An Interview with Cynan Jones

Ahead of his appearance on Friday at the Penzance Literary Festival, Gabby speaks to Cynan about his groundbreaking short novel, Cove.

Cynan Jones is an award-winning author who has been hailed as 'one of the most talented writers in Wales ... or Britain.'

GW: What inspired you to write Cove, and was it influenced by personal experience?

CJ: I wanted to handle a narrative that didn't use the solid ground my other stories have relied on. The sea - which I pretty much see every day - was the place for this to play out. My own experiences, some of them decades old, fed into the narrative. The key moment, that fused the story, was understanding I had to hit the character with lightning. Happily, I've not had that experience.


GW: What is the significance of the structure of Cove?

CJ: Cove needed slippage in the narrative. The surface had to shift. Using changes of tense and perspective gave the in, out, up, down sense of the water. Much of the story had to be sunk below that meniscus. And there had to be wide space above and beyond it. The temporal shifts helped this too. 


GW: What was the most difficult aspect of the book to write?

CJ: The structure!


GW: Did writing Cove change the way you experience the sea?

CJ: No. But there is a guy out there on a kayak every time I look at the bay now. 


GW: What interests you about the relationship between nature and humanity?

CJ: Nature brings us back to earth. It's too easy to be hijacked by what, bluntly, are relatively inane preoccupations. Nature levels us, and puts things into perspective.


GW: In Cove, thought and memory are disoriented by the sea and storm - why do you feel that this is important?

CJ: My other books have very much been grounded in landscape and relationships. I wanted to write a story from which those things were stripped away.

Also, the characters in most of my stories have had strong and clear purpose. I wanted to blitz that. At the same time maintain a sense of proto-purpose. Something so strong and basic it survived the strike. 


GW: Did you ever consider changing the character's isolation, as central as it is to the narrative?

At no point. That was the challenge of the book. A man alone on a kayak. A lot more happened than made it into the final cut, but he was always alone. Or, rather, was always isolated.


GW: What do you think readers will take away from Cove?

CJ: Hope. I hope.


GW: You have had an extremely successful career, what do you anticipate doing next?

CJ: Working to make that statement true.

You can find out more about Cynan on his website and about his appearance at the Litfest here

by Gabby Willcocks