Edinburgh International Book Festival blog: Heather McDaid reports on the Kirsty Logan and Sara Maitland event at Charlotte Square
Some of the most interesting events can be more than just a single favourite author, but two who specialise in the same format, approaching it very differently. Step forward Kirsty Logan and Sara Maitland.
Kirsty’s collection The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales blends an incredible range of genres, from sci-fi to the fairytale, in themes of love, loss and lust. Sara’s new collection Moss Witch finds her speaking to scientists to blend the fundamentals of their speciality with folklore, creating an equally diverse range of work.
The event starts with readings. Kirsty opts for the title story of her own collection, an emotive 15 minutes of exchanging mechanical hearts from a store following personal heartbreak. Sara’s is a bold rendition of Her Bonxie Boy, smattered with interruptions of her explaining the story or additional information on this island tale.
It’s almost 40 minutes in before questions start, but they’re to the point. With Logan’s range in genres clear throughout The Rental Heart, how did she go about creating this fusion?
“It wasn’t really on purpose,” she smiles. “I have lots of interests, and just cram everything that I love into my writing.” Some of her stories were actually written five years ago, and this collection spans her growth as a writer, so it seems naturally eclectic.
“Most things in life come down to love of some kind,” she explains, when pressed on the overriding theme of her work. Whether it’s being happy, love of friends, or struggling with love of ourselves. “Good things can come of the bad especially if you just use them,” she adds. Emotions based on our life would be literally outlandish if they were in her books, but the “mythical framework helps to explore the emotions”.
Sara’s collection sees her tackle how bad the science in sci-fi is, talking to actual scientists and being asked to “generate metaphors of the work they do as short stories”. She loved the idea of doing one so much, she asked to do a full collection, assuming scientists were sourced for her, of course.
What she learned along the way was that career enjoyment seemed to go hand in hand with the perceived quality of their work. “The better the science, the more they enjoyed it,” she notes. In the numbers she met, some post grad students seemed less enthusiastic than their senior counterparts.
But most importantly, she wasn’t going to publish something that skewed the fundamentals of what they’d told her. “Once it was all written, they’d comment about the story,” Sara says. “I fictionalised science, then they scientifically looked over it!”
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