The Unthology Interviews: Rowena Macdonald 14th October 2017 – Posted in: Interviews

We talk to Rowena MacDonald about Burning Man, her story in Unthology 4.


U: How does it feel to be an Unthologist?

R: It feels good. I knew that it would.

U: Why submit to Unthology? What does the series mean for you?

R: The title attracted me initially – as did the title of Unthank Books itself. When I bought a copy of Unthology 3, I was impressed. The stories were mostly very readable. Various writers I admire – such as AJ Ashworth and David Rose – were in it and I thought if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.

U: Tell us something about your story, what inspired it and how was the writing process?

R: I wrote ‘Burning Man’ back in 2008. It was inspired by a severely burned man that begs at Tottenham Court Road tube station. He’s so shockingly disfigured that he’s well known. He’s also heartbreakingly cheerful and polite. I often give money to him, but I’ve never talked to him. I know nothing of his history but I wondered about him and the story developed from that. The character of Brad was inspired by a rich idiot I met years ago, an associate of an ex-boyfriend. He wanted me to do some work for him, I can’t remember what sort of work, but he was so unbelievably rude I only lasted a morning. The writing process was fine; I just wrote it and then I edited it a lot. Back in 2009 a friend who had been in the army performed it brilliantly on Resonance FM on Johny Brown’s radio show – Johny Brown of The Band of Holy Joy, for all you obscurist pop fans out there.

U: What is your favourite other story in Unthology 4?

This is a mean question. I’ve not yet finished all the stories. There are good qualities in all those I’ve read, so I genuinely can’t pick a favourite. I like Sarah Bower’s knowing sharpness, Michael Crossan’s brusque yet warm masculinity, Carys Bray’s revelations about Mormonism, Barnaby Walsh’s characters, Joshua Allen’s truth about the nightmarish absurdity of office work, Aiden O’Reilly’s sensitivity to awkward friendships and I absolutely love Ruby Cowling’s precision and the unusual way she describes Adora’s allure. I will tell you that my favourite story in Unthology 3 (of those I’ve read) is ‘A Publisher Surveys the Changing Literary Scene’ by CD Rose. Completely hilarious and reminds me of early Martin Amis.

U: Tell us about yourself and where can we find you?

R: Smoked Meat, my debut, was published in 2011 by Flambard Press. It’s a collection of interlinked short stories set in the Montreal demi-monde. I’ve had quite a few stories published elsewhere in anthologies; this year I’ve had stories in The Warwick Review, in Red Room, an anthology of writing inspired by the Brontës, in the Bath Short Story Award eAnthology, the Nottingham Short Story Competition anthology and in Connecting Nothing with Something by Influx Press. I’m hoping to get my novel published eventually. I don’t have a website yet. I am on Twitter @RowenaMacdonald but I don’t tweet much. Mostly, I can be found cowering in Westminster’s corridors of power or poncing around east London. Or showing off on Facebook.



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