocalypse. What's the outcome?

Barney is persuaded to leave the barn and face the zombies by Oliver in order to create a diversion. Oliver lies to Barney that he and Michael will be able to save Barney. Barney goes out and gets eaten by the zombies. Michael is horrified and too upset to run away with Oliver, so Oliver attracts the attention of the zombies, lures them into the barn where they attack Michael and then Oliver sets fire to the barn and escapes, leaving Michael and the zombies to burn to death. Oliver then finds an abandoned restaurant where he sits down to a hearty meal of fresh bread, cured meat and fine cheeses and washes it down with a crisp Chablis. The End.

Your book's been made into a movie. What's playing over the opening credits?

'Day is Done' by Nick Drake. I think it is about having to accept what you have done and not being able to change it.

When and where is the book available?

Online in the usual outlets and in only the best bookshops, particularly the cool independent ones. Help your bookshop to become cool by asking them to order it for you.

My two centsUnravelling Oliver is the kind of book that gets its hooks into you and doesn't let go until you've turned the final page. I found it dark, twisted, compelling...and also a lot of fun. There's the satisfaction of seeing the mystery at the heart of the main character unfold one jigsaw piece at a time as the supporting players fill in the blanks, as well as an overall sense of irony and sly humour. Oliver is a monster, but he's a witty and entertaining monster with a stunning secret, and this complex and suspenseful novel is a delight.

And here's Nick Drake with the opening credits. I wish I'd heard this before I started reading. What a perfect choice!

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Get your copy of Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World here

...in Ireland and the UK 

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In the U.S.A.

In Canada...or try here. Or go independent.

"...astonishingly good....a juicy coming-of-age story...also an important read." The Globe and Mail

"...poignant...heart-wrenching. This stunning debut will surely appeal to both teenage readers and adults." Quill & Quire, starred review

"Witty, devastating, with a melancholy humour..." Sunday Business Post

"...page-turning, top drawer stuff..." BGE Book Club

"...warm, witty, heartfelt and utterly engaging..." The Irish News

"A stunning debut. I loved it." The Irish Examiner