Paul Ewen will be appearing at this year’s Dulwich Festival, possibly with his friend and literary companion, Francis Plug. If Francis can keep away from the bar long enough that is. In an attempt to understand a bit more about this mercurial and magnificent comic character, we spoke to Paul.
Your novel, ‘Francis Plug: How To Be A Public Author’, received widespread praise and plaudits in the literary world. Tell us a bit about how the character Francis Plug was born.
The name actually came about before the character did. I started getting real authors to sign their books to Francis Plug about ten years ago. While attending the author events, to get the books signed, the character of Francis began to evolve. To date, well over a hundred books have been signed to Francis Plug.
What is your experience of the Francis Plug type fan? Is your observation based on personal experience?
Author events don’t tend to attract that many nutters, at least from what I’ve seen. But I’m sure there are many writers, either established or emerging, who sympathise with the anxieties Francis has about leaving the writing desk for the stage and spotlight.
Can we expect to see the return of Francis Plug any time soon?
In How To Be A Public Author, Francis is very much a writer in the making. I think it would be interesting to see how he gets on as a fully-fledged public author.
You are currently writer in residence at the University of Greenwich, how is that going?
I love it. Most of the University is housed in the Old Naval College, where I’m based, and it’s an amazing location. As I tell the students, it’s a very rich source of material. Henry VIII was born on the grounds, Sir Christopher Wren designed the buildings, and now you have the likes of Johnny Depp wandering around, for film shoots.
What does being a writer-in-residence at the University entail?
At Greenwich, I am very fortunate to be given the time, money and space to write. I also get involved with the Creative Writing students, offering advice and critiques on their work. And I’ve been helping out with the newly created Greenwich Book Festival, which continues on the University grounds this year at the end of May.
What brought you to the UK from your native New Zealand?
My father is English (a Geordie), and I expect I have some sort of homing mechanism inbuilt. I also had a healthy diet of British books and television when I was growing up, so there are some strong bonds. But I was all for a new NZ flag…
Does not being a native of the UK make it easier to satirise British culture?
I suppose so. When you observe things as an ‘outsider,’ you probably pick up on things that local people might take for granted. However, Francis is very self-deprecating, so I think he bears much of the satire himself.
Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on at the moment and what your readers can look forward to next?
Galley Beggar Press published Francis Plug, and I am currently working on a new book for them, set in Greenwich. Galley Beggar is a wonderful independent press who first discovered and published Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing. More recently they published Alex Pheby’s Playthings, currently shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize. Please support them! galleybeggar.co.uk
You can buy tickets to see Paul at the festival here: http://dulwichfestival.co.uk/product/francis-plug-paul-ewen-shakespeare-never-did-this/