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An Interview with Author Hamish Kavanagh

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I grew up on a sheep farm in rural New Zealand. I was one of those kids who were constantly writing stories—mainly animal-related at that point. My writing dropped off during my teen years, and I didn’t pick it up until after university where I studied English Literature and History. Right out of Uni I wrote my first novel—a mishmash of all my ideas about the world. I never attempted to get this published, but it was an important step in letting me know I could complete a project of that size. It took me a few years before I started my ‘serious’ novel, always stealing time to write outside of my day job. However, after Covid hit, I reprioritized a lot of things. My partner had been dying to move to London for years by that point, I had a bit of money saved up. So when New Zealand’s lockdown was lifted, we decided, why not take a year off and focus on this novel first time? For the last twelve months this is what I’ve been doing, also documenting my progress on my Substack page The Sudden Walk. I am now at the pitching stage of journey towards getting published.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

Coming from a working-class background, writing is definitely not something that runs in the blood. I didn’t know any published authors growing up, it didn’t even seem like an option for me. However, I English was always my best subject at school, and I was a prolific reader, with strange taste (I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula when I was nine). I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realized this, but at a certain point it dawned on me that fiction allows truth to be expressed in ways that are not possible in the ordinary world. I was learning much more from the stories I was reading than the teachers at my school. In fact I was learning about the teachers in my school from these books. From that point onward my perspective on authority shifted, and I realized the power of this unique medium.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

George Orwell’s 1984 was a huge trigger for me. Having studied History at university, I was always drawn to a bird’s eye view of politics, but never on the partisan, party vs party scale. This gave me a blurred view of politics. I had things I wanted to say, but felt no allegiance to the left or the right. Orwell’s framing of totalitarianism struck a chord of humanism that resonated with me and gave me permission in some way to talk about politics without talking about politics. In terms of the plot itself—I’ve got no idea where the inspiration comes from. The idea I began with when I typed my first word is both exactly what I envisioned and nothing like what I had in mind.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The name “Echoes from the Trapdoor” comes from a myth that is told early on in my plot, wherein a man who once had unlimited options in life finds himself on the gallows, with one option, death. The trapdoor refers to the hatch that falls to hang this man.

The echoes describe the effect that this myth has on the citizens who were exposed to it as children and how that story has reverberated through the rest of their lives and influenced society.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”

TOOL’s “Lateralus”

Describe your dream book cover.

A simple child’s sketch of a hangman’s gallows all in black and white. The trapdoor will be released and beneath it butterflies (in colour) will spill from below. This is a nod to the theme of the butterfly effect that is present throughout the novel.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I worked in the property industry for six years. As an aspiring writer, I always assumed that I was going to have to accept being poor until I “made it.” This job taught me, that there are ways to finance your dreams without tapping into handouts or inheritance.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

Over a six-year period I’ve reached to many books for research and inspiration. My main highlights are 1984 – Orwell, Brave New World – Huxley, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism – Jay, Combatting Cult Mind Control – Hassan, Gulag Archipelago – Solzhenitsyn, and Ordinary Men – Browning.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

My aim is to demonstrate that any point of view can appear to be the most rational, if expressed by a sufficiently convincing arguer. If I have done my job right, by the end of my book, I will have articulated a world view that wins over my reader and makes them agree with me, I will then do the same for the opposite world view, ultimately leading them to recognize that neither is “objectively” true. It all comes down to how it is framed.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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Atmosphere Press is a selective hybrid publisher founded in 2015 on the principles of Honesty, Transparency, Professionalism, Kindness, and Making Your Book Awesome. Our books have won dozens of awards and sold tens of thousands of copies. If you’re interested in learning more, or seeking publication for your own work, please explore the links below.