1830s Bermondsey, London’s most notorious slum, a land of gang wars and freak shows. Dr. Thomas Grant, a disgraced physician, adopts Wynfield, a ten-year old thief savagely battered by a gang leader for insubordination. The boy grows up to be an idealistic opium addict who worships Victor Hugo.
Q: You mentioned having to defend and explain your interest in Irish history.
A: When people find out I'm not Irish by blood, they ask me, "Why do you write about Ireland? You're not Irish." But then, does one need to be a vampire to write about vampires? Does on need to be a serial killer to write a murder mystery? My parents were a mixed couple, ethnically and ideologically, so I have first-hand experience of tension. With a Russian pro-imperialist mother and Polish nationalist father, the atmosphere in the house was always heated. It's both humorous and dramatic. My Irish last name is from my husband. I've been with him since my late teens. We met at the height of Celtic revival in the late 1990s. He's my hero and my muse, the most exquisite other-worldly male specimen.
Q: Your debut novel Wynfield's Kingdom set during the Crimean War took you 16 years to write.
A: I often joke that the novel has been through more revisions than Michael Jackson's nose. I wrote the first draft at the age of 15 and set it aside. Then more than a decade later, I revisited it and made some significant changes to the storyline. It was published by Fireship Press when I was 31. The main character stayed the same. It was my goal to create an iconic Victorian child-hero.
Q: You dub yourself as a disaster writer.
A: They say "write what you know". I say, you should write what comes naturally to you. I am a very tense, aggressive, negative person, and writing about disasters is second nature. You can tell from my picture. Each of my novels features some sort of disaster, be it political, military, natural or psychological. I've written about the Irish Famine, the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Easter Rising, and, last but not least, the Chernobyl explosion.
Q: Tell us about your latest novel, Saved by the Bang: a Nuclear Comedy. I understand, it's autobiographical?
A: Correct. My friends and readers have been begging me to write something autobiographical. So I have to give people what they want, even if it's something they are not ready to palate. Set in the radioactive swamps of Belarus in the aftermath of the Chernobyl explosion, Saved by the Bang is tagged as a nuclear comedy. Like I said before, I believe that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand. If you hear a boo-hoo, chances are, there's a ha-ha around the corner. Some readers find my sense of humor disturbing. I've been called heartless and insensitive. And yes, there is a lot of unsavory material in the novel: second trimester abortion, cancer, birth defects, rape. I don't depict those things to shock the reader. I write them because that's how it was in a society where human life is not valued. I know I come across as a cynic, but actually I have profound respect for God and life. I'm staunch pro-life activist, even though the tone of my works is not always life-affirming.
Marina Julia Neary
# # #
About the Author
Marina Julia Neary spent her early years in Eastern Europe and came to the United States at the age of thirteen. She now lives in Stamford, Connecticut with her husband and young son. An award-winning historical essayist, multilingual arts & entertainment journalist, she is a published poet, playwright, actress, dancer and choreographer. A specialist on the obscure works of Victor Hugo, Marina's novel Wynfield's Kingdom is a narrative version of Hugo in London. Her poetry has appeared in literary journals such as First Edition, Alimentum and The Recorder. In addition to her writing career,Marina has starred in independent art and horror films, and she is currently working on an adaptation of one of her novels. Find out more at Marina's blog.