Culture Magazine

Ten Questions With Welsh Writer, Cynan Jones

By Americymru @americymru
welsh writer cynan jones small pic
cynan jones welsh writer large pic Cynan Jones lives near Aberaeron in west Wales. His first book, 'The Long Dry 'was published in June  2006. The novel , which won a Betty Trask Award in 2007 is set on a Mid Wales farm. His second book 'Everything I Found on The beach' is also set in West and North Wales. AmeriCymru dpoke to Cynan recently about his novels and his plans for the future.





AmeriCymru: Many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by AmeriCymru. What inspired you to become a writer? 

Cynan: I find it difficult to be around good things without wanting to try and do something good myself. If I eat amazing food, I want to learn to cook. Reading amazing books probably made me want to write, way back. But in terms of inspiration, I think the question is mostly asked the wrong way round. I didn't get 'inspired to be a writer.' A person is inspired, and they find an outlet for that. Be it chefing, or excellence in sport, or writing. It's driven by a great love of a thing and the consequent desire to want to do it well.
AmeriCymru: Your first book 'After The Factory' is somewhat difficult to find. Care to tell us a little more about it and whether it will become more easily obtainable in the future? 

Cynan: 'After the Factory' tells the story of Joseph Napoleon, a factory worker who comes home every night to his basement flat and, while trying to sleep, imagines the characters behind the footsteps that echo across the square outside his room.
It's a short work, but one that readers seem to like very much. It's very different from the two 'Welsh' novels. I'm hoping there will be some news on the 'After the Factory' front soon. I'll keep you posted.
AmeriCymru: In both your subsequent books:- 'Everything I Found on The Beach' and 'The Long Dry' the central characters life and circumstances are revealed through an intimate connection with their surroundings. How important is a sense of 'place' in your writing? 

Cynan: A good story should work even when it's lifted out of its setting - I'm talking about the key themes, the big motors of the thing. This is how great 'universal' tales are built, even when they are humble like 'The Old Man and the Sea'. But creating a sense of place is akin to setting the spell, making a world for a reader. It happens that the main characters are very linked to their environments in both these stories so the sense of place is vital. It's the environment I grew up in and am very close to. While I haven't written that intimacy in deliberately, its picked up majorly by readers.
AmeriCymru: You live in West Wales and your books reveal a strong familiarity with the rural lifestyle. What is your background? What did you do before you became a writer? 

Cynan: I grew up in West Wales and returned to live here at twenty eight after a stint in Glasgow working as a freelance copywriter. I grew up very close to my grandparents' farm, so spent most of my time there. The farm was small, sixty acres or so. But it had woods, fields and scrubland, and ran right down to a beach. It had an incredible range of places to play. I don't think I ever outgrew that. All I'm doing now really is playing made up games like I did when I was a kid. Just I'm writing things down rather than running round playing them.
Before now I've been a substitute teacher, mentored in a behavioural unit, worked on building sites and as a wine presenter. I've worked in aquariums, and in a kitchen. All sorts. I've done whatever it took to get by without getting tied up in a contract which wouldn't let me drop out to work on a book when I needed to.
AmeriCymru: Care to tell us a little more about The Long Dry. What can readers expect to find? How would you describe the book? 
the long dry by cynan jones front cover detailCynan: The Long Dry is the story of a bad day that gets worse. A calving cow goes missing, and the farmer has to try and find it. He is meanwhile beset by doubts and questions.

I wrote it very quickly (in ten days) and immediately knew it was the strongest thing I was capable of at the time. That was back in 2005. It was accepted for publication relatively soon after I wrote it. It went on to win a Society of Authors first novel award, and has been translated into French, Arabic and Italian. It is ostensibly a very simple thing, but people say it's very strong.


AmeriCymru: Everything I Found on The Beach paints a grim picture of life in rural West Wales. How has the area been affected by the current economic hard times? 
everything i found on the beach by cynan jones front cover detail Cynan: In some ways there hasn't been a major 'boom' here, so we're not as badly affected as those places that grew and swelled with the prior injection of affluence. Statistically, people here earn considerably less than the average wage, and house prices are higher than near anywhere in the UK as compared to earnings, (because of the huge second home market). In terms of jobs, there's not much to do. There's farming, but on small family run farms that are increasingly unfeasible. There's some factory work in relatively small factories. There's a university and hospital in Aberystwyth and lots of seasonal work in tourism related industries. The local authority is a major employer. But the quality of life if good. If you use and appreciate this area, it pays back. You don't need vast amounts to exist. The grim element perhaps comes from the limited choices here.
AmeriCymru: How difficult is it for Welsh writers to get published and to succeed these days?

Cynan: It is simply difficult to get published, Welsh or not. (You could even argue it's easier when you're Welsh, particularly writing in Welsh, because of the funding that makes that process possible).
When I decided to write I said to myself: write as strongly as you can, everything else is a side effect. I've stuck by that. However, the key thing now is visibility. Breaking through the London-dominated media wall is difficult, and perhaps they don't take Welsh publishers as seriously as they should. In France and Italy my work had big reviews in major newspapers, with some extraordinary critical acclaim. The next step, as well as continuing to write strongly, is to get that attention on my own turf.
AmeriCymru: What do you read for pleasure? Any recommendations?

Cynan: I read massive amounts. Writers like Steinbeck, McCarthy, Carver and so on are on a different level. Brink, Coetze. Graham Greene, Orwell. The great writers. When you write yourself, the quality of the writing has to be very very high. For something more recent, try 'The Solitude of Thomas Cave' by Georgina Harding.
AmeriCymru: What's next for Cynan Jones? What are you working on currently? 

Cynan: There's a new novel on the desk right now. Come the end of January, I'll start work on the final draft. It's called 'Traces of People.'
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru? 

Cynan: Keep reading! When you read something you like, tell everyone! 
Interview by Ceri Shaw Google+ Email

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