…interviewed by Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan
Wild Geese tells the story of Phoebe Forde, an Irish immigrant who has just settled into her new life in Copenhagen, accompanied by anxious dog Dolly. Phoebe is also three years into her gender transition and starting to embrace moments of joy while positioning herself as a woman without a past. That is until her first love Grace comes to visit from Dublin. Over the course of a single weekend, the pair’s relationship, which happened while Phoebe still identified as male, is revisited while long buried feelings and memories bubble to the surface. Described as “searingly sharp, deliciously funny, and profound”, Wild Geese is also the first novel to be released by an Irish trans author – Soula Emmanuel.
Born to an Irish mother and a Greek father, Soula studied at universities across Ireland and Sweden before turning to writing, taking part in the Stinging Fly fiction summer school in 2021 and the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency’s mentorship programme for 2021-22. Keen to write about the Irish trans experience – Emmanuel transitioned during the pandemic – the writer rejected the worn route of memoir and instead turned their attention to creating a fictional story based somewhat in reality. Despite no activity taking place in Ireland, Wild Geese is peppered with Irish-isms, including mentions of Teachta Dála, Richard Boyd Barrett and the footballer Stephen Cluxton. Emmanuel attributes this ability to look at a culture objectively to their childhood spent growing up as a child of mixed heritage.
During this discussion, Emmanuel will discuss how identity has shaped their trans experience in addition to the pressure of being the first Irish trans author to write fiction, a fact which lends itself to a discussion on fact versus fiction with Emmanuel explaining their rationale. It’s a decision they believe was helped by their experience of transitioning, saying: “The skills I felt I built up in denying things to myself probably helped me to become a fiction writer.”