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Hello and welcome along to my stop on the blog tour for Laura Gascoigne’s “The Horse’s Arse”, I am delighted to share a guest piece written by Laura on where the idea came from for this novel.

HA COVER v 2

Description:

Patrick Phelan is an ageing artist who has never made it big but who somehow manages to live on air in a North London suburb.

When not running art classes for amateurs, Patrick wrestles in the shed at the bottom of his garden with his life’s work: a series of visionary canvases of The Seven Seals.

When his wheeler-dealer son Marty turns up with a commission from a rich client for some copies of paintings by modern masters, Phelan reluctantly agrees; it means money for his ex-wife Moira. However the deal with Marty is, typically, not what it seems.

What follows is a complex chain of events involving fakery, fraud, kidnapping, murder, the Russian Mafia and a cast of dubious art world characters. A contemporary spin on Joyce Cary’s classic satire The Horse’s Mouth, The Horse’s Arse by Laura Gascoigne is a crime thriller-cum-comic-fable that poses the serious question: where does art go from here?

You can buy a copy of “The Horse’s Arse” via Amazon here.


Where the idea of The Horse’s Arse came from and where it went

Where does any idea come from? A simple idea might drop into your head fully formed, but a novel is never that simple.

After working in the visual arts for 20 years, there were a lot of things about the art world that made me mad and a lot of things about it that made me laugh, depending which side of the bed I had got out of. Some of the writing I do is commentating on the art world, so I get the occasional chance to let off steam, but mostly to a narrow circle of likeminded people. I wanted the chance to reach a broader audience and make them aware of what was going on.

I started my art career when I fell into a job of editing the practical art magazine Artists & Illustrators. I had gone there as a part-time editor’s secretary to earn pin money while my kids were in primary school, and they sacked the editor and gave me the job. It was in 1994, three years before the advertising mogul Charles Saatchi put on the notorious exhibition Sensation at The Royal Academy that launched the YBAs – Young British Artists – into the public consciousness. Before then, nobody but a few avant-garde curators took contemporary art seriously; after it, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and co became household names and tabloid celebrities.

From the perspective of Artists & Illustrators, this was a strange phenomenon. The artists we featured in the magazine were mostly traditional painters of landscapes, portraits, flowers, still life etc. (We drew the line at cuddly kittens.) They ranged from Royal Academicians at the top end to scuffling bohemians at the bottom. We would get them into the studio for step-by-step art shoots and photograph them in action, which was fascinating to watch – a mesmerising performance. This was the time when the idea of ‘performance art’ was just taking off on the other, fashionable side of the art world divide.

One day I did an interview with an artist in his 60s who had painted some wonderful pictures of the Thames at Wapping. He had been working in an old warehouse in Clink Street, as it happens, and some fashionable young artists had dropped in to watch him. He described how they stared at him as if he had come from another world and was engaged in some bizarre performance. That’s when the idea came to me that painting was the ultimate artistic performance, and the seed of the story of The Horse’s Arse was planted.

What I needed next, of course, was a plot. I knew that most people knew very little about how the art world functions and probably cared less, but I also knew that they were fascinated with the idea of paintings selling for obscene sums of money, especially if they were fakes. I thought if I gave the book a thriller format – punchy dialogue and quick cutting between scenes – the plot might drive people on to turn the pages and find out how the art world works without noticing. As the plot developed, a whole cast of characters just seemed to materialise out of nowhere. They took the story in different directions, and before I knew it there were several plotlines weaving themselves into a complex plot.

I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t turn down paying work to write the novel, so I had to squeeze it in between writing commissions, a week here, a couple of weeks there. I didn’t always have time to read back what I had written and sometimes things happened that didn’t fit and the plot had to be rejigged to accommodate them, which added unforeseen layers of complexity. I don’t think I could have sat down and plotted the whole thing at the start, if I had I would have got bored writing it. This way, the story acquired a life of its own and I was following it out of curiosity to see where it went.

In fact, the whole process was very like making a painting, which has to be worked and reworked before the image comes together. We watch the book’s hero, Patrick Phelan, doing something similar as he wrestles with his series of paintings of The Seven Seals. In the end he succeeds in finding a home for the paintings he has been working on for half his life. I hope I will have similar success in finding readers for the novel he has inspired!


My thanks to Laura for joining me today and sharing that with us, it’s always interesting to find out where an author finds inspiration for their novels.

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour for reviews and other fantastic content!

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