Monday, January 24, 2022

Jenni Fagan Interview - Luckenbooth

Photo Content from Jenni Fagan

Jenni Fagan is an award-winning novelist, poet, screenwriter and artist - she has published several fiction novels and poetry collections, and her work has been translated into numerous languages to great critical acclaim worldwide. Jenni has been on multiple award lists including becoming a Granta Best of Young British Novelist - a once in a decade accolade - for her debut The Panopticon. Her first two fiction novels received the front cover of The New York Times Book Review, who described her as “the Patron Saint of Literary Street Urchins.”

She has written for The Independent, Marie Claire and the New York Times, and been on lists for Desmond Elliott, Encore, James Tait Black, Sunday Times Short Story Award, BBC International Short Story Prize among others, and was twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She has concluded a PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2020, becoming a Dr. of Philosophy, and has a vast body of photography and other artworks that she intends to collate and exhibit at some point. She is the current Poetry Lecturer at Strathclyde University.

Jenni grew up in the local authority care system for 16 years, before spending several years in homeless accommodation, she has moved over forty-five times and spent her teens and early twenties playing in punk and then grunge bands. She has been a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellow in Grez, France, a Gavin Wallace Fellow as Poet in Residence at Summerhall for a year where she engraved poetry onto bones and installed her poems around the building, also a University of Edinburgh Writer in Residence, Arvon Tutor and she has worked with young people, blind and visually impaired writers, people in prison or secure facilities, among other vulnerable groups.

Jenni has held residencies at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, writing several of her poetry collections there, it is her favourite place to read and she considers it one of her literary homes.

She is working on several projects across the page and screen.


Publisher ‏ : ‎ Pegasus Books (January 4, 2022)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1643138871
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1643138879


“[Luckenbooth] is a cabinet of curiosities that is both a love letter to the Scottish capital, and a knife to its throat. The sparking nervous system of the book is its characters, all broken, all reassembled in their own ways, like Kintsugi, the Japanese process of highlighting cracks by mending them with gold...Despite its darkness, the novel is carried by jagged delight and optimism, a bright hope coming through the walls and a fundamental belief in people. Filled with blistering social critique, Luckenbooth is an ambitious and ravishing novel that will haunt me long after.” —Lauren Beukes ― The New York Times

“Luckenbooth is a deliciously weird gothic horror. Fagan once again examines the way people are affected by unhealthy spaces. Having survived the state care system that bounced her among dozens of homes, she writes about placement and displacement with an arresting mix of insight and passion. ‘No. 10 Luckenbooth,’ Fagan writes, ‘has some kind of purple memory vibrating through it like an endless hum.’ But it’s not so much a hum as a muffled scream—with a feral melody and a thundering bass line. Her prose has never been more cinematic. This story’s inexorable acceleration and its crafty use of suggestion and elision demonstrate the special effects that the best writers can brew up without a single line of Hollywood software—just paper, ink and ghosts." —Ron Charles ― The Washington Post

"In this inventive, experimental novel, Jenni Fagan traces a century in one Edinburgh tenement building and the lives of its occupants. When an unholy union forms between a childless government minister, his wife, and their fertile young maid — who happens to be the Devil’s own daughter — the building they live in is cursed for decades, affecting residents for generations." —Bustle ― Most Anticipated Books Of January 2022

"Fagan pulls out all the stops, looking evil straight in the eye and working the numerous components of this ambitious tale into a cohesive whole. " —The Washington Independent Review of Books

"In Jenni Fagan’s stunning new novel, an apartment building at 10 Luckenbooth Close in Edinburough first is scene to a terrible crime, then witness to all the blazing currents of the 20th century, moving on to explore visions of alternative history and future dystopias. Perfect for those who liked Things in Jars by Jess Kidd." —Molly Odintz ― CrimeReads, Most Anticipated Crime Fiction of 2022

"The interwoven lives of the tenants of No. 10 Luckenbooth Close, a tenement in the heart of Edinburgh, drive this outstanding novel from Fagan (The Panopticon), set over the course of the 20th century. All the tenants’ stories enchant as the action builds to a satisfying conclusion. This highly original novel with its fairy tale quality will appeal to fantasy fans as well." —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Greatest thing you learned in school.
That school is not always where you get to be who you are going to be.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
I grew up in the care system and was essentially voiceless in many ways, writing was born out of that and also moving constantly, into new areas and living with people I didn’t know. Storytelling called to me for many reasons.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling is how we live, we tell each other stories all the time, of who we are, we tell ourselves who the people in our lives are, what is right or wrong in the world, we pass history down, imagine the possibility of change that is not always so accessible in other forms.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book?
It’s a difficult call but probably Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I have a novel called HEX coming out in March, UK. It is based on the execution of Geillis Duncan in 1594 and takes place in her cell in the twelve hours before they take her to the gallows on Castlehill. It is a séance really, between a modern witch and a historical one, across time and the story unfolds between Iris and Geillis in ways that are very unexpected. I also have a poetry collection called THE BONE LIBRARY coming out in Autumn, I was working in a bone library engraving poetry onto bones so it is partly inspired by that residency. I am finishing my memoir OOTLIN about the first sixteen years of my life growing up in the care system. Other than that I am doing some really exciting TV projects just now, although I can’t talk much about them just now.

In your newest book; LUCKENBOOTH, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
It is a love letter to Edinburgh, a city I first moved to when I was three years old. It is a place of extremes, great wealth/poverty, beauty/violence, modern/old, there is much that is unseen — I wanted to write about that. I thought about writing it for a few decades before I began and it was a huge thing that took over my life when I finally did, I used to draw the entire building out ceiling to floor on my bedroom wall, add in the characters, every decade, all that goes on. I slept next to it for years.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I don’t know, I wouldn’t put expectations on anyone.

What part of Jessie did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved writing about Jessie on the sea in her coffin, the opening scene, when she spits on the cobbles and steps forward into the book. Before a lot of the harder to deal with things occur.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I wouldn’t do that, if one character meets another from a different book then both cease to exist. Don’t you think? It could happen.

  • Paris, it’s a city that feels like home to me but there is always something new to find. I love it. I have stayed on residency lots of times at Shakespeare and Company when I am there, it is the greatest bookshop in the world and the history of it feels so present even now.
  • New York, I write poetry constantly when I am there. It was the first place I travelled to on my own and I had sold my first piece of writing to get there, I was about 23. I never get bored there.
  • I would love to go to Alaska, I’m drawn to places with huge vast landscapes and extraordinary nature.
  • Iceland for the landscapes, aurora borealis, people, culture, all of it. I’d love to stay in one of those glass pods where you can see the aurora borealis and have snow falling as you go to sleep.
  • Egypt, I really loved staying in Cairo years ago. I stayed in a no stars pension Downtown, it was shambolic and dusty and had great art deco features, and there was a brilliant patisserie and an amazing vegetarian restaurant called Felfela’s that’s been there for decades. I loved walking around, the bookshops, the museums are extraordinary and of course the Nile, pyramids. I love buildings so going inside the Great Pyramid was really unique.
  • I’d like to take the Trans-Mongolian train from Russia to China, I love travelling by train and it can be a great way to see so much, and chat to people as well.
  • I really want to go to Japan during the cherry blossom tree season, I’d love to see the cities but also travel up into the mountains.
  • I love Italy, the Amalphi coast is stunning, great place to swim in the sea, eat outside, wander around all the great old buildings and cathedrals.
  • Cape Verde is a group of islands that are really interesting, all quite different, I stayed on one in the monsoon, hiked the ribeira’s, listened to the mournful sodade songs and drank grog (crazy strong), watched whole villages go fishing in colorful boats and swam in the sea after midnight when phosphorescence lights it up. The industry on Sal was based on salt mines originally.
  • There are so many other places but for the last one I will say India, I have never been there and would love to visit and experience the culture, the temples, food, and travel.
Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
I can’t remember it, probably as a teenager.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Travel alone. Do it once, then you’ll want to do it again.

Best date you've ever had?
I probably couldn’t detail that kind of evening.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
My childhood was extreme and dramatic, I am concluding writing my memoir currently. I was born in a Victorian psychiatric hospital and taken from my mother on the first day I was born, nobody knows where I lived for the first three months. I like to think it was goblins, poet spouting, chain smoking, endlessly swearing goblins who were quite taken by this unexpected foundling.

What is your favorite restaurant in town and why?
I really like L’Escargot Bleu on Broughton Street, it is as good as anywhere in Paris.

First Heartbreak?
Being born.

Favorite things to do alone?
Driving, hundreds of miles, to the Highlands, with a great soundtrack.



'One of the most stunning literary experiences I've had in years' Irvine Welsh

'Dazzlingly ambitious' Douglas Stuart, author of Shuggie Bain

'A gloriously transgressive novel' Ian Rankin

1910, Edinburgh. Jessie, the devil's daughter, arrives on the doorstep of an imposing tenement building and knocks on a freshly painted wooden door. She has been sent by her father to bear a child for a wealthy couple, but, when things go wrong, she places a curse on the building and all who live there - and it lasts a century.

Caught in the crossfire are the residents of 10 Luckenbooth Close, and they all have their own stories to tell. While the world outside is changing, inside, the curse creeps up all nine floors and through each door. Soon, the building's longest kept secret - the truth of what happened to Jessie - will finally be heard.

You can purchase Luckenbooth at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JENNI FAGAN for making this giveaway possible.
5 Winners will receive a Copy of LUCKENBOOTH by Jenni Fagan.
Winner will receive a $20 Amazon Gift Card
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