Inés G. Labarta (Madrid, 1992) is an assistant lecturer in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and the University of Central Lancashire. She has been a writer-in-residence in several literary festivals including The Northwest Literary Salon and Lancaster Words. Her illustrations have been featured in several blogs and websites and you can find her books in Amazon.Her hobbies include podcasting, hiking and travelling to remote places.
What took a Spanish writer to write a gothic English novel?
I was a writer in Spanish (I published four books in this language) but I just couldn’t find myself in Madrid (where I lived and studied). At 19 years old I moved to Edinburgh to study Scottish Literature and I fell in love with the Anglophone culture and the UK. That’s why I applied to do a Creative Writing MA and ended up in Lancaster a couple of years later. The gothic English novel was (initially) my thesis for that MA. After that, it was relatively easy: another writer recommended me to an English editor, they liked it and so the novel was published.
Why did you write it in a second language?
Because I wanted to keep living in the UK and, at that moment, staying in education was the easiest way. So when they offered me a PhD in Creative Writing right after my MA I immediately accepted. These days, I write in English because it’s the language I use more often. Plus, writing in a second language makes me more conscious of it; it has also taught me a lot about humility. And I like to think that thanks to this all I am a better writer.
You wrote your first novel at the age of eleven and published your first book at fourteen. This is something really unusual ¿How do you feel about it? What kind of impact did the novel have?
I’ve been crafting stories since I can remember. The novel I wrote when I was eleven is a monster of six hundred pages that my mother still keeps somewhere… The novel I published at fourteen, well, I was really lucky. My father is a writer, and he got approached by the publishing house Edebé to write a YA collection. I begged him to let me participate… and that’s how I published my first book. We each wrote a half of the three books in the collection – called Los Pentasónicos – so it was a lot of work at the end, but so enjoyable! Also, fun fact: the parts we each wrote are very different but people always assumes that my father wrote my part because it's the most ‘serious’ one.
How would you describe yourself?
Creative, sensitive, hard-working.
Why did you decided to use a gothic epistolary framework to write McTavish Manor? What other writing styles you have used?
I love dark stories, the weird, tormented people and twisted plots. I just can’t help myself! I think acknowledging that bit of darkness we all have inside is what makes us human. So the gothic has a very special place in my heart. Plus, living up north in the UK – long winters, grey days and desolate landscapes – I had tons of inspiration to write gothic. The epistolary form was a tribute to all the great Scottish epistolary novels from the 18th century that I read when I was living in Edinburgh, such as The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollet. Apart from gothic, I also write literary fiction, science-fiction, fantasy and magic realism.
You are also an illustrator. What kinds of works have you done in that sphere?
I mainly work on commissions. People hire me to draw portraits and that sort of thing. I’d also been working the English and Creative Writing department at Lancaster University. Last thing I did for them was creating several designs for a set of literary bookmarks.
You have also worked in the radio. Could you tell us how was your experience there?
I was an intern in the SER radio station in 2013. I had tons of fun but, at the same time, I discovered that I do need a creative job. Journalism was great, but it didn’t fulfil me the way art (writing, illustration) does. That said, I’m still very much in love with the radio: I've worked in a podcast (The Writing Life). Thanks to the funding support from Lancaster University and the Arts and Humanities Research Council I’m currently working on launching my very first own podcast focused on travelling and creativity.
Could you recommend us a novel?
Let the Right One in by Jon Ajvide Lindqvist.
What are you doing at the moment?
Well! I work as an assistant lecturer in Creative Writing for two universities: Lancaster University (where I am also finishing my PhD in Creative Writing) and the University of Central Lancashire. Apart from that, I juggle a long list of random jobs such as being a personal assistant for a disabled person, freelancing as an illustrator and translator, and cat-sitting, which is a favourite of mine because I love animals. (As you can see, it's not easy to make a living solely on writing but I hope my situation improves as I gain more experience and publish more work).
Will you return to Spain?
No. As much as I miss the sun and the food (and my family, of course) I didn’t thrive in Spain as an writer as I do here in the UK (with Brexit and all, which is to say!) I see art dismissed everywhere I go. If some funding needs to get cut, art always gets affected first. Which is funny, because art is about being creative, and without creativity nothing would exist, right? However, here in the UK people still read quite a lot. They go out to literary events and art exhibitions. There are chances to work as an artist here and there. The literary community is also quite open and friendly. I didn’t find that in Spain (although, perhaps I wasn’t looking in the right places). And one has to go where the jobs are. Being an immigrant can be really hard sometimes, but it has given me an identity, too.