The Homecoming by Dougie McHale
Q: Welcome to my blog Dougie. Can you give the readers a brief overview of your book, The Homecoming.
Thank you for inviting me Chrissie.
The Homecoming is about Louis Satriani’s discovery that the life he thought he lived and shared turned out to be a lie. He is forced into a journey of self-discovery. It also explores the theme that events and choices people make in the past can often resonate in the present and influence the future. At its essence The Homecoming is a love story where the two main characters try to overcome their conflicts in the face of adversity.
In an attempt to escape his past Louis travels through Greece, an experience he hopes will help him reconstruct his life and rediscover a sense of normality. Gradually he feels himself connecting to the landscape, sea, culture and people of Greece which begin to shape and influence his life. When visiting Olympia, Louis meets Maria, a tour guide and she invites him to the island of Zakynthos where he hopes to erase the loss of the hopes and dreams that once galvanized his life?
The circumstances that have brought Louis and Maria together embroil them in conflicting emotions forcing them to face and confront their feelings for each other, opening old wounds that resonate in the present. The ghosts of Louis’ past are never far and a friend’s revelation leads to the discovery of an event that has powerful ramifications for both Louis and Maria forcing Louis to choose between his heart and head.
To sum it up, The homecoming encapsulates love, loss, identity, reconciliation and a quest to solve a secret, set against the backdrop of Edinburgh, the Greek mainland and the Ionian island of Zakynthos.
Q: What inspired you to write The Homecoming?
I wrote a travel journal/book of my visit to the island of Zakynthos many years ago. It was my first serious attempt at writing a book but it was never published. I didn’t know it at the time but it was to influence the writing of The Homecoming which has Zakynthos as its main backdrop. I used that piece of writing as my research when the story line of the novel moves to Zakynthos. The main backdrop in the novel was always going to be Greece that was never in doubt. I’m also inspired by what it means to be human, our thoughts, feelings, emotions and beliefs and how such things influence our relationships with others and our personal stories.
Q: Why was it important for you to write The Homecoming?
It was the book I was always going to write and it grew with me. I wrote it over a period of a few years and during that time my writing developed and improved. Many years ago when I wrote my first ever song I thought it was good at the time, however, as I learned the art of song writing I realized that as a process it takes time and a lot of practice before you finally get it right. Learning to write a novel was the same. I revisited the plot and prose which involved lots of drafts and with each visit it was like getting acquainted with an old friend again. Initially its flaws and weakness were all to evident but with time its strengths and potential matured into a story that I really cared about as eventually my writing improved and I felt competent with my style. It became a potent part of my life. As my writing progressed, the characters developed into intricate individuals with private and personal sides, their hopes, motivation, dreams and conflicts drove the plot forward. They became like real people to me who I empathized with and who I had watched grow and develop.
Q: The Homecoming is set in a few locations, including Edinburgh, the Greek mainland and the Greek island of Zakynthos. What made you choose those locations?
I’m interested in identifying with a physical place and the feeling of belonging therefore Edinburgh and especially Greece are prominent in my writing. Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it is rich in history, has amazing classical buildings, (the new town of Edinburgh is a world heritage site) and it also has vibrant restaurants and café bars, and last but not least, Hibernian football Club.
Greece occupies my heart. Her history, culture, religion, people, landscape, light, colours and sea inspire me every day. There is almost a spiritual quality to it but then maybe that’s just me. Zakynthos is one of the main jewels in Greece’ crown and I’ve always been transfixed by its landscapes, light, sea and ambience.
In the book Louis finds refuge in the character of the sea, it becomes a comfort to him and he feels connected to its constant presence. He becomes aware of an awakening in himself and this became an important symbol in the novel.
Q: Did writing The Homecoming involve any research?
Yes it did. I researched Zakynthos’ history of occupation, the earthquake of 1953 and modern day Zakynthos. My time on the island, the places I visited and the people I met helped to inform my writing and hopefully make the parts of the novel set in Zakynthos feel authentic and real. I did some reading on classical Greece, as part of the novel is set in the village and ancient site of Olympia, the home of the original Olympics.
I also had to make sure that the locations Louis visited in Greece were accessible and geographically correct. I also did a bit of research on the town of Nafplion and relied on my memory for Athens and Kyllini.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about writing?
I love the creative process. I get a lot of satisfaction from writing words that become sentences, paragraphs and finally chapters that have the potential to connect with the reader by conjuring images within their minds eye with the possibility to evoke potent emotions, laughter, sadness, empathy etc. I like to observe human behavior and mannerisms. I often listen to how people speak and watch the gestures they use to communicate with one another. It informs my writing and characterization. I love the feeling I get when I’m satisfied with a piece I’ve just written.
To know that people are actually reading my book, meeting the characters and hopefully emotionally responding to them and their story is quite humbling actually.
Q: What do you dislike the most about writing?
I’m not one of those authors who can write a book in a few months. I can’t write every day, it doesn’t work like that for me. I often jot down bits and pieces but I need to be inspired to write, I can’t force it. I have lots of paper with ideas, dialogue and scenes prepared before I write on the lap top. I’d love to be able to write 1000 words a day or even 2000 a week but to do that I’d need to be a full time author; life has the habit of getting in the way. I don’t dislike anything about writing, how can I dislike something I love.
Q: Do you read? If so what type of books do you read?
I love books that have a sense of place and time, which draw you into the social and cultural complexities with ease. I like the characters to speak to me from the page, where I can identify with them, their hopes, fears, conflicts, loves and emotion, for me that is when a character becomes real and it’s at that point that I want to know what is going to happen to them, where is their life taking them in the story.
Q: Do you have a favorite author? If so, who and why?
I often read Sebastian Faulks, William Boyd, Anita Shreive and Carlos Ruiz Zafon. At the moment I’ve just finished Midnight in St Petersburg by Vanora Bennett. The common denominator is that they all write about what it really means to be human through our relationships with the world and each other. Most importantly they write good stories with beautiful prose.
Q: You used to be a musician, does music influence your writing at all, and do you listen to music when you write?
Actually I do. I normally put music on while I write it has become an integral part of my writing routine, I have it on in the background. For me, it sets the right mood. I enjoy a wide and diverse range in musical taste but throughout the writing process of The Homecoming I listened to classical music from the Baroque period, especially composers like Corelli and Boccherini.
Q: What’s next for Dougie McHale? Will you be writing more books and if so can you give us an idea of what they will be about?
I‘m writing my second book now but at the rate I write it won’t be finished anytime soon. I’m about a third of the way through. I originally had the idea of placing it in Edinburgh and Mallorca but now that I’ve published my first book I’m beginning to think that I should stick with Greece. It would mean some minor changes to the plot and location but it could still work. I’m open to suggestions.
Quick fire round:
Sweet or savoury – Savoury and spicy.
Beach or countryside – countryside and city.
EBook or paperback – paperback.
Cream tea or Fish and Chips – strong coffee and wine
Classic or modern – depends on my mood.
Sun or Snow – Mediterranean Sun.
About the author:
In a past life Dougie has been a musician and song writer, playing in several bands, performing live and recording music. He has a degree in Learning Disability nursing and a post graduate diploma in autism. He is a children and young person’s learning disability nurse with a specialist interest in autism. Dougie lives in Dunfermline, Fife, with his wife, teenage daughter, older son and golden retriever. The Homecoming is his first novel, inspired by a love of all things Greek, her islands, people, landscapes, sea, light and ambience all of which are important themes and symbols in his writing.