Peadar O’Guilin’s ‘The Call’ is a fast and gritty read which blends the boundaries between science fiction, horror and fantasy. Don’t lump it in with every other YA read that’s compared to The Hunger Games, though. ‘The Call’ has strong themes including mythology, poetry, and an unconventional heroine that instantly makes you fall in love with the story.
In this interview, Peadar chats influences, survival techniques and what’s next on his reading list.
‘The Call’ is a dystopian thriller packed with Irish mythology alongside humour and love. What were your main influences when writing the story?
I, Claudius by Robert Graves. The Divine Comedy by Dante, especially the descriptions of Hell! And, of course, I love the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch with all those horrific distorted creatures.
In the book teens are taken from their world to fight in the Grey Land against the Sidhe who are out for vengeance after being banished, did you base them on any tales that you’d been told in your youth?
The whole tale of the origin of the Sídhe comes straight out of Irish Mythology — especially the account recorded in The Book of Conquests. That’s a real book, by the way. Its original title is “Lebor Gabál Érenn”, which means “the book of the taking of Ireland”. It tells the story of all the tribes and peoples that ever invaded the island. It’s full of magic, violence and tragedy. It’s an amazing story!
What tactics would you use to survive The Call?
I’m not a great runner, unfortunately. I’d be looking for a place to hide. Luckily, as the author of ‘The Call‘, I know where all the best spots are!
A ‘call’ in the human world lasts 3 minutes and 4 seconds, yet it’s a whole day in the Grey Land. Why 3 minutes 4 seconds?
There’s no real reason for it. It needed to be short enough for tension to build. I added in the extra four seconds to make it all seem more natural. I don’t like things to be too neat.
Nessa is such a loveable character and doesn’t let her disability hold her back. What was your research process like to ensure her traits were portrayed correctly?
My research was limited to asking a few friends about their experiences and reading some articles. Mostly, though, I was basing Nessa’s life around the fact that nobody likes to be patronised or shoved into a box and dismissed. Certainly not someone as strong-willed as she is.
Nessa is an unlikely heroine, who would you like to play her if ‘The Call’ was turned into a movie?
I don’t know too many 14-year-old actresses, unfortunately, but somebody with Saoirse Ronan’s talent would be amazing!
We leave Nessa on a bus heading back to help the Nation survive, can we expect a sequel in the near future?
You definitely can! I’m working on one right now and struggling to come up with a good name for it. That’s supposed to be the easy part…
Can you tell us a bit about your writing strategy? What advice would you give to young people looking into getting published?
Everybody’s strategy is different, of course, but I think it’s great if you can set yourself a certain number of words to write per day and try to stick to it no matter what. Don’t keep rewriting those words. Just finish the story first and once it’s done, you have all the time in the world to make it presentable.
What books are currently on your TBR list?
‘Kid Got Shot‘ by Simon Mason
‘Into the Grey’ by Celine Kiernan
‘Children of the Different’ by S.C. Flynn
And many, many more!