Today I’m delighted to introduce Dominic Nolan. I had the pleasure of meeting Dominic at a Headline publishing event in January. I’ve just finished his debut novel Past Life and it’s a cracking read, but not for the faint hearted. The good news for anyone who has also read it, Boone and Barb will be back next year.
Dominic grew up and still lives in North London. He worked various day jobs, ranging from call centre operator to fraud investigator, before selling his first novel, Past Life – the story of Boone, a detective who suffers a catastrophic loss of her memory and, struggling to reintegrate herself back into her past life with her husband and teenage son, decides to reinvestigate the missing person case that led to her getting hurt in the first place.
So over to Dominic:-
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
You Don’t Miss Your Water – Otis Redding
Love Otis, and this William Bell cover is my favourite of his songs. Something about the slightly off-key opening – the Stax house bands were brilliant at that sort of thing.
Be My Baby – The Ronettes
A hangover from the compilation tapes my parents used to play in the car on family holidays when I was a boy. That Wall of Sound genius burrowed into my skull, and was reinforced in my teenage years when I discovered Mean Streets and Scorsese’s use of the track.
Ms Fat Booty – Mos Def
Inelegantly titled slice of hip hop brilliance from an era of rap that was key to me. Also makes splendid use of a sample of another favourite of mine – Aretha’s “One Step Ahead.”
Holland, 1945 – Neutral Milk Hotel
Another keystone song from my young adulthood, when so many influences get ambered into your soul.
Metamorphosis: One – Philip Glass
I hardly ever listen to music when I write (I work better to the white noise of a fan, for some reason), but Glass’s hypnotic, stripped back piano work here is a rare exception. Perhaps something about the subtle repetitions and variations running through this, but I could listen to it endlessly.
2. Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
Books – an obvious choice for a writer, I suppose. I like writing surrounded by my books, and am in no way a peripatetic writer. I like writing at my desk, on my laptop, with my books. None of this coffee shop lark, or on a train, or in a hotel. I am resolutely a creature of habit, and my books are part of that.
Tea – any great British endeavour has been built on a nice cup of tea. Essential fuel for getting the words flowing of a morning.
My agent – this might be cheating as she’s also a friend, but the fierce and fabulous Nicola Barr of the Bent Agency has been the biggest influence on my writing life. She’ll claim I give her too much credit, but she championed me for almost a decade before we sold a book to a publisher. That kind of support is priceless.
Football – I’m strictly an armchair fan these days, but believe deeply in the power of psychic orisons channelled through the television/wireless/internet to the boys on the pitch, sometimes coherent, other times not so much.
Sleep – sleep’s bloody great, isn’t it? I like as much of it as I can get. Anything less than eight hours leads to barbarity. Your body refreshes itself, fixes ailments, and gives you weird dreams. Perfectly happy to spend a third of my life doing it.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Not really. For me, the things that happen to us along the way are all essential in making us who we are now and getting us to wherever we are. And right now, I’m publishing my first novel, which is exactly where I want to be, for all the good and bad things that have occurred along the way.
I thought about small specific things – like, when you and your brother are playing football in the living room when the parents are out, make you sure you move Mum’s valuable antique figurine into the kitchen first. But then, who’s to say if knocking that figurine’s head off didn’t have some unforeseen butterfly effect that shaped my future after that?
I wouldn’t risk changing a thing.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I wanted to be a film-maker when I was younger, and spent my late teens and early-twenties messing about with 8mm and 16mm cameras (this was just before the digital tide), making unspeakably shit short films that will never be allowed see the light of day again. Cinema is still my first artistic love in many ways, and my fondness for old Hollywood pictures shines through in Past Life, I hope. What people might not know, is I have a particular love for old musicals. Gene Kelly is your actual American genius, and Jacques Demy’s work with Michel Legrand is a gift to cinema.
I can field strip and clean an assault rifle. At least, I used to be able to; it’s been a while. When the zombie apocalypse happens, I think I’ll swiftly get back into the groove.
A confession: I don’t get on with fiction being read aloud. I’m not a fundamentalist about it – people love audiobooks, and they’re an essential part of the industry, but I’ve never listened to them, and have no desire to listen to writers reading their own work out either. I think fiction should be heard in those whispering little voices in the back of your mind, the ones you could never articulate out loud; there’s an intimacy to it that is better internalised.
I like organising cupboards and shelves. Possibly I was a quartermaster in a previous life, but messy cupboards drive me crazy. Fellow travellers on the Headline New Voices Tour will attest to my particular interest in re-stacking/organising luggage on trains. I cannot be stopped.
Although Past Life is the first book of mine published, I wrote several previous novels which editors in their wisdom/folly chose not to pick up. It is the process of writing itself that I always loved, though, so I was content to plough on unpublished for years. Moral of the story – a published writer is often a persistent one. Never give up doing what you love.
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
I’d like to cross an ocean on a ship (in my head, I’d be charging around a luxury vessel like Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve, but I suspect the reality would be me throwing up in a windowless room aboard a freighter).
Speaking other languages and playing musical instruments are akin to alien knowledge to me. I’d say I’d love to learn either, but I don’t think I possess the patience or fortitude. It’s a romantic idea, though.
To move into a house big enough to fit all the books I intend to buy.
Witness Liverpool win the bloody league title again (bellows at the television).
The big one: to continue to enjoy the privilege of being published – to get all the stories in my head out onto the page and into books in people’s hands. That would make the rest of life pretty much a continuous dream.
Thanks so much for taking part and sharing with us Dominic. I was beginning to think you might be channelling my OH with a fondness for tea, football and sleep, but then you mentioned liking organising shelves and cupboards! I hope you get to achieve the items on your bucket list, though is there ever a house big enough for books? Based on Past Life I would hope the ‘big one’ is a given.
Past Life by Dominic Nolan
Waking up beside the dead girl, she couldn’t remember anything.
Who she was. Who had taken her. How to escape.
Detective Abigail Boone has been missing for four days when she is finally found, confused and broken. Suffering retrograde amnesia, she is a stranger to her despairing husband and bewildered son.
Hopelessly lost in her own life, with no leads on her abduction, Boone’s only instinct is to revisit the case she was investigating when she vanished: the baffling disappearance of a young woman, Sarah Still.
Defying her family and the police, Boone obsessively follows a deadly trail to the darkest edges of human cruelty. But even if she finds Sarah, will Boone ever be the same again?
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