Joe Clancy - Silver Apples of the Moon - QPR
JMD Media Publications
An engaging, bittersweet story of infatuation, obsession - - and QPR!.Dave is a professional footballer whose team are contenders to win the First Division title. He is introduced to beautiful Lisa Dell. Lisa sees potential in Dave beyond his interest in football. But she has another suitor - with a deadly secret.
London 1976. IRA bombings and death on the streets amid political upheaval. Wilson resigns as PM and Margaret Thatcher becomes Tory leader. £12.99
Linked In linkedin.com/in/joe-clancy-931a0b58
Review - Sunday Business Post 21st January 2018
'Do you have a book inside burning to become a reality? Many of us know the feeling but few of us go through with the process. Not so for advertising legend and football fanatic Joe Clancy, who penned his debut novel 'Silver Apples of the Moon' when he broke free of the day job. A beguiling mix of romance, politics, poetry and the beautiful game, this page turner leaves no target market unturned.'
Q & A session with JOE CLANCY
The Silver Apples of the Moon is your debut novel. You describe it as an engaging, bittersweet story of infatuation, obsession, poetry and football. That’s a pretty eclectic mix.
I suppose it is. At first sight, certainly, football and poetry would appear to be unlikely bedfellows Poetry is not something one hears too often on the terraces but when played well, there is something quite poetic about football. The way the action is described can be quite lyrical too. They don’t call it ‘the beautiful game’, for nothing.
Which came first? The football or the poetry?
Originally, the story I set out to tell was primarily a football story. And it was intended to be a short story. But when I had completed the first draft , it felt … well….spare. Yes, it had tension and drama but it lacked the kind of depth I thought the reader would be looking for.
Where did the inspiration come from?
The title of the book – The Silver Apples of the Moon- is a line from ‘The Song of Wandering
Aengus’, a poem by W B Yeats that tells the story of a love fleetingly experienced before it is lost forever. The poem was inspired by Maud Gonne, a passionate young Irish revolutionary with whom Yeats fell hopelessly in love. Repeatedly rejected by her, he turned to ancient Irish mythology to find expression for his loss and yearning.
Yeats gave voice to his personal emotions in this age-old Irish story of Aengus, considered to be the God of youth, love and beauty. Aengus is awoken from his sleep one night by a vision of an incredibly beautiful woman. He grows obsessed by her beauty and takes off in wandering, hungering for her love.
But the book is also about football?
Very much so. It takes its inspiration from Yeats’ poem but attempts to tell the tale in a contemporary context, namely a football season in which a young man is conflicted by an obsession for his team and his infatuation with the beautiful young woman he has recently been introduced to.
The team was Queens Park Rangers and the season was 1975/6. Does that not make the story a little dated in terms of relevance to today?
Not at all. In fact the opposite is the case: The background to the story has remarkably strong parallels with some more recent events. You have political instability – Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s resignation back then; Theresa May’s resignation and - more recently - the resignation of senior Conservatives and Civil Servants. Then there’s the threat of terrorism: the IRA back then, ISIS in more recent times. The advent of a female PM; Margaret Thatcher back in the seventies, Theresa May more recently. And, of course the promise of a bright new era for the UK (Thatcherism versus Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit Britain). Which all goes to bear out George Santayana’s observation that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
So it is not exclusively a football book per se although there is a lot of football stuff in it. The football season provides a framework and a separate element of tension against which the story of a relationship unfolds and oscillates in tandem with the vagaries of the QPR team’s performances and results that season.
So give us some more info on the plot
Well, the story takes place in London during an eight month period between August 1975 and April 1976 - a time of great tension because of the continuing threat of IRA bombings and assassinations. It was also a time of great political change; Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson resigned; and the Conservative party chose Margaret Thatcher as its leader.
The narrator of the story is a young man called Dave whose team are contenders to win the First Division title. He is introduced to a beautiful young woman by his local newsagent, an Irishman named Mick Hanrahan. Her name is Lisa Dell. She is well educated, a classical dancer but shows no interest in football. Lisa sees potential in Dave beyond his obsession with football. Dave becomes attracted to her. But she has another suitor - the mysterious O’Leary whom Dave suspects is an IRA terrorist.
Dave’s team – Queens Park Rangers, featuring the mercurial Stan Bowles - is close to winning the First Division title for the first time. And Dave is becoming even closer to Lisa. But life, like football, can be a funny old game and things don’t always go exactly according to plan. When Dave tries to find Lisa after an IRA bomb explodes in a pub she had planned to visit, he realises how little he actually knows about her. And a book of poems Lisa had given him reveals some worrying possibilities.
Their relationship fluctuates in tandem with the fortunes of Dave’s football team as the story reaches its denouement. It’s an eclectic mix of passion, politics, penalties and poetry, in pursuit of the ultimate prize.
The 75/76 football season provides the spine of the narrative; the bones over which the story is fleshed out. Although football issues permeate the book (including an attempt to explain how the off-side rule works!) it is not meant to be a book about football. It’s about infatuation. And obsession. With a football team as well as with a young woman. The roller-coaster nature of the football season mirrors the changes in the relationship between Dave and Lisa.
You’re a career marketing communications consultant. An adman, advising leading advertisers on how to position their brands So, did you approach the writing of this book almost as a communications exercise? Was it simply clever marketing?
“No, at least not consciously, anyway. But then, old habits die hard and it may be that as a communications strategist, I did in fact position the novel with a specific target audience very much in mind. I thought the original draft of the story lacked romance, which was something that poetry could imbue it with.
I also did some research. I used people I know in different book clubs as quasi focus groups to get a feel for the likely potential of the book using their kindle readers. At first, the responses were mixed. I wasn’t surprised at this because one of the things I learned from focus groups I used over the years to test advertising ideas is that people are sometimes reluctant to become enthusiastic advocates for a new idea that is not yet in the public domain. They are more likely to support a concept they believe is already published or broadcast. So for the later focus groups I had some covers mocked-up and which we left lying close by at the book club discussions and this had a positive effect on responses when the group believed they were discussing a recently-published novel.”
As an Irishman living in Ireland how difficult was it for you to capture the culture of life in England and English people.
“I think I will leave it to the readers to decide if I managed to do that successfully. I did live in London for about ten years so I had a grandstand seat from which to observe the British way of life. And then of course, Irish people know more about life in Britain than the British in general do about life in Ireland. In Ireland we become involved with it every day via “overspill” media. British tv soaps, situation comedy and sports, particularly football are all very popular in Ireland, as witnessed by the exodus out of Dublin airport every Saturday morning to Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. Of course the British have been very accommodating to Irish people too in terms of providing opportunities for employment during difficult economic times and I wanted to record and acknowledge this in my writing. “