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Dougie McHale

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The Homecoming

The Homecoming is about Louis Satriani and his discovery that the life he shares with his partner is a lie. He is forced into a journey of self-discovery. It also explores the theme that events and choices people make in the past can often resonate in the present and influence the future. At its essence, The Homecoming is a love story where the two main characters try to overcome their conflicts in the face of adversity.   

In an attempt to escape his past, Louis travels to Greece, an experience he hopes will help him reconstruct his life and once again rediscover a sense of normality. Gradually, he feels himself connecting to the landscape, sea, culture and people of Greece which begin to shape and influence his life.   When visiting Olympia, Louis meets Maria, a tour guide and she invites him to the island of Zakynthos, her home, where he hopes to erase the loss of the hopes and dreams that once galvanized his life? 

The circumstances that have brought Louis and Maria together, embroil them in conflicting emotions, forcing them to face and confront their feelings for each other, opening old wounds that resonate in the present. The ghosts of Louis’ past are never far and a friend’s revelation leads to the discovery of an event that has powerful ramifications for both Louis and Maria, forcing Louis to choose between his heart and head.

The homecoming encapsulates love, loss, identity, reconciliation and a quest to solve a secret, set against the backdrop of Edinburgh, the Greek mainland and the Ionian island of Zakynthos.

I wrote a travel journal/novel of my visit to the island of Zakynthos many years ago. It was my first serious attempt at writing a novel but it was never published. It was to influence the writing of The Homecoming when the story line of the novel moves to Zakynthos. The main backdrop in the novel was always going to be Greece, that was never in doubt. I’m inspired by what it means to be human, our thoughts, feelings, emotions and beliefs and how such things influence our relationships with others and our personal stories. 

It was the novel I was always going to write. I wrote it over a period of a few years and during that time my writing developed, and improved, and it grew with me. Many years ago, when I wrote my first ever song, I thought it was good at the time. However, as I learnt the art of song writing, I soon realised that, as a process, it takes time and a lot of practice before you finally get it right.  Writing the novel was the same. I revisited the plot and prose which involved lots of drafts and with each visit it was like getting acquainted with an old friend again. Initially its flaws and weakness were all too evident but with time its strengths and potential matured into a story that I really cared about as eventually my writing improved and I felt competent with my style. It became a potent part of my life.   As my writing progressed, the characters developed into intricate individuals with private and personal sides, their hopes, motivation, dreams and conflicts drove the plot forward. They became like real people who I empathized with and who I had watched grow and develop.

I’m interested in identifying with a physical place and the feeling of belonging therefore Edinburgh and especially Greece are prominent in my writing. Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it is rich in history, has amazing classical buildings, (the new town of Edinburgh is a world heritage site) and it also has vibrant restaurants and café bars, and last but not least, Hibernian football Club.

Greece occupies my heart. Her history, culture, religion, people, landscape, light, colours and sea inspire me every day. There is a spiritual quality to it. Zakynthos is one of the main jewels in Greece’ crown and I’ve always been transfixed by its landscapes, light, sea and ambience.

In the novel, Louis finds refuge in the character of the sea, it becomes a comfort to him and he feels connected to its constant presence. He becomes aware of an awakening in himself and this became an important symbol in the novel.

I researched Zakynthos’ history of occupation, the earthquake of 1953 and modern day Zakynthos. My time on the island, the places I visited and the people I met helped to inform my writing and hopefully make the parts of the novel set in Zakynthos feel authentic and real. I did some reading on classical Greece, as part of the novel is set in the village and ancient site of Olympia, the home of the original Olympics. 

I also had to make sure that the locations Louis visited in Greece were accessible and geographically correct. I did a bit of research on the town of Nafplion and relied on my memory for Athens and Kyllini.

I love the creative process. I get a lot of satisfaction from writing words that become sentences, paragraphs and finally chapters that have the potential to connect with the reader by conjuring images within their minds eye with the possibility to evoke potent emotions, laughter, sadness, empathy etc.  I like to observe human behaviour and mannerisms. I often listen to how people speak and watch the gestures they use to communicate with one another. It informs my writing and characterization. I love the feeling I get when I’m satisfied with a piece I’ve just written.

To know that people are actually reading my novel, meeting the characters and hopefully emotionally responding to them and their story is quite humbling actually.

I’m not one of those authors who can write a novel in a few months. I can’t write every day, it doesn’t work like that for me. I often jot down bits and pieces but I need to be inspired to write, I can’t force it. I have lots of paper with ideas, dialogue and scenes prepared before I write on the lap top.  I’d love to be able to write 1000 words a day or even 2000 a week but to do that I’d need to be a full time author; life has the habit of getting in the way.

I want my novels to have a sense of time and place, drawing the reader into the social and cultural complexities of the characters. I want my characters to speak from the page, where the reader can identify with them, their hopes, fears, conflicts, loves and emotion, that is when a character becomes real to the reader and it’s at that point the reader will want to know what is going to happen to the characters, where is their life taking them in the story.

The common denominator is; I‘d like my novels to be about what it really means to be human through our relationship with our world, our environment and with each other. Most of all, I’d like them to be good stories with beautiful prose.

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