The narrator of Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English has been compared to those of Emma Donoghue’s Room and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Here, the author tells us why he wrote in the voice of a child.
Describe your book in one sentence.
Pigeon English is the story of one 11-year-old boy’s new life in a strange country, and of his attempts to solve the murder of his friend.
What was your reaction when you found out your first novel would be published?
I was surprised, elated, honoured and grateful. I’d wanted to be a published author for as long as I can remember, so it was very much the fulfilment of a dream.
Have you ever been tempted to quit writing?
I always said to myself that if Pigeon English didn’t sell, I would consider abandoning my dream of making it as a writer. But I don’t know if I could have followed through on that; writing is my passion and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Was it challenging to write from the point of view of an 11-year-old boy? Why did you choose to employ a child narrator?
It was challenging to write from a child’s point of view but also very enjoyable. Harrison, my narrator’s, use of language and his sheer exuberance made every day I spent with him a joy. I wanted to capture what it feels like to be a child dropped into an alien and often dark situation, and to see how he would react, how he might retain his own morality—as well as his natural childish sense of fun—in the face of many challenges. The decision to write Harrison’s story in his own words was a no-brainer.
Besides reading and writing, what do you like to do for fun?
I love movies and music—all kinds, I have an eclectic taste— and I enjoy travelling. The world is a beautiful and inspiring place and I want to see as much of it as I can.