Multi talented Felicity McCall pens ‘compelling’ book of short stories

'A Pitying of Doves', Felicity McCall's debut collection of short stories, was launched in Derry last night.
'A Pitying of Doves', Felicity McCall's debut collection of short stories, was launched in Derry last night.

‘A Pitying of Doves’, the eagerly-awaited debut collection of short stories from local author Felicity McCall, will be launched at the city’s Central Library at the end of the month.

Published by Guildhall Press, the book is set against the back-drop of the author’s native South Armagh and the stories reflect the unique relationship between people and place.

A journalist with the BBC for twenty years, Felicity, a mother of one, already has a dozen publications under her belt.

Her titles include fiction, non-fiction, plays, a graphic novel and she has contributed to three anthologies.

The co-founder and director of two theatre companies, Felicity has also had twelve plays staged professionally and has four screenwriting credits.

Her awards include the Tyrone Guthrie for stage and screenplay and several ACNI SIAP gongs.

Derry City Council’s 2011 ‘Woman of the Year for the Arts’, Felicity’s forthcoming schedule includes appearances at literary festivals, the publication of her first teenage novel and a documentary screenplay.

“A Pitying of Doves” is based around the common theme of the people of a purpose-built border mill village and how they cope after the mill, which was their very reason for living there, has closed down.

Felicity says that, in her latest work, she hopes to “reflect the symbiotic relationship between a people and an environment and to explore how the circumstances of time and place may define oue life far more than external politics.”

She says that, while the period and setting of the collection means there is an “element of memoir”, it is a work of fiction.

She told the ‘Journal’ this week: “This is a new venture for me - the short story genre. While it is in no way a memoir, it was inspired by and drawn from my own childhood growing up in the South Armagh of the late 1970s and early 1970s.

“As such, it has as its backdrop, if not its subject matter, the emerging conflict.”

Already lauded as her “finest work to date”, Damian Smyth, Head of Drama and Literature at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland - which assisted in the development of the new volume - says Felicity’s latest book “is refreshingly dispassionate and cooly humane.”

“Perhaps this is something of a legacy of her career as a journalist an broadcaster,” he says.

“Perhaps it is an echo of her ‘political‘ commitment to lost causes, miscarriages of justice, the forgotten and, sometimes, despised.

“Whererver it comes from, it makes for a gentle style... where love and displacement, joy and injury, brutality and the unexpected, the meditative and the untrammelled, are described for the record and for good.”

Damian Smyth says the new collection of short stories “acts as something of a ‘McCall Reader’, gathering in many of the threads of her other work, the fabric of her imaginative world.”

He adds: “She is an ‘occupied’ writer - landscape, allegiance, memory, place, and time repel and compel her by turns; but she also reflects on a common, shared culture driven by disquiet and hurt, both public and secret, not always dramatic or conventionally remarkable.”

Paul Hippsley, Guildhall Press Manager, congratulated Felicity on the publication of her new book.

“‘A Pitying of Doves’ is the first in a series of new publications by female authors planned for the coming months under our dedicated Eve imprint,” he said.

“We are delighted to have a writer of Felicity’s stature to launch the new imprint and are confident it will enhance her well-deserved reputation as a compelling and insightful storyteller.”

Cultural Services Manager for Libraries NI, Kevin Quinn, added: “Derry Central Library is very pleased to be associated with the launch of ‘A Pitying of Doves’ and welcomes an exciting addition to the ever-expanding Derry literary scene.”

‘A Pitying of Doves’, by Felicity McCall, is published by Guildhall Press.

It’s available from local bookshops and at priced £5.95.

The book will be launched on June 30.