Padraig Kenny is an Irish writer from County Kildare, now living in Limerick. Previously an arts journalist, a teacher and a librarian's assistant, he now writes full-time. He is married with four children.
His first novel TIN was a Waterstones Book of the Month and was nominated for the Carnegies, as well as being shortlisted for the Irish Book Award and several regional awards. His latest book, Stitch, is drawn from the myth of Frankenstein's monster.
Stitch (Walker Books) January 2024
Inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Padraig Kenny's latest novel Stitch follows a boy who has been created by a professor, and explores his journey into the world; a journey from innocence to experience. Like Frankenstein's monster, Stitch is feared and reviled but his many kindnesses encourage people around him to start to question who really is the monster in their midst?
Review: "I loved this book, and I would use it in class to look into deeper meaning of text as well as the big concepts of difference and humanity."
Author Q&A: ReadingZone asks Padraig Kenny why he wanted to revisit Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as inspiration for Stitch,
the challenges in writing it, and what he hopes his readers will find in its pages:
1. Can you tell us about yourself and how you started out as an author? What's been your favourite moment as an author?
I started writing professionally in the 90s when I wrote some radio plays, then I went into script writing spec scripts for TV and film. I'd abandoned writing novels in the mid 90s because I didn't think I could write prose, but then I started freelancing as an arts journalist, and suddenly I discovered this prose lark wasn't actually beyond me. Then one night I had this idea for a book. What I didn't realise was that it was a children's book until I started writing it. The book was never published, but it was good enough to pique the interest of my now agent, Sophie Hicks. Once I started writing children's book I found I couldn't stop.
I love hearing stories about readers reacting to what's happening in my books. In a recent class visit one girl told me she was sneakily reading one of my books in her bedroom in the early hours, and one moment in the book was so dramatic that she actually screamed and woke the whole house. She had to explain to her perplexed mother that she'd just been reading. That's what I like to hear, someone getting so lost in the story that it becomes real for them.
2. What is your new book, Stitch, about?
Stitch is a story inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It's about a boy called Stitch who has been cobbled together, like Frankenstein's monster. Stitch lives in an old castle with the Professor who created him and his best friend, Henry. Stitch has no concept of life or death or the outside world, but he and Henry find themselves in an adventure together that pits them against the outside world when the Professor's awful nephew arrives and tries a nefarious experiment of his own.
"There's an innocence to the monster before he gains any knowledge
of the world and I wanted to explore that space."
3. What inspired you to revisit the Frankenstein story with your own creations? Why do you think Frankenstein's monster has such an enduring place in our mythologies?
I always loved the idea of a fully conscious creature thrust into the world without any prior knowledge of what that world is like and what its rules are. There's an innocence to the monster before he gains any knowledge of the world and I wanted to explore that space.
I think the story endures because there are so many primal things working together in the book, things like the power to wield life over the death, and in a metaphorical sense what the responsibilities of a parent/creator are. Ultimately, of course, there's the question of what constitutes a monster/the Other, which I think everyone finds fascinating.
4. Did you revisit Mary Shelly's novel before writing your story? What elements from her book did you want to revisit in Stitch?
I haven't read the book since 1993, but parts of it have always stayed with me, and the various iterations on television and in cinema have kept my interest going and kept the story alive for me.
Stitch is really a mixture of elements of Shelley's novel and the old Universal movies with my own spin on things. There are echoes of scenes from the book and movies in my book such as the creature's time spent with De Lacey, the blind man. I think I found myself drawn to that because of the kindness that's central to that part of the novel, which doesn't feature anywhere else.
"I like that part of the writing process; experiencing the fictional world through
the eyes and experiences of my characters."
5. What is Stitch like, and what was it like to write a character who knows so little about the world and people?
Stitch is very innocent and well meaning, whereas I'm an absolute cynic (or so I'm told), so writing him and inhabiting his mind was very freeing. I like that part of the writing process; experiencing the fictional world through the eyes and experiences of my characters. I'm old, crotchety, possibly verging on the misanthropic (or so I'm told), and the world doesn't give me much hope, but writing someone like Stitch allows me to see the world and people through different eyes.
6. Which supporting character in Stitch did you most enjoy writing?
I loved writing Henry. He's so well meaning but bumbling, and he has a good heart and a strange sort of wisdom despite the fact that he mixes up words and doesn't seem to be worldly wise. I enjoyed writing Stitch as a character, but there's always a special little joy in writing side characters because they often provide another perspective on things that adds texture. I enjoyed writing Henry's malapropisms, and my copy editor even got involved and suggested one for him. I think it was "scientificacious".
7. What is your favourite moment in this story? And what were the biggest challenges in writing Stitch?
I think it's the first chapter because of its ending. I read it a few months ago in a classroom and there were actual gasps when I got to the final line. I loved writing that chapter because it was one of those moments where the writing just flowed and I knew exactly where I was going with it from the very first sentence.
The biggest challenge in writing Stitch was finding the heart of the story over subsequent drafts, but my editor Gráinne Clear was instrumental in helping me find it.
"I want readers to ... bring something back to the real world after their reading;
a new understanding, an idea of what it's like to be in someone else's shoes."
8. Other than a great adventure, what would you like your readers to take from Stitch's story?
I'd like them to know what it's like to be someone else who's perceived to be 'different'. My aim as a writer is to inhabit the minds of my characters, to experience what it's like to be them, and I want readers to know them as well as I do and experience their fictional world and maybe bring something back to the real world after their reading; a new understanding, an idea of what it's like to be in someone else's shoes.
9. Do you plan to revisit Stitch with future adventures? What are you writing currently?
I don't know. Right now probably not, but I said that about one of my previous books and it turned into a duology.
I've already written two more books. One is a sci-fi novel and the other is a different beast entirely, a weird western of sorts set in an alternate world. I'm also writing a new book but I'm not fully sure what it is yet, but it involves writing an anti-hero for the first time, which is something I'm really looking forward to.
10. What new experiences are you most excited about for 2024? Any New Year resolutions?
I'm looking forward to the always new and fresh experience of writing a new book and maybe writing a script, which I haven't done for some time. I'm also looking forward to getting together with a bunch of fellow writers for an initiative as part of Patrica Forde's tenure as the Irish Children's Literature Laureate, Laureate na nÓg.
I don't do New Year resolutions, but I like to promise myself that I'll write at least one new book, maybe two, in the next year.