26 Oct 2013

A Kettle of Fish by Ali Bacon

I invited author Ali Bacon along to talk about the inspiration behind her latest novel, the unusually titled A Kettle of Fish...
What inspired me to write a book about fish? Well of course my novel A Kettle of Fish is really no such thing: it’s a coming-of-age story set in Scotland where the heroine deals with a tumultuous love life, a needy parent and some nasty family secrets. But from the second chapter, where Ailsa runs into a local fishmonger (soon to become her boyfriend) there is most definitely a fishy theme, and to tell you the truth I’m not sure where it came from!
The book as a whole, the setting that is and some of the minor characters (not the plot!) was inspired by my childhood in Fife, but although fish was a crucial part of our weekly menu (haddock as a rule, but sometimes, in those far off 1960s, herring too) I don’t remember it playing such a big role in my life as it comes to do in Ailsa’s. Because although she eventually dumps the boyfriend (I don’t think that’s too much to give away!) she never quite lets go of her attraction to the sea and all it contains.
But that’s the thing about writing. However much you plan where a character is going, once they are on the page they have a habit of going in a rather different direction to the one you planned out for them. This can be quite disconcerting, but it also feels like a sign that the character has come to life and it would be wrong not to go with the flow.
From this you’ll guess I’m what’s known in the writing trade as a ‘pantser’ (someone who writes ‘by the seat of the pants’) rather than a ‘plotter’ (someone who only starts writing when they have the plot all worked out in advance). Of course I do have a rough idea of where things are going, but I’m always ready to change exactly how I’m going to get there. I also find in most of my writing, that although I begin with ‘writing what I know’ (e.g. growing up in Scotland) I soon find myself more interested in the things I don’t know (like the lifestyle of a shady dealer in picture rights!) because after all, fiction really is about making it up.
This writing method (or lack of) does make completing a novel a rather difficult affair involving a lot of rewriting and restructuring along the way, but somehow this is what keeps me going. If I’m too sure of what’s coming, I seem to lose interest in getting it down!
I do sometimes wonder if I chose the right title for Kettle – after all it doesn’t say much about what the book is about - but it did seem in keeping with my quirky heroine and her story. And the whole fishy theme turned out to be quite important for me. In the later part of the book, Ailsa and her friends visit the Edinburgh fishing village of Newhaven, home in the 19th century to a community of fisherfolk who happened to be the subjects of some of the earliest photographs ever taken. To provide detail on this I did some hasty research – at least that was my intention. But I soon found myself delving further and further into the story of these early photographers so that I am now putting them in my next novel – something else I most certainly didn’t plan!

About the author
Ali Bacon was born in Dunfermline in Scotland and graduated from St Andrews University. Her writing has been published in Scribble, The Yellow Room and a number of online magazines. She was shortlisted for the A&C Black First Novel Competition 2006. She now lives near Bristol. A Kettle of Fish is her first published novel.
Website and blog: http://alibacon.com
Twitter @AliBacon

A Kettle of Fish is a rollercoaster family drama set in Scotland and published by Thornberry Publishing
Buy it from Amazon UK (£1.99) or Amazon USA in Kindle format.
Print edition: ISBN 9781781768624
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/AKettleOfFish

Ali’s next project is an anthology of prose and poetry celebrating reading, writing and libraries, in conjunction with Bristol Women Writers http://www.writersunchained.wordpress.com proceeds to the National Literacy Trust


  1. Hi Suzy - thanks so much for hosting me and my writing today. I'm out at a writing event later but will try to pop by from time to time :) Ali B

  2. Nice interview - enjoyed it. Lovely book !

  3. Ali, it was my pleasure! You're welcome here any time! xx

    Jaffareadstoo... thanks for popping by! x


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