The writer Ely Percy

Friday 27th March 2020

Q1) The book most influential for you as a young person

When I was about 20, a tutor at an evening creative writing class recommended James Kelman’s Booker-Prize-winning, stream-of-consciousness novel How Late It Was, How Late. Around the same time, she also set us an exercise to write ‘under the influence’ of a Scottish author, and I chose to mimic the voice of Kelman’s Glaswegian narrator, Sammy.

Despite having previously enjoyed the Edinburgh vernacular in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, it was not until I read How Late that it dawned on me that I was also allowed to have a go at writing in Scots. That’s when I discovered I had a good ear for dialogue.

Still it wasn’t till five years later that I found my own writing voice and started working on Duck Feet, the first of sixty-five short stories all told from the perspective of Kirsty Campbell, a twelve-year-old girl living in a Renfrew housing scheme as she goes from first through to sixth year of high school.

Q2) The book I have read more than any other

The Great Gatsby. We did it for higher English in school and I was obsessed. To date, I’ve read it fourteen times but not for about a decade because I thoroughly sickened myself with it. I should probably give it a reread soon.

Funnily enough, Kirsty and her pals study Gatsby for higher English too and there’s a whole short story ('Romantic') dedicated to their ridiculous interpretation of it.

Q3) A book that you despise

There’s lots of books I dislike or can’t connect with, but I can’t think of any that I fully despise…

Q4) A book full of beautiful writing

Written On The Body by Jeanette Winterson.

Q5) The book you've been meaning to read for years, but haven't

George Orwell’s 1984. I once borrowed it off a pal and she asked for it back after I’d had it for over a year.

Q6) The book you're reading currently

Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobin. It’s the third fantasy book in her ‘Farseer Trilogy’ and it follows the story of royal bastard and trained assassin, Fitzchivalry Farseer.

Q7) Your favourite short story

That’s a hard one … my favourite story that I’ve read this year is Rhiannon Grist’s ‘The Anxiety Gene’ which was published in ‘Shoreline Of Infinity’. Kirsty Logan’s ‘Queer Zombie Disco’ and Camilla Grudova’s ‘Unstitching’ are joint close seconds.

Q8) Your all-time favourite novel

This changes all the time. Right now, it’s not one book but the whole trilogy I’m currently rereading.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what I love about 'The Farseer Trilogy'. It makes me laugh out loud and it makes weep and, despite Fitz being a straight, cisgender man, it’s really really queer. The characters are great, and the world of the story is so immersive and incredibly attentive-to-detail. These books make me want to write fantasy; they make me want to be a better writer. ●

Ely Percy is a Scottish fiction writer, a memoirist and an epistolarian.
Their first work ‘Cracked: Recovering From Traumatic Brain Injury’ (JKP, 2002) took the form of both a creative and an academic text; they graduated with distinction from Glasgow University’s MPhil in Creative Writing in 2004, and since then their work has appeared in many reputable literary journals (e.g. The Edinburgh Review, The Scotsman Orange, New Writing Scotland, Causeway). Over the last fifteen years, Percy has facilitated countless writing workshops for various minority groups; they’ve been writer-in-residence in a prison, they’ve edited a lesbian publication, they’ve worked as a community librarian in an LGBT centre.
Their debut novel 'Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz' was published on 15th March 2019 by Knight Errant Press, and the forthcoming book 'Duck Feet' will be published this year by Monstrous Regiment Publishing.
t: @decenthumanbean