SHETLAND debut author Malachy Tallack has joined some of Scotland’s most illustrious writers with the award of a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship by the Scottish Books Trust.
The 34 year old, who is now based in Glasgow, will spend one month in the rarefied atmosphere of a French hotel once graced by the great nineteenth century writer where he hopes to complete the Shetland novel he is currently working on.
Previous RLS fellows, including James Robertson, Louise Welsh and Janice Galloway, have gone on to receive great critical acclaim.
Shetland-based writers Donald Murray and Raman Mundair won fellowships in 2012 and 2008 respectively.
Tallack, who has featured widely in newspapers and magazines and has recorded four albums and an EP as a singer songwriter, will publish his first book, a travelogue, in July.
He commenced writing his first novel in December and earned the RLS fellowship after submitting the first 2,000 words to the judging panel.
“I’m less than a quarter of the way through the novel at the moment, so it’s a bit early to say much about it,” he said.
“But yes, it’s set in a small community in contemporary Shetland, and I’m hoping to explore some of the ideas and the tensions that I think are important in the islands today.
“The working title is The House at the End of the Road in the Valley at the Centre of the World, but no publisher in their right mind would ever allow me to call it that.
“At the moment I’m trying to be optimistic and hoping I could finish a first draft of the novel by the end of the year.
“My trip to France is in November, so a month to really focus on it then will be extremely helpful. But I’ve got a lot of work to do to get to that stage!”
Tallack is one of four writers to win the RLS fellowship this year, the others being Lynsey May, Michael Pederson and Allan McKendrick.
Each will get a one month residency at the Hôtel Chevillon International Arts Centre at Grez-sur-Loing, on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau, where Stevenson met his wife Fanny Osbourne and enjoyed three creative summers amongst the hotel’s community of writers and artists in the 1870s.
Tallack said: “Some of the best writers in Scotland are previous winners of the RLS Fellowship, so it’s obviously a great honour to now receive the award myself.
“One of the difficulties with writing is that you are constantly battling self-doubt, working to convince yourself that what you’re putting down on paper is not a complete waste of time and effort, so any recognition like this is a huge boost to your confidence.
“It allows you to keep going with just a bit more self-belief. At least for a while, anyway.”
Sixty Degrees North, which will be published by Polygon on 16 July, is a travelogue of Tallack’s visits to each of the countries on the sixtieth parallel.
He said: “It’s focussed around the interaction between people and landscape, and particularly the idea of ‘home’…(and) also in part a memoir about my own relationship with Shetland.”
The author will be reading from the book and speaking about it at Shetland Library a week after its publication.
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