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Interview: Dermot Ross talks about Hemingway's Goblet

Lawyer Dermot Ross has spent the majority of his life in New Zealand, with a brief sojourn in London during his 20s. Although Hemingway’s Goblet is Dermot’s debut novel, he is no stranger to writing, having authored several book reviews for various publications. He was also a founder shareholder in Quote Unquote, a well-regarded New Zealand literary magazine in the 90s. Dermot talks to NZ Booklovers.

Tell us a little about Hemingway’s Goblet

The book is a novel which focuses on the relationship between Nick, a divorced lecturer at a London university, and one of his students, Adrienne.  The relationship has a rocky beginning when he is accused of sexually harassing her and is suspended from his job, and during his furlough, he tries to find out more about his grandfather, who died in World War II.  He learns that the grandfather may have had a fight with Ernest Hemingway in the 1920s, and as the book progresses, the lecturer and the now reconciled student discover interesting and potentially scandalous historical material about Ernest Hemingway and the grandfather.  All the while the relationship between the two protagonists develops in an unusual and erratic way. 


The novel is intended to be amusing and contains a cheeky satire on the toxic masculine characteristics that Hemingway is renowned for.  People have variously described it as rollicking, entertaining, well-written, and original.

What inspired you to write this book?

I have always enjoyed reading and writing and felt that I had a novel in me. Six or seven years ago I decided that it would be time to make a start, and I was inspired by an article I read in Vanity Fair to write a novel involving Hemingway and the famous visit he made to Pamplona in Spain in 1925.  I did not want the Hemingway material to be too dominant, and so I created a narrative involving the modern romance/relationship between two lead characters with the Hemingway material being a drip-fed mystery in the plot. 


What research was involved?

I needed to read a number of books by and about Hemingway, and become familiar with his life story.  Fortunately, the book relates only to a period of seven or eight days in his life, so I was able to narrow down my research.  I also had the pleasure of visiting some of the cities that are featured in the book, notably San Sebastian, Pamplona, and Alicante in Spain, as well as Hong Kong.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

First, I wrote a synopsis, split it into chapters, and described the main characters.  I then started writing the novel proper, starting on Boxing Day 2019.  Every morning, I would devote several hours to writing, always in longhand on foolscap paper.  Fortunately, the first Covid lockdown intervened, and that gave me more time to progress the writing.  I had completed a first draft within five or six months but the editing, rewriting and peer review process took a sporadic further two years or so.


If a soundtrack were made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

I would have to have “Why do fools fall in love?” because that accurately summarises the two main characters.  I would also include “Toreador” from Carmen, simply because of the bullfight and bullrunning scenes in the novel. 


If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

I think Ewan McGregor would play the lead character well, as he is good-looking, age-appropriate, charming and slightly dangerous. I think Gemma Chan would be suitable for Adrienne, and someone like Kevin Kline from his A Fish Called Wanda days would be ideal to play Hemingway.


What did you enjoy the most about writing Hemingway’s Goblet?

There is a wonderful pleasure to be had in testing yourself and finding out that you passed the test.  When I started I had no idea that I would be able to complete a novel or write one which might be of interest to the reading public. It is a most enjoyable feeling to know that you have written several pages during the day and that the project is developing nicely.  It is also a wonderful sensation to hold in your hand the printed and published copy of your own work. 


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book? 

Very little.  Any writer will tell you that no book is ever finished.  The writing may have been completed, but until such time as you send it to the printer, the author will always want to tinker with it.  My wife and I opened a bottle of bubbles when the advance copies of the book were couriered to us from the printer. 


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

I much enjoyed Lioness by Emily Perkins and Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton, because of their sardonic and witty perspectives on aspects of New Zealand society, but here I will plump for The Pigeon Tunnel by John le Carré.  It is full of quite hilarious and frankly unbelievable episodes about his interactions with well-known figures, and always written in a dry and confident prose.  Reviews tell us that we should not believe everything he wrote, but that doesn’t detract from the pleasure of his writing. 


What’s next on the agenda for you?

Once I have finished with the launch and promotional activities for Hemingway’s Goblet, I will turn my mind to a second novel, and you will have to watch this space about that!  In the meantime I intend to go to the conference of the Hemingway Society in Bilbao in San Sebastian in July, where I will be able to catch up with a number of new friends I have made in the online Hemingway community. 

Mary Egan Publishing





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