Adrian Duncan – Ask Me Anything


Our Thursday #Sabbatical Tour event was a Twitter ‘Ask Me Anything’ hour with Adrian Duncan, author of A Sabbatical in Leipzig. The Twitter conversations can be found here – or, read on for a full compilation of questions and answers!

The Lilliput Press @LilliputPress

Welcome to today’s #SabbaticalTour event… an Ask Me Anything (#AMA ) with author @adrian_duncan_ ! Reply to this tweet with any questions you have! We’ll start… you travelled to Bilbao to research this book. How did your trip differ to a normal trip to a new city? #AskAdrian

This might be of interest to any #BookBloggers or #BookLovers out there! And don’t forget, @DubrayBooks are offering 10% off A Sabbatical in Leipzig with the code ‘leipzig’, so order now!

Adrian Duncan (@adrian_duncan_) When I decided to travel to Bilbao, it was at the part of the book where Michael, the narrator, is about to step out onto his small balcony and describe what he sees. This was about 3 weeks into writing the novel and my girlfriend Niamh suggested that if I wanted to bring …

… this part of the novel to life then i really ought to go there. So, in a sense, when I went to Bilbao, for about 4 days, I went there as Michael, a man in his mid to late 70s.

So the way that i might walk around Bilbao as Adrian Duncan varied greatly with how I walked …

… around as Michael Pura. His fascinations would be different to mine and where he could possibly walk too.

I began to find in the city traces of him, as it were, and it was from these traces that I could understand him and the writing then when I returned from Bilbao could …

… continue with this sort of experience at hand.

Margaret McLoughlin (@cubistsofa) Thanks, that’s really interesting to sort of travel as your character!! Hadn’t thought of research that way!

Adrian Duncan It’s weirdly exciting and weirdly exhausting, but it’s great for getting a voice, types of movement, personal preferences in food, space, buildings, etc.

Adrian Duncan I should say that I was able to do this travel because I’d received a bursary from the Arts Council. But I think this can also be done by simply going to the enxt town over, or to a place you’ve never been to –

Adrian Duncan you might ask : why bilbao in the first place?

Simply because i couldn’t shake this image I had when i visited there once briefly years ago, when I was in a small apartment with parquet flooring and the brown glow of that floor never left my minds eye, so when I began …

… imagining Michael, I though to myself, he would live where that glowing parquet flooring is, so that’s where I began and it all opened out from there … sometimes it is that incidental.



Alice Lyons (@alicelyons22) #AskAdrian Adrian, have you had any feedback from engineers who have read either Love Notes or Sabbatical ?

Adrian Duncan I have heard a few responses to Love Notes from people in the const. industry and I think they got a good laugh out of the shenanigans that can happen on site. Some architects have responded to Love Notes too, but I think any atchitects would be struck in ASIL as to how …

Michael (the narrator) seems to dislike them!

this is no reflection of my position, but I think Michael represents a sort of Victorian style of thinking that in terms of engineering and architecture is appropriately disconnected!

Alice Lyons Interesting. I ask, Adrian, because I think there is an audience for these two books among all sorts of workers in building/construction who would welcome a fictional space in which their lives/dilemmas are reflected. How to reach them?

Adrian Duncan I know. I think so too. I’m really unsure how connections of this kind could be made other than perhaps at the level of education?

I know you share an office with engineers at the uni in Sligo … it would take a sort of openday of that kind … I knwo Visual Carlow are great …

… collaborating with the engineering faculties in Carlow IT

Alice Lyons Yeah, ‘going forward’ as they say, I think interdis festivals/events would be really great places for you to readings/talks/events as your work is such a great link between eng/construction/arch and the arts

Adrian Duncan ‘going forward’ indeed…

There’s some curators and programmers who really engage with kind of cross-discipline stuff. I think they call it STEAM … Linda Doyle in TCD is brilliant, so too Anne Mulroney, Miranda Driscoll and you yourself in THE DOCK backin the day were really…

… good for mixing and blending.



Poddle Publications (@PoddleBook) Adrian, what are your top tips for new writers? People who are working on manuscripts as opposed to submitting to publishers. #AskAdrian

Adrian Duncan I think if your manuscript is a way off being ready for submission, then I think the best thing to do is keep working on it until you feel you can go no further with it. A sort of blindness sets in after working too much on an MS and it’s difficult to judge what is or is not …

… working. I find if you feel like an MS is ready, then sit on it for a few months, then, if you read again with fresh eyes and think its ready, send it to someone who you know will give their honest opinion on it. I have a friend who is a film maker and does not really work ..

… in the literary world. And his advice often when he reads and MS of mine is brilliant and focuses on things that are not ‘literary’ as it were.

In any case, I think only when you think the work is as well evolved as you can bring it, then submit and wait and wait.



Margaret McLoughlin (@cubistsofa) Hi Adrian, do you think the experience of writing your first novel influenced how you approached your second? #AskAdrian

Adrian Duncan Hi Margaret,

I learned so much from doing the first novel, not just as I flailed around myself, but moreso when I began editing it with Sean Farrell at Lilliput. I learned a tonne from that experience and it made the approach to ASIL a little less daunting. I could sort of …

intuit a little better when and where to release or build detail, when to hold back, when to open up, etc. The rhythmns in a novel I think are different and its hard to measure them; I think you have to sort of feel them, and only by doing it I think can you really learn those ..

… rhythms.

i’d say my first short stories are just explosions that happened to come together into somethign like a narrative, whereas with the novel, once the initial surge of energy arrives it’s a little different sustaining the world you are tying to make.



Amy O’Sullivan (@amy_os1) Hi Adrian! Do you approach writing short stories differently to writing longer works like your novels ? #AskAdrian #SabbaticalTour

Adrian Duncan Not really. I approach all of this writing with a fews rule: don’t know where this is going, don’t know how it will end.

usually i begin to write becasue there is some image or phrase or feeling or sentence nagging me. I usually wake in the morning to this sense and if I keep …

waking in the morning to this sense then I sit and begin to write. And if the energy in this nagging things is large then the thing I write could become novel length, or sometimes if putters out after a page or sometimes if becomes a short story.

The prologue ASIL was first a short story that I wrote after being nagged by this idea that two people lying in bed could be considered a brige or a structure of some kind. So I got out of bed and wrote this. Then two years later after writing the opening to ASIL, I realised …

the short story written long before ASIl would make a good prologue.

so it’s really what kind of energy is in the sense that dictates how long or short the work is I think.




Poddle Publications (@PoddleBook) I have another question, if that’s OK! Who’s your favourite author, or influences? #AskAdrian

Adrian Duncan Gerald Murnane is my favourite writer. I read ten of his books in a row last year and was stunnned by every single one of them.

I’m working on a new novel now and I find in the morning watching an hour or 2 of Bela Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies ..

… helps me establish a rhythm and a mood.

The novel is set in the 50s so to go from the pace of today into writing about then without some mediation would be tricky!

I have been reading a good bit of Ann Quin of late and i think she was completely brilliant…

… Berg, for instance, is stunning, stunning.

Poddle Publications Going on my ‘to read’ pile!!



Lilliput Press On this, music plays a big part in Sabbatical – is music and rhythm important to you? You already know a lot about architecture and art – do you play music too?!

Adrian Duncan I ‘can’ play one tune on the piano – the rosebud waltz. I learned it when I was 12.

I don’t ever listen to music when I write, but I found carrying out the  musical experiment that Michael carries in the novel to be interesting. I had to do it myself to see what on earth it …

… would sound like.

I listen to records a good bit more often now and that is such a different experience to listening on a computer or an Ipod, or iphone or whatever.

Also the cover design of old records is incredibly interesting.

The Lilliput Press Sitting between two spinning records, playing simultaneously, going to Bilbao – you really inhabited Michael’s space. #sabbticaltour #virtualbooktour

Adrian Duncan to use the current parlance: ‘i went there’



Lilliput Press That wraps up our live #AskAdrian for today! If you’ve any more questions, tweet them here and @adrian_duncan_ might reply later on! Thanks everyone for taking part and to @DubrayBooks  – get 10% off A Sabbatical in Leipzig with the code ‘leipzig’ until tomorrow! #SupportWriters

Adrian Duncan Thanks, Amy and Ruth!

Thanks all who ‘dropped by’ as it were.

It was a blast!

Hopefully see you all soon,