By Lisa Burns
There was a real buzz at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation on Wednesday evening as a group of literature enthusiasts gathered to celebrate the publication of Ruth Owen’s latest novel Into Dusk.
Joined by a group of guest readers, (all former Manchester Metropolitan University students), Owen read excerpts from the novel, which centres on the lives of three people. It follows Jean, as she struggles to reconnect with her younger brother Barry, an addict; and Brenda, a childhood friend of the two, strives to overcome her own problems in order to attempt to reunite Jean and Barry. All three are easily recognisable as real people, largely because Owen based the characters on real people. As Owen herself admitted, “The people I’m writing about are largely people I’ve known with added fictional bits…the whole book is haunted by dead relatives.”
These characters were brought to life by Owen’s animated reading style. She effortlessly evoked ripples of laughter from the audience as she engaged everyone with Into Dusk’s down-to-earth characters, Northern colloquialisms and multiple Motown references. Fellow writer David Chadwick, who felt that the use of Motown was “A powerful way of evoking an era”, applauded the use of musical references.
Chadwick, along with Sarah Atkins-Navas, Ros Davis, Paul Beatty and Nicky Harlow also each took turns to read snippets from their own work. They had all studied together with Owen at the Manchester Writing School at MMU as part of the MA Creative Writing course. Hearing the literature read by the authors themselves brought a new perspective to the pieces, as the audience caught a glimpse into the works as the author imagined them. The International Anthony Burgess Foundation’s cosy setting gave the event an intimate feel, allowing the audience to really relax and engage with the authors. As most of the stories were full of humour and witty observations on everyday human relationships, the room often erupted into infectious laughter (no doubt the free wine helped with that, too).
Without a whiff of pretence, each author proved to be warm and approachable, and it was obvious that some strong friendships had formed during the course of their study together. In fact, the group of writers enjoyed studying together so much that they have continued to work collaboratively, setting up Pandril Press and publishing two short story collections: Panopticon (2011) and Weird Love (2013). This collaborative spirit was evident during the Q & A session when Owen shared the spotlight by inviting her fellow writers to provide insights into the daily routines and workings of an author.
Some of Owen’s parting words were of advice for budding writers: “The trick is to find your own niche, your way of writing. Use what works for you.”
Into Dusk is available to buy from Pandril Press for £7.99
Lisa Burns studies History and English at MMU. When she’s not got her nose in a book, she loves having adventures in the great outdoors! Follow her on Twitter: @LittleRobin09