Jan Carson is a writer and community arts facilitator based in Belfast. Her first novel, Malcolm Orange Disappears was published by Liberties Press in 2014 to critical acclaim, followed by a short story collection, Children’s Children in 2016, and a flash fiction anthology, Postcard Stories (2017): every day in 2015 Jan Carson wrote a short story on the back of a postcard and mailed it to a friend. Each of these tiny stories was inspired by an event, an overheard conversation, a piece of art or just a fleeting glance of something worth thinking about further. The success of this collection lead to Jan Carson becoming the Irish Writers Centre’s first Roaming Writer-In-Residence, 2018, working with aspirant authors who also created ‘postcard stories’.
Published in journals such as Storm Cellar, Banshee, Harper’s Bazaar and The Honest Ulsterman, Jan Carson received an Arts Council NI Artist’s Career Enhancement Bursary in 2014. She was longlisted for the Sean O’Faolain short story prize in 2015 and won the Harper’s Bazaar short story competition in 2016. In 2014/15, she collaborated with local songwriter Hannah McPhillimy to produce an EP of songs based on her first novel. Hannah and Jan performed this material at music and literary festivals throughout Europe.
EUPL Year 2019 | Winning Book
THE FIRE STARTERS
The core story of this novel is that of two fathers living in Belfast during a summer of deep discontent and social unrest. Against a background of riots and arson, not to mention the huge bonfires of the Orange marches around the Twelfth of July commemorations, Jonathan and Sammy face a crisis. For Jonathan, the moment has come which could transform his life from one of melancholic withdrawal from society to one which embraces opportunities to connect with the people around him. Jonathan is the sole-parent of a new born baby and the question he has to struggle with is whether to permit the love and pleasure he experiences with the child to obstruct the fact that his daughter has attributes inherited from her mother, a Siren. For Sammy, the crisis concerns his full-grown son, who has all the characteristics of the murderous qualities Sammy himself exhibited in his own youth, with none of the redeeming traits that have led Sammy to search for a way to contain his own violent impulses. Sammy is convinced that his son is the ringleader behind the arson campaign. Should he act on this? Report his own son to the police? Their paths crossing in a doctor’s surgery, Sammy and Jonathan take something from their encounters to move each towards a decisive resolution.