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On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with Scottish writer Brian Conaghan. His novel for young adults, The Bombs That Brought Us Together, published by Bloomsbury, is an all-to-relevant fable about language and loss, regimes and refugees and the forging of a common ground in the midst of real and perceived intractable differences between Old Country and Little Town.
"When the bombs came, just before midnight like the news guy said, I was underneath [huge blankets] in the fetal position, snug as a bug. Mom and Dad were in it with me. The bombs didn't thud the way I expected them to thud. There was no BOOM. There was no BANG. There was no ROAR. They echoed like fireworks going off in the sky."
The Bombs That Brought Us Together tells the story of fourteen year-old Charlie Law, and his new friend Pavel Duda, a refugee, who recently immigrated from Old Country. As the tension between Old Country and Little Town erupts into a bombing campaign, Charlie and Pav find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Charlie tries to teach Pav the lingo and the ways of Little Town as they work together to survive.
Brian Conaghan was born and raised in the Scottish town of Coatbridge but now lives n Dublin. He studied at the University of Glasgow and gained, among other things, a Masters of Letters in Creative Writing.
Conaghan left school at the age of sixteen to take up an apprenticeship in painting and decorating. After a few years spent up and down ladders on construction sites, he decided to return to college in an attempt to gain his secondary school qualifications.
Following an intense two-year combination of work and study, he received enough grades to further his education and discovered an enduring passion for books, writing, and drama. After the University, he co-founded the Vanishing Point Theatre Company.
He was an actor, DJ and he taught secondary school English in Scotland, Italy, and Ireland for a number of years. His first novel The Boy Who Made It Rain was published in 2011. Followed by, When Mr. Dog Bites, published in 2014 in the UK and USA.
When Mr. Dog Bites was short listed for the Carnegie Medal in 2015, attracting both prase and controversy for its honest, moving, and humorous depiction of a teenage boy with Tourette's syndrome.
The Bombs That Brought Us Together was published in 2016 to critical acclaim and won the prestigious Costa Children's Book Award. Conaghan co-authored with Carnegie Medal winner Sarah Crossan the verse novel, We Come Apart, published in February 2017. His new novel The Weight of A Thousand Feathers will be published in 2018.
Thank you to musicians and songwriters Nothing for Breakfast, Leopold and his Fiction, Amyjo Savannah, Ryan Sauders and the incomparable Nick Devlin for their amazing soundscapes that fill the silence of tragedy's aftermath with warmth and hope.
Listen to a song by Nick Devlin
Listen to the song "Ride" by Leopold and His Fiction
Listen to the band Nothing For Breakfast
Thank you to actors Nick Devlin and Leon Kockaya for lending your voices.
Thank you to writer Brian Conaghan, whose YA novel allows us to find the humane in the bomb's brutality, empathy and understanding in the rubble, and steadfast friendship in the ruinous outcomes of war
Executive Producer & Host: J. Bradley Minnick
Producer: Mary Ellen Kubit
Recorded by: Christopher Hickey
Intern: Krista Hancock