Welcome to my stop on the Spare and Found Parts blog tour hosted by Titan Books. I have recently reviewed this book and I jumped on the chance to ask Sarah Maria Griffin some questions about the novel. You can see my glowing review here! I took full advantage of my questions but alas I could not confirm a sequel. The Q&A is still quite the read so I will share a few details about Sarah and her novel and then we will get straight to the questions. Please check out and support the other stops on this tour and get the word out about Spare and Found Parts.
About Sarah Maria Griffin
Sarah Maria Griffin is a writer from Dublin, Ireland. Her nonfiction has appeared on The Irish Times, Buzzfeed, The Rumpus, Midnight Breakfast, Guts and Winter Pages. Her collection of essays about emigration, Not Lost, was published by New Island Press in 2013. She was the recipient of the European Science Fiction Awards Chrysalis Award in 2017. She tweets @griffski.
Spare and Found Parts Synopsis
Nell Crane has never held a boy’s hand.
In a city devastated by an epidemic, where survivors are all missing parts—an arm, a leg, an eye—Nell has always been an outsider. Her father is the famed scientist who created the biomechanical limbs that everyone now uses. But she’s the only one with her machinery on the inside: her heart. Since the childhood operation, she has ticked. Like a clock, like a bomb. And as her community rebuilds, everyone is expected to contribute to the society’s good . . . but how can Nell live up to her father’s revolutionary ideas when she has none of her own?
Then she finds a lost mannequin’s hand while salvaging on the beach, and inspiration strikes. Can Nell build her own companion in a world that fears advanced technology? The deeper she sinks into this plan, the more she learns about her city—and her father, who is hiding secret experiments of his own.
Q&A With Sarah Maria Griffin
Hello Sarah, loved Spare and Found Parts! Thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions about the novel.
Could you give us a personal overview of Spare and Found Parts and what the reader should expect?
Spare and Found Parts is the story of a young woman in a fictitious future Ireland – a country healing itself from a devastating epidemic. The world was torn apart by human reliance on technology – and the epidemic left the surviving humans with genetically missing limbs. Their descendants retain that absence. Nell, our protagonist, is the daughter of the scientist who developed intelligent kinetic prosthetics – and is seeking to contribute something to society of that measure, too. However, her family is full of mysteries, and her quest to build something remarkable – an android, a robot, a whole person made of spare parts – is dangerous. It’s at once a story about a heist, coming of age, a ruined city – and above all, the body and what it is to live inside one. It is a weird beast full of perspective switches, prayer, letters and secrets written in binary code.
What was the inspiration behind Spare and Found Parts and how long did it take you to write it for us all to enjoy?
Initially the book was written on a dare; write a sexy Frankenstein book. Now, this is about as far from a sexy Frankenstein book as is humanly possible, but in the four or so years it took me to get the whole thing stitched together, it became instead a book about building and making – about crafting something that mattered, at all costs.
The narrative is truly fascinating and unique. What sort of challenges did you face in writing the story?
I’m trying to train myself out of slightly disjointed writing habits: I don’t go from beginning to end – I go from big image to big image, and often struggle with traditional plotting. Now, a writer owes their reader a story, not just a potentially failed experiment, so I put a lot of time into taking the weird images and scenes I had developed into a story that sat like a novel. I had a very concise and brilliant editor on my side, who believed in retaining the weird, and keeping the strange at the heart of this novel – but my real trouble lies in plot. There were three scrapped endings, which is very surreal to think about – three alternate routes Nell could have gone down. In a different incarnation this book could have been a choose your own adventure!
Your writing style has so many dimensions. What genres would you say make up Spare and Found Parts?
This book in particular is a real patchwork creature – there’s a little horror in there, a little post-apocalyptica, a little traditional coming of age. The movement of the text is also hugely influenced by video games – the dip in and out of the second person, for example, for me was an attempt to put the reader into Nell’s body, at times. The segments of prayer, the letters: all those are little experimental components, like the items and secrets you might find in an adventure game that shed more light on your quest. It most definitely is not a book of one style, or one purpose.
Can you give us some insights into your writing style/process? Was there much research involved?
I am an avid researcher, I did a lot of reading about cyborg theory and prosthesis, just to give myself some assurance of the world I was stepping into. There’s no way I can craft a perfect representation, but I did a lot of reading and did the best I could. Process-wise, I handwrite everything first and then transcribe it into my laptop. I prefer working on paper, maybe with a relevant documentary on in the background, or a mood-setting TV show (I work a lot to the X-Files) – I listened, unsurprisingly, to a lot of Daft Punk during the process of writing this book.
Are there any particular authors that you look up to or that influenced your work?
Too many – Diana Wynne Jones, VE Schwab, Neil Gaiman, Lauren Beukes, Deirdre Sullivan, Dave Rudden, Lev Grossman, Roxane Gay, Kirsty Logan, Kevin Barry – poets like Patricia Lockwood, Sam Sax, Rachel McKibbens, Doireann Ni Griofa – and most of all, David Lynch. I feel like I’m still such a student. I hope I always feel like that.
Is this the last we have seen of Nell Crane or is there more to come?
That is a big question, and there are lots of answers to it – none of which I’m going to give away here. The Crane family has an awful lot more mystery in it, but whether or not those mysteries will ever be unveiled is the thing.
What did you do to celebrate finishing Spare and Found Parts?
I’m actually the worst at celebrating. I really have to learn to take a second off from either writing or worrying about writing to raise a glass of champagne every so often – there was a beautiful bottle of Moet a writer called Ethel Rohan gave to my for my engagement that I kept in the bottom of our fridge in San Francisco from 2012 until 2014. I had my first book, a book of nonfiction come out during that time, I got eloped – lots of great landmarks happened in my life and I barely took the time to breathe. However, when the American deal came through – three whole years before the UK deal, under strong advisement from my best friend and my husband – I finally opened it and drank it from the bottle, standing in my kitchen. That felt nice. The day Spare & Found Parts released in America, I was back living at home in Ireland, and at 9 o’clock in the morning I went off alone and got a tattoo of a mannequin hand on my arm, to mark the day. I’m figuring out this whole celebrating thing, maybe when the book comes out next week I might do something that involves both champagne and tattoos.
Do you have a hobby/activity you do to switch off from all the writing?
I play video games every evening with my husband – and that’s the biggest switch-off I get. Sometimes we even livestream them, which is massively fun, it feels a bit like pretending to host your own TV show about something very specific that you really love. I like video games, and cartoons because they’re both made in ways that I can’t fathom – I can’t program, I can’t draw, but they’re still so rich with imagination and often deeply, deeply inspiring. I’m a big kid at heart. I’m also a devout cook, and a long-distance walker, which are less cool hobbies by far, but both help me reset my brain. I do a lot of writing when I’m walking, though – ruminating over plot and playing scenes out in my head.
Is there a book/article that you have read recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this Q&A?
I’ve just finished an astounding video-game called Sexy Brutale, which I would recommend from the bottom of my heart – it takes around five hours to get through and is a wonderful, strange, gothic little mystery. Night In The Woods is a game that I’ve been playing and replaying with great love all year, too. Reading-wise, Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood was the first book I read in 2018 and set a massive, massive standard for how I expect books to make me feel this year. Listen to Within The Wires, if audio-drama is your bag – also you can hear my voice, a little, on Season 2 – what this show does with the form of the meditation tape, and then with the museum-audio-guide is absolutely exceptional, and very beautiful. Go and follow Danez Smith and Sam Sax on Instagram and Twitter for regular doses of exceptional, bright, necessary poetry. And lastly, Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, by Max Porter threw my head off my shoulders – all the above texts and writers inspire me and push me forward to make weirder, stranger, truer work.
Thank you to Sarah Griffin for taking the time to answer some questions from me here at Always Trust In Books. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by to support this blog tour. I am so grateful for the insights into Sarah’s work and Spare and Found Parts is a phenomenal read that everyone should support; especially if she is currently trying to decide whether to continue the series. I want to see another Nell Crane novel so let’s get to it!